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How to Navigate Hanoi Traffic

Tips and insights so that you can be safe

By don judePublished about a year ago 3 min read
Vietnam city | Image by Jaromír Kavan via Unsplash

If you are new to the world of Southeast Asia, crossing the roads in Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi, can be one of the most dangerous things you’ve ever done. And if you can’t cross the streets here, you shouldn’t even think about riding a motorbike through the monstrous traffic so characteristic of Hanoi. But don’t let this put you off; all you need to do is understand how to navigate Hanoi traffic. So, this guide is for anyone who wants to visit Hanoi without the fear of passing vehicles.

Follow the locals

If it is your first time in Hanoi, trust that locals know better. Touring Hanoi is not about seeing as many sights as you can within the shortest time period possible; it’s about being patient and falling into the slow-paced routine of local life.

Streets in Hanoi are packed with vehicles trying to one-up each other. This is not good news for pedestrians. But locals have found a way through this; they take their time when crossing the streets and don’t try to one-up vehicles because that would put them in extreme danger. So, if you are a tourist in Hanoi, do what the locals do.

Of course, navigating traffic as a pedestrian won’t be a problem when holidaying in most tourist apartments and hotels; the likes of Somerset Hoa Binh Hanoi or any other Hanoi apartment to rent would arrange transport for their guests.

Learn the signals

Hanoi’s public transportation system isn’t the best, so many locals have their own vehicles like bikes and cycles, so the roads always seem to be congested. If you understand how signals work, you’ll save yourself a lot of trouble and won’t need anyone’s help crossing the street.

When you are at an intersection or a crosswalk, always listen for the horns. If a vehicle honks twice, that means there’s no clear path for you to cross. But if a vehicle doesn’t honk but stops to give you a chance to cross the road, it means that you can cross the road.

Honking or not honking, the interpretation is up to you. Don’t ever be in a hurry, and you’ll be safe.

It’s understandable that you want to walk around and see the sights on your own, but if you are a first-time visitor, you should think about signing up for a guided tour. If you do, getting around and crossing streets won’t be a problem because you’ll be accompanied by someone who is experienced.

How to get around Hanoi – apart from walking

You can, of course, walk, but are there any other ways – safer ways – to get around Hanoi? Yes!

  • Take a regular taxi or a motorbike taxi
  • Get your hotel to sort out transport for you
  • Join a guided tour
  • Take the bus
  • Travel by cyclo: this is essentially a cycle with a front seat for passengers

Give in to your food cravings

This seemingly has no relevance to navigating Hanoi traffic, but you’ll be surprised to know that it does. If you are a foodie trying to get around Hanoi, you can kill two birds with one stone by joining a food tour. A guided food tour will take you to all the popular food places, which, as it happens, are spread out. So, while visiting restaurants, road stalls, and markets to try your favourite Hanoi dishes, you can also discover other attractions the city is famous for – all without having to worry about transport or navigating tourist routes!

Be confident

This is a characteristic you need to have if you want to cross the jam-packed roads of Hanoi. Watch the locals; they seem to be unbothered by all the passing vehicles. This, of course, takes a little getting used to, but the trick is to stand firm and not break eye contact with the drivers. When you want to cross a road with no signal lights, you need to stand on the side of the road and use a hand signal – keep looking at the drivers to let them know that you want to cross the road.


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