Ho Chi Minh City: challenges on the road

It is well-known that in huge cities the traffic level is very high, that there is a large number of cars, motorbikes and buses on the roads. But nothing compared to Ho Chi Minh City! Or, at least, that was my impression…

ho chi minh by day naturebels

 

Scooters in Ho Chi Minh City

In Ho Chi Minh City there is traffic 24/7. And during peak hours, it is almost unbelievable and you feel like you are in an anthill. The shocking thing is that, as a pedestrian, you have no rights on the road, not at all.

sidewalk ho chi minh city naturebels

Try to cross the road on the crosswalk… Try to safely walk on the sidewalk without worries…

Those are no go!

Even if there is a green light for pedestrians, scooters do not stop to let you pass. And, when you think “ok, on the sidewalk I’m safe”, you will see a scooter coming behind you, and one in front of you without any intention to stop.

When not in movement, scooters are neatly parked on the sidewalk. There are official valets who get paid to park scooters one after the other so that the sidewalk can fit as many scooters as possible. If you leave your scooter there, you need to pay a parking fee.

sidewalk with scooters parked naturebels

To increase a bit the level of stress, you will notice that everyone honks for any reason, or for no reason. They ring because this is cultural. Nothing to do with indicating dangers, or other useful things.

I must say that, despite their craziness, they all wear a helmet (sometimes a bike helmet, but it is still a helmet…). This is quite strange to see in South East Asia, where usually no one wears it.

To motorbike drivers, I would add also bus drivers and taxi drivers. We travelled with both of them, and we still don’t understand how they survive in some of the city’s crossings, where anarchy is king. They drive in the middle of chaos and keep going even if there are motorbikes coming from everywhere.

It was funny to see a few elderly who still go by bike, despite the mess on the roads. They bike, slowly, without worry, and they safely reach their destinations!

elderly biking on the road naturebels

With a big surprise, we didn’t see any accident! These Vietnamese guys are super skilled… nothing to say.

 

How to cross the street

It is understandable if you are not Vietnamese and you are anxious when you need to cross the road. Traffic is never-ending, and it seems that there are no rules. Sidewalks are not considered only for pedestrians, but they are for everyone and everything. You can find parked scooters, running scooters, little shops, restaurant chairs, anything… so you cannot walk there without going up and down from it. shoes cleaner on the sidewalk naturebels

And when you need to cross the road?

There is one thing you can do to be safe: copy the local people.

Before crossing the road, they put a hand up and start walking, keeping the hand up. In addition to that, they proceed without stopping and without changing the rhythm of walking… In this way, scooters and cars dodge them.

crossing naturebels

Actually, drivers here are very used to dodge people, they are skilled. It is a mess for them if you don’t walk without stopping, or if you suddenly start to run… you will confuse them and they won’t know what you are doing and what they should do. Therefore, walk constant, no worries!

Well, it sounds easy but you really need to be brave to face that… 🙂 Be arrogant, go straight and don’t look at anything or anyone.

 

Public transportation

We didn’t really use public transportation. It is different from the rest of South East Asia because there are no tuk-tuks. There are only companies like Uber or Grab which are very popular and cheap. The difference is that they don’t bring you around by car, but… by scooter.

Therefore we advise getting a taxi instead. It is not expensive if you stay in the city. In addition to that, it is an exciting experience to see how they sneak out among scooters and in traffic jams.

Your challenge will be to communicate with the taxi driver, as almost no one of them speaks English. You can show them the map and point where you want to go, hoping that they understand and they bring you at the right place, without doing a wild goose chase…

 

Pollution

The air in Ho Chi Minh City is very polluted, you definitely need a mask when you go around. Not everyone is wearing it, but if you care about your lungs, you’d better put it on. Not only the air is polluted, but there are many smells, too. Mainly is about grilled (almost burned) food, smoke, garbage, smog and so on.

scooters on the road naturebels

In addition to air pollution, there is also acoustic pollution. As already said, Vietnamese people love to honk the horn and to make noise, in general. They are a loud population 🙂

 

Anyway, it is a nice city to visit, at least once in life. It offers a lot and the cost of living is affordable! Just be prepared to face life on the streets 😉

vietnam food naturebels

And, if you want to know more about what to do while in Ho Chi Minh, you can read my posts about the Cu Chi Tunnels or the one about the Mekong Delta. Have fun!

ho chi minh city by night naturebels