Hanoi is the New York of rush hour traffic. If you can make it there, you’ll make it anywhere. No, seriously. To be honest, I am lost for adjectives that I could use to describe the rush hour traffic in Hanoi. It is chaotic, maddening, noisy, fascinating, hectic, noisy, turbulent, wait… have I mentioned noisy?
It is noisy! It is as if everyday from 7 am to 9 am and 5 pm to 6 pm most of the main roads in the city are being hiked up a couple of decibels. But of course! It is rush hour and the roads are mega-loaded with scooters, cars, bicycles, cyclos, buses, and even some three-wheelers, and they honk every two seconds.
I am not exaggerating. I recorded this morning’s rush hour traffic.This is how it sounds
Tourists and newcomers are usually intimidated by its madness, doing everything they can to dodge rush hour, and follow the standard advice on “crossing the street in Vietnam” which usually falls along the lines of “look both ways but don’t second guess” or “walk with a steady pace and let the scooters work their way around you”.
But those who have no choice but to brace the daily havoc will definitely tell you that riding along in Hanoi’s rush hour is really not as hard as it looks.
Two years ago when I arrived, I was extremely terrified by the sight and, like many others, tried to avoid getting caught in the Hanoi rush hour like the plague. I fixed all my meetings for after 9 am, and all daily chores that required my getting on the road had to be done before 5 pm or after 6 pm. It seemed like a viable solution at the time, but I quickly realized that it made me lost a lot of potential clients and limited my movements.
So I toughened up. Pretty soon I found myself weaving through the rush hour traffic like everybody else. At the beginning it was not easy – I would drive at 15km/h, amidst a honking hell – but after just a couple of days, my apprehension lessened and my scooter was swiftly moving with the flow.
There is no special trick, really. It just needs a little getting used to, and of course, some common sense. Make sure that your brakes are working, use a full-face helmet for decent protection, and oh yeah, it can get very intense on the road so extra patience might help too.
And yes, like I said earlier, once you can make it through Hanoi rush hour traffic, you can make it anywhere!
What do you think about rush hour traffic in Hanoi? How’s the traffic compared to other cities you know? Any tips you can pass on?