We get a lot of questions about driving Vespas & motorbikes in Vietnam. Regarding our motorbike tours, we recommend that guests ride on the back of our experienced drivers so that they can fully experience their surroundings. When you’re driving, you must concentrate on the road. If you’re riding on the back, you can be more aware of the locals, sights, and scenery of this wonderful country.
In Saigon, there are an estimated 7 – 8 million motorbikes on the streets every day. That’s a lot of motorbikes! If you’re a foreigner (which you most likely are if you’re reading this post), you should make sure to get an international driving license before coming to Vietnam- it’s illegal to drive without one. You may have seen this cool time-lapse video of Ho Chi Minh City while searching online for possible travel plans. Take a quick view before reading our tips on driving a motorbike in Vietam.
This being said, a lot of people visit Vietnam and are still willing to try and drive a motorbike. We want to help you be as safe as possible while hitting the streets.
We have come up with a list of “Unspoken Rules” that will help you get used to driving a motorbike here in Vietnam.
1. Go with the Flow.
Most of the time, traffic is pretty slow. Instead of weaving through the traffic, just go with the flow. If you’re sitting at a traffic light and it’s still red, but everyone seems to start going forward anyway, you should go forward too! Traffic lights don’t work the same way as they do back home. They are more of a traffic suggestion in Vietnam.
2. Focus on what’s in front of you.
Although you should be mindful of what’s happening behind you- especially if you’re making a turn- we recommend putting a majority of your focus on what’s going on in front of you. Since everyone sort of follows this rule, people will usually pay a lot of attention in predicting your moves. If you see the person in front of you look to the left a few times, you can guess that they are going to be turning left pretty soon.
3. Toot your horn!
While walking around any city or town in Vietnam, you’ve without a doubt made a comment on how frequently people are beeping their horn (it does seem quite annoying at first, but you get used to it!). Well, once you hop on your motorbike, you’ll quickly realize the usefulness of these handy horns. Beep your horn whenever you want to pass by someone or just to let them know “Hey, I’m here!”.
4. Always use signals.
There are two types of signals – your motorbike blinkers and hand signals. Just a quick wave of your hand in the direction you’re turning will work fine for hand signals. If you use both blinkers and hand signals, you’re making sure everyone is aware of your turn so this will help you be as safe as possible. Also, make sure that you turn your blinker off after you’ve turned so people don’t assume you are turning again.
Always wear a helmet! It’s the law to wear a helmet in Vietnam. If the police stop you without a helmet on, you will get a small fine. You never know what may happen while driving on the streets, so even if you’re driving a short distance- wear a helmet!
Be aware. If you’re feeling ill or tired, or perhaps had a bit to drink, don’t drive! You must be very alert to drive on the bustling streets of Vietnam.
Go slow. Don’t try to race through traffic. You never know what could pop out from small alleyways and streets. Children, dogs, and other drivers are some of the unexpected things that may cause an accident. Always expect the unexpected!
Know when to stop. If something doesn’t feel right on your motorbike, stop! Most of the locals have some basic knowledge of bikes and can lend a helping hand or point you in the direction of a mechanic. It’s better to make sure your motorbike is functioning properly rather than continuing and waiting for a bigger problem. Also, if you don’t feel comfortable driving in certain elements such as heavy rain, we suggest stopping to let it pass.
Not only will these tips help ensure your safety while driving a motorbike, they will help ensure the safety of those around you.