9 Reasons Why Riding a Motorcycle in Vietnam Sucks

Just a regular traffic jam in D1… or most other places to be fair

Ah, Vietnam. You never cease to amaze… yet, somehow you never cease to annoy either. I’ve come to understand that some things just are. In fact, I’ve come to accept (and expect) a few things. Low plastic chairs will match ice in beer. Visiting the bank will never be a pleasurable experience. Eating random “flick through the menu and point” dishes will be delicious, but risky.

Thinking about buying a bike? Read this first, before shelling out any cash

Practical Tips for Buying a Second Hand Motorbike in Vietnam

There’s one thing however, that I still can’t seem to wrap my head around and that’s driving a motorbike in Vietnam. It seems like every day, I’m confronted with yet another annoyance while driving my motorbike here. It never ceases to amaze me how people can drive so recklessly and still survive. There’s seemingly no order or organization on the roads, which means it’s complete mayhem trying to get anywhere. Yes, the traffic can be bad, but add in pedestrians darting out into traffic without looking and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

Should I just accept it as it is? I don’t know, but to help you avoid some of the same frustrations (or perhaps just create some “colourful conversation”), I’ve compiled a list of 9 Reasons why riding a motorcycle in Vietnam sucks:

Reason 1: Cargo

You’d be surprised at the type and quantity of cargo you can put on a bike

I honestly think there’s some sort of points system here, where drivers are rewarded for carrying progressively bigger and more hazardous items on the back of their bikes. I’ve seen people carry sofas, but unfortunately I don’t have a photo of that. So here’s a photo of a guy carrying a fridge.

Reason 2: Drunk Driving

Driving drunk is quite common… almost a hobby

Drunk driving is a problem everywhere, but in Vietnam it’s an epidemic. I’m sure there are laws against driving drunk, just seems that people don’t care about the consequences of driving while intoxicated… whatever it is, driving has become something that’s done after a solid night of drinking. Sure it happens everywhere, but in Vietnam, it seems more like a hobby.

Reason 3: People Drive on Sidewalks

No seriously, read that link below

To sum up driving in Vietnam, I have to say that everyone drives like they’re playing Grand Theft Auto… except there are no cops around and anyone can do whatever they want! Case in point driving on the sidewalk. Is it more convenient for drivers? Yes. Is it something everyone does? Yes. Should it be a thing? Well, I’ve started doing it myself… so… maybe?

Reason 4: Four Way Conversations

You’ll find these often in conjunction in Reason 5

A dude is driving. The dude has another dude riding shotgun. They’re laughing… with their friends. Who are also driving and riding on another bike. They don’t drive straight, but don’t really hit each other either. How? Why?!!

Reason 5: Children Don’t Wear Helmets

It’s a cultural thing – don’t question it

I mean, seriously people. I’m not even going to question the reasoning behind this (skull development apparently?), but if you’re going to let your kids ride on the back of your motorbike WITHOUT a helmet, please make sure to carry at least 3 of them. Speaking of which…

Reason 6: Clown Cars

Sometimes you’ll even see four!

It’s not uncommon to see a family of four riding on one motorbike. Or maybe just 3 grown men pushing the torque capacity of a vintage 1980s Cub to its limits. One small accident, and you’ve just killed 10 people. How does this even work?

Reason 7: Nobody Looks When Turning

I think they think you’re supposed to stop for them

You would think that driving in one of the most dangerous countries for motorbike accidents, people would actually look when making turns. But no… people don’t! I’m sure there’s a reason why not looking is an acceptable driving practice here (and if you know it, please share), but man… before you turn right, please slow down and look left!

Note: I’ve been told that “drivers are expected to look at what’s in front of them and not worry about what’s behind, and if everyone does that properly, it will all work out. Obviously that’s not the case though!”

Reason 8: Young Buffaloes

They often have loud bikes, and do drag races for YouTube

If you’ve been here a while, you’ll know the type. Young males driving around on souped up motorbikes doing wheelies and donuts. Helmets optional. I’ve even seen them hurtling down full speed, on the wrong side of the road… at night… which is always fun. For them. Lot of questionable Young Buffalo behavior has been documented on the Motorbikes in HCMC FB Group.

Reason 9: People Using Cellphones While Driving

Not sure if this is a skill learned from youth

As if driving here wasn’t dangerous enough, you’ve got the best of the best just competing for the Darwin awards. Going 60 on the highway, with merging traffic, and a lot of trucks also not caring about smaller vehicles? Hmmm, why not take that call now and carry on driving with one hand, and less visibility on your car-side. Your call is more important that other people’s safety right? And yes, even Grab drivers do it… or do it more?

I know that’s already a lot, but I’m sure there’s more. What are your biggest annoyances for driving in Vietnam?

And just to clarify, I’ve also got a list of the Top 8 Reasons Why Riding a Motorcycle in Vietnam is Awesome!


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