Whether traveling by foot or by other means of transportation, Hanoi is one of the craziest cities in Southeast Asia to wander the streets. Here’s how to escape unharmed.
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It begins the moment you step out of the terminal or train station.
Here are some suggestions for navigating Hanoi’s traffic since the majority of tourists either travel as passengers (in which case you should take deep breaths, close your eyes, and pray) or walk there. You can still get around for the least amount of money by walking; just keep that in mind. (However, some contend that it would be preferable for you to ride a motorcycle and relax while strolling.)
The most important tips to learn involve crossing the street. Anyone who has been here before is aware of the “rules”: cross the road carefully and slowly, allowing cars to pass you on either side, and only abruptly stop in an emergency, these method works, but you must be vigilant. Expect that not all cars will be paying attention, especially in these age of mobile phones, and anticipate that traffic will come from all directions, even on a one-way street. As you walk, keep scanning your surroundings for anything.
Also keep in mind that although the Old Quarter is extremely busy, at least the traffic moves slowly and is primarily composed of bikes. You’ll encounter many more cars, as well as buses and trucks, if you leave the Old Quarter and move onto some of the larger roads. Adopt the same strategy, but be much more cautious and patient when selecting a favorable moment to cross the street. There will be brief pauses in the traffic. Sometimes there are so-called pedestrian crossings at traffic lights, but you should always use caution when crossing the road. Also, keep in mind that right-turning traffic rarely stops at a red signal, so even if the light is green for the tiny man, there may still be passing vehicles.
Line up and cross together as a group to give the traffic greater room to go around you. Do not simply move across in a single file or loosely organized group. Unfortunately, you’ll need to keep an eye out for traffic at all times, not just when crossing the street. Particularly in densely built-up, densely populated districts with small streets, like the Old Quarter, footpaths are sometimes nonexistent. This implies that you will frequently need to walk on the road. I’ve always been told to walk with the flow of traffic, and that advice holds true here.
Unless the route is exceptionally quiet, it is advisable to travel in single file since otherwise you would continually have to swerve to avoid oncoming traffic. Also keep in mind that sometimes traffic will drive on the sidewalk, especially while attempting to avoid gridlock on major roads. This is my space, go back on the road you idiot,” stare while refusing to get out of the way, or you might choose to do what my friend does and walk out of the way. I would advise the latter.
One more word of caution: don’t get comfortable. Although vehicles may treat footpaths as roads, traffic will still flow around you if you approach the roadways differently.