Tips for Crossing the Street in Hanoi Vietnam

Motorbikes in Hanoi Vietnam


Take 1 step.




Wait for the deluge of motorbikes to drive around you.


Like a massive presence fitting your human form, the wave of motorbikes moves in harmony, gently and craftily flowing down the road without touching you.


In a city of over a million motorbikes, crossing the street was a spiritual experience.


Kelli and I had heard the legend; you cannot run across.


You cannot walk across.


You cannot even crawl across.




1 step at a time. Wait. Allow the bikes to drive around you. Then another step. Pause. Repeat process until you reach the other side of the street.


We thought folks were joking or just plain lying when they said you can only cross the street in Vietnam 1 step at a time.


We soon learned differently.


The Scene


Hanoi Vietnam is the city of motorbikes.


One million plus motorbikes grace the road.


That’s a whole lotta bikes whizzing around.


The roads are not 6 lane highways.


Some main drags dot the city. But many streets are tight, narrow numbers.


Picture squeezing one million plus motorbikes into such a city.


Now ya get an idea of what it feels like to cross the road in Hanoi, Vietnam.


Hanoi is the type of place where 50 or 70 bikes queue up on the sidewalk at red lights. You literally cannot pass some areas until the light turns green. Motorbikes block the road and sidewalk.


Follow these personally tried and tested tips to cross the street in Hanoi.


1: Take a Deep Breath


Unless you grew up in a city with 1 million motorbikes flying around, crossing the street in Hanoi is scary. Take a deep breath. Relax. Inhale. Exhale. Be with your fear.


Seeing a monstrous wave of thousands of motorbikes with seemingly no area to cross makes this appear to be an impossible venture.


You can cross. You can get through. Trust me.


2: Take the First Step


Like those inspirational quotes you often read, take the first freaking step.


Do it slowly, gently and calmly.


Taking your first step into the road – even though the wave of flesh and metal keeps flowing your way – is an act of faith. This is an act of lunacy to the terrified. But it is proof that when you have a tiny opening how simply worming one gam onto the road results in a mild parting of the Street Sea.


Drop your foot on the asphalt. Something neat happens: the wave of motorbikes begins to part, driving around you and your leg. Cool! The tourists lied not.


3: Pause for 2-3 Seconds


Running or even waking across the street at this point is suicide. You will be run over because the thousands of motorbikes bearing down on you cannot stop and avoid you.


Pause for 2-3 seconds. Relax. Allow the bikes to keep their flow going. Avoid any accidents.


People seemingly driving at you will gracefully drive around you. People in your path of transit will prepare themselves to evacuate the area.


This is a delicious dance. Enjoy it.


4: Take the 2nd Step


Take step #2. Move forward.


Just a step. Nothing more.


Watch the harmonious flow open then allow you to find firm footing on the street.


5: Pause 2-3 Seconds


Pause a few seconds.


6: Repeat Steps #2 and #3


Repeat these steps until you reach the sidewalk.


The Toughest Moment


Seeing a massive wave of motorbikes and taking that first step. Scary.


But when you do take the step, standing your ground as thousands of motorbikes bear down on you feels horrifying at first.


Relax as much as possible.


Motorbike drivers know the drill.


Said folks will drive around you.


You will not be run over.


These people are seasoned pros.


If they weren’t, the roads in Hanoi would be littered with corpses.


The Alternative


Cross the street at a light.


But just so you know, finding a light is difficult in many parts of the city.


You will almost certainly have to cross the road using this method at some time in Hanoi when dealing with a busy street.


You will not become a Tourist Frogger.






Allow the motorbikes to drive around you.