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Most travelers have heard all the stories about driving in Vietnam… The roads are busy, wild and appear to be somewhat lawless. It seems no matter where you travel to in Vietnam, you’re going to get the crazy road experience. Ho Chi Minh City is famous worldwide for its tightly packed streets and super busy traffic, but travel anywhere else and you’re bound to find some pretty hairy traffic schemes as well!
For the tourists who are looking to ride a motorbike in Vietnam, the traffic pattern can be a bit daunting. Quick left turns through the oncoming traffic, pulling off to the right side of the road when you plan to turn left, trucks passing cars that are passing motorbikes passing pedestrians… Vietnam’s roads are in a world of their own. The best advice a first timer on a motorbike can get is to learn the ways of the road first. Rent a bicycle, take it through the streets for a day and get acquainted with the traffic patterns. Driving in Vietnam is more of a fluidity thing; just try your best to go with the flow, even when it goes against every driving method and skill you’ve ever learned!!
Rule number one for driving a motorbike is easy: never get aboard the two wheels without your helmet on. Traffic accidents are more common than you’d like to think in this country, and many times fatalities could have been avoided had the parties been wearing their helmets. So make sure you’re wearing it!!
Rule number two: drive slow, but not too slow. Don’t have the need for speed while you’re touring the country, but don’t make yourself a harm on the road by going a quarter the speed everyone else is! Practice safe driven methods and speeds, and don’t do something that you wouldn’t normally do at home.
Rule number three: check your insurance. If you’re in Vietnam for a long period of time, you can relatively easily get a motorbike license. Otherwise, make sure your health insurance from home covers you in the case of an accident. Many basic travel insurance policies cover you during all your excursions… except extreme sports, which often include driving a motorbike. So if you’re planning on getting on two wheels, check your policies first!
And of course, beyond even the idea of a rule: always practice safety first. Never drink alcohol if you’re planning on driving, especially when you’re in a foreign country! Just because you’re away from home doesn’t mean the same rules don’t apply. Use your head when you’re traveling and especially when you’re operating a vehicle in Vietnam! You’ll definitely need to have your wits about you!
Driving a motorbike in Vietnam is a serious responsibility, but it can also be an amazing experience and a great way to see the country. Some of the best views can be found along the Ho Chi Minh Highway and the Hai Van Pass (featured in Jeremy Clarkson’s Top Gear!). Practice safety but enjoy your time touring Vietnam on two-wheels: it’s an experience you won’t soon forget!!
Oh yea, and watch out for the “Saigon Kiss”- those exhaust pipes get hotter than you realize!!
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