The first thing I noticed in Hanoi, it’s not very difficult to spot though, was a terrific traffic. I guess it’s a nightmare for most of tourists and a shock when visiting Hanoi for the first time (at least it was for me). Believe me or not, but the traffic is so bad that it is a challenge to cross the street. People simply don’t obey any road rules here. Sometimes it might be scary when you see a bike coming in your direction at fast speed and turns left suddenly. Also it’s funny when you see 5 people on a small motorbike (one is listening to music and the others are talking on the phone).
Hanoi, without a doubt, is a city of motorbikes. You can see them everywhere unlike buses and taxis. It looks like a motorbike is the main mean of transport here and everyone can afford it. I even saw a boy 12 years old riding a scooter! Wow! Couldn’t believe in what I saw, but he felt pretty confident. During the rush hour people drive and ride very fast and there is a proper mess on the road like everyone is doing what they want to- no rules, nothing, just rushing. I try to drive slowly and I need to be very careful, looking everywhere around before turning or stopping.
Some people, when rushing to work or home, ride their bikes and motorbikes on the pavement. It’s so weird. Imagine you walk down the street and you get hit by a motorbike on the pavement. It’s mad and completely crazy. Moreover, you can hear horns everywhere which is kind of distracting for me. Sometimes I don’t know where I can hear it from, it’s like…. from everywhere around! Madness! I’ve read an article online saying that the traffic is getting out of control of the police and I believe it. I was cycling this afternoon, at 1 pm, trying to get to a supermarket and there were 3 traffic policemen trying to control a crossing. Nobody even looked at them, all riders simply ignored them and carried on crossing the road when the red light was on. You can image it, the police looked like they could not do anything, like they were powerless against this whole mass.
People carry everything on their bikes and motorbikes – from small bags to huge beer and coke containers/ boxes. I saw one guy with a huge box of live chickens and pigs on the back of his motorbike or a woman carrying 6 boxes of beer on her back while riding a motorbike. Me and Cez were watching them and we were like “Wow! Those guys are so crazy!” You can’t imagine what weird things you can see on Hanoi roads. Unbelievable!
Nevertheless, unlike China, I feel very safe here. People seem to be rushing a lot but paying a lot of attention to pedestrians and other riders. Some of them stop to let me go first, nobody shouted at me so far and people always wave. It’s kind of nice.
How do I behave on Hanoi roads?
I have been using one tactic: never stop, always keep going, be aggressive on the road, never hesitate, always ride confidently. So far it works, we will see for how long. I have noticed that most of the road users get nervous and impatient. They want, at all costs, be first, take you over and leave you behind. If you are not a tough player, you can easily panic and slow the traffic down then people will hate you, start shouting at you to get out of the way. My rule is: “Be tough, aggressive and determined or you will either end up in the hospital with broken legs or get nowhere”. Don’t know which one is worst :)…
Renting a motorbike in Hanoi
For only $4 you can rent a motorbike for 24h and go for a ride inside or outside Hanoi. Motorbike rental is offered by most of travel agencies in Hanoi as well as hotels/hostels/ Guest houses. You need to leave your passport as a deposit and pay the money in advance (in some cases) without possessing a driving licence. I ride a bike so I’ve found it useless but I saw many foreigners enjoying their motorbike ride in the city centre.