Once you have managed to convince yourself that the most convenient form of transport is a motorbike and you are eventually confident enough to get onto the road, you will find that the traffic rules of the West are totally different to the traffic rules of Vietnam. 

When you first start off you will think that there are no rules and that everyone simply does whatever they want, however, although chaotic, there are in fact a large number of traffic regulations that people adhere to – and although these are not to be found in any traffic manual, they exist and are found throughout the country. 

Traffic lights

The Vietnamese traffic light rule is that if it has been a long wait, then it is fine to leave before the light is on green. Many of the traffic lights in Vietnam have a counting-down system (as in many places in Europe) – so you are able to see how many more seconds you need to wait before the lights change. 

As a result, rather than waiting until 3 or 2 seconds to get yourself ready (as in the West) in Vietnam, you are ready at about 8 seconds and then by about 4 seconds, people are off as if the light is green. This is important to note – both if you are waiting in the traffic and suddenly get beeped badly whilst still waiting for the lights to change and if you are travelling in the other direction – so your traffic light may still be on green (or just turning ) and you think it is fine to go – however never simply look at the green traffic light and go without looking carefully !


There is often heavy traffic in Vietnam – especially in the cities during rush hours. As a result, there is often a need to move slowly along in a queue formation as you move forward a little and then stop and then forwards again etc. 

In the West, this is typically a very regulated process, with the vehicle in front always remaining the vehicle in front, without anyone cutting in. The traffic rules in Vietnam are totally different – although in theory in heavy traffic cars stay towards the centre of the road and the motorbikes are at the side of the cars, in reality, many cars get fed up being in the car “lane “ and instead move over to where the motorbikes are and try and squash along that lane. Inevitably they get stuck in the small space and thus end up totally blocking the whole road, with the motorbikes piling up in a massive queue behind. 

To overcome this, the motorbike rule is to try to get around the car that is blocking the road – so this may involve turning into the other lane, travelling on the other side of the road and then doubling back in front of a car to get back into the motorbike lane.

When queuing, it is important to note that if you leave even the tiniest of spaces at the side/front of you then someone will jump into that space and force you to squash and move backwards. There is no point in getting upset about this as this is just what happens in Vietnam – it is not a sign of rudeness or lack of consideration about your needs. To avoid this as much as possible (since most Westerners find it irritating) it is best to position yourself in the middle of the small space if queuing so that there is limited space around you on both sides.


Motobikes have to get around the cars to move forwards in heavy traffic


It is vital to note that overtaking can occur on either side of you – not just on the left hand outside lane. This can take quite a lot of getting used to with it coming as a shock when someone suddenly zooms past you on the inside. This means that you really do need to use your mirrors a lot to make sure that you are always aware of who is behind you and where they are located. 

If you are a slow rider (or simply unsure ) then it is best to try to stay on the right hand side as much as possible ( close to the curb ) so that people can overtake you easily – however do be aware that even if you think that there is hardly any space to the right side and you are tight to the curb, someone may still zoom past!  

Pot holes 

Once you get onto the road you will quickly discover that the road is incredibly uneven – with there being numerous potholes and huge lumps and bumps where roads have been patched up as well as where drains have been put in.

As a result, most Vietnamese drivers drive around these- which means that you may be driving along in a straight line and then find that the person next to you or behind suddenly appears to dramatically serve as they are avoiding the uneven road. This in turn means that you need to swerve to avoid them which has a knock on effect with other drivers. It is always vitally important to be aware of the traffic around you so that if you do need to suddenly swerve then you know which direction to go! Do not assume that just because everyone seems to be going in straight lines that they will continue to do so.


Roads in Vietnam are not necessarily smooth !


The rules in the West for the use of roundabouts are very precise – outlining how to approach and signal when entering the roundabout as well as rules for the lane and signalling whilst on the roundabout and leaving – in comparison, the Vietnamese roundabout rules are reduced to how to get across without hitting something. 

It does not matter which lane you enter the roundabout and which lane you leave – or even the need to signal. However, it is recommended that you do signal  although don’t expect the majority of other people to do the same. Unlike roundabouts in the West where you wait and then go around with the rule being that you never stop on a roundabout, in Vietnam it is fine to stop on the roundabout – simply try to get across as best you can and if you find that you have to stop for traffic then that is fine. 

One very important thing to note when at a roundabout on a motorbike is the fact that not everyone will go around the roundabout the right way – although the majority of people will, if people are only going to the next lane or so, then rather than going round and turning back, they will go round the wrong way!


Roundabouts in Vietnam are notoriously chaotic!


When on your motorbike, the thing you need to watch out for most is buses. Buses do not look or typically signal, and they don’t slow down when swerving to the curb to pick up passengers. Instead, you will often find that you are on the right side of a bus and suddenly it darts straight across the road in front of you, causing you to screech to a halt – with you then having to wait for the bus passengers as the bus has trapped you in front. 

As a result, make sure that when you see a bus you are very aware of it and try to avoid being at the side of it – as it requires quick reflexes to react so quickly and avoid getting squashed! The good thing about buses is that they have a different sounding horn to car and motorbike – so you are able to hear them from quite a distance and know that they are around! 


Buses take up a large space in the road so they feel entitled to simply drive!

Overall, motorbike traffic may seem completely chaotic when you first view it through Western eyes – however, there is an order and a system – you simply need to accept that it is a different system to the one you know about and be willing and eager to accept and adapt to these new rules! 


Vietnam Teaching Jobs (VTJ), which was founded in 2012 is a well-established platform for teachers to find their dream teaching job in Vietnam. Covering the entirety of the country, we have successfully paired thousands of happy teachers and schools. Be part of the thousands of happy teachers working in Vietnam, register and apply for your dream job today!

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Vietnam Teaching Jobs (VTJ), which was founded in 2012 is a well-established platform for teachers to find their dream teaching job in Vietnam. Covering the entirety of the country, we have successfully paired thousands of happy teachers and schools. Be part of the thousands of happy teachers working in Vietnam, register and apply for your dream job today!