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How to cross the street in Hanoi


how to cross the street in hanoi

If this sounds like an odd thing to preface my list with, well — you’ve never been to Hanoi.

Everything we did was within walking distance of our hotel, and we ended up walking many, many miles during the time we were in Hanoi. So I’m not saying I’m a street-crossing expert (though my years in Sicily certainly gave me a confidence advantage), but there are four basic rules that will significantly reduce the amount of time you spend wondering when on earth you’ll have a clear shot to cross. Which will actually never happen.

Never look the drivers in the eye

It doesn’t matter whether they are in a car or on a motorbike — Hanoi drivers have a lot to be managing already. Having pedestrians try and make eye contact is distracting, and thus actually reduces your chances of crossing safely.

Make yourself more visible

You don’t need to wear certain clothing or anything, but raising your arm so that drivers can see you will make a big difference. If you’re in a group, clump up and move as a unit so that you’re collectively a larger obstacle to avoid.

If drivers can see you, they will make an effort to not run you over, basically.

Maintain a constant rate of speed

Naturally, you’re going to want to slow down to make sure a scooter saw you (but see #2), though you’ll want to resist that temptation.

Chaotic as it looks, drivers are actually paying attention, and are anticipating the traffic ebbs and flows. So if you’re moving across the street in a visible fashion, at the same speed the entire time, they’ll adjust.

If you speed up (or slow down), you change the dynamic for everyone — and not just the drivers nearest to you, but the ones behind them that can’t see you.

The bus is king of the road

All the above rules apply to motorbikes and small cars, who are prepared to adjust to pedestrians. Buses are not.

Not only are they large, and at a different visual plane, they are heavy. With ~30 seats and carrying half again as many people standing, they actually can’t just effectively stop or slow down for pedestrians, which is bound to lead to accidents.

So don’t cross in front of the bus. Please.

With that out of the way, let’s talk about the fun things you can (safely and efficiently!) walk to.

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