Ho Chi Minh City, also known as Saigon, comprises of streets that are bustling with both vendors and commuters, often bringing gridlock during peak travel times. Imagine having to face the wrath of the traffic ordeal whenever you leave your home or commute to work. Not to mention the terrible effects of pollution such as noise, carbon monoxide fumes and dust – Saigon has it all.
To shed light on the traffic in Saigon, let’s discuss three primary reasons as to why riding through its bustling streets warrants a glass of chilled lemonade afterwards.
1) Increasing Number of Motorbikes on the Streets
Purchasing a car to escape the daily traffic in Saigon seems like an ideal solution to the ritual, but not for the majority of Vietnamese citizens with a low-end pay scale or salary. In addition to the high-end expenses and taxes, maintaining a car in Vietnam is definitely a luxury, not a necessity. For instance, the price of a Toyota Camry in Vietnam can range from $60,000 and above, which is more than double its average value, that is, $23,000, as compared to its price in the United States.
Due to the buying rates of vehicles, Saigon’s population mostly prefers riding on a motorbike since it costs as little as $200 to buy one and is highly accessible. Vietnamese citizens must technically get a license to ride a motorbike, but don’t be surprised if you see a 13 year old teenager trying to maneuver his way through on the roads, especially in the outer provinces. With an estimated 9-10 million people on the road in Saigon, commuting through the already narrow streets is tiring and difficult at the same time.
2) Poor Maintenance of Law and Order on the Streets
Consider yourself a tourist riding through the traffic in Saigon on a tour bus for some sightseeing and peace. Will you be able to enjoy the trip if you had to take a walk on the pavement? We don’t think so, especially in District 1. Almost every other rider in Saigon has trouble keeping up with the traffic on the bustling roads, riders often take to the pavement when its busy, often disturbing pedestrians.
Traffic signals and signs labeled as detours are not taken seriously as the commuters think of them as suggestions and prefer to cast them aside. For instance, turn signals on the other hand, are often ignored, just like the concept of one-way lanes where commuters from all directions try to go about their daily commute.
3) Sheer Ignorance for Safety Regulations
In Saigon, there are a ton of safety regulations which sadly, the population continues to oppose without any fear. For instance, only two adults and a child are required to ride a motorbike at a given time. The police might overlook if you take the chance with three children, but if you increase the number of adults to three and add four children, you’re likely to be pulled over.
Another rule requires wearing a helmet for both adults and children that aren’t toddlers anymore, that is, beyond the age of 6 years and above. However, most parents tend to believe that their children will be safe if they didn’t have to wear the heavy helmets on their dainty-sized heads and they will often seat them in between the adults.
If you’re looking for a parking place, there is absolutely nothing to worry about when you ride a bike, as you will find parking on most streets. However, you want to pay attention to the roaming bike-snatchers and thieves if you’re parking your motorbike in front of a store along with others, use caution and lock the bike.
Methods to Counteract the Traffic in Saigon
If you’re a people person, try your luck by asking a local vendor or resident to help you navigate the streets when you are crossing. Since each street appears the same due to the traffic in Saigon, you might need a tour guide to show you around, it’s easy to get lost if you are not paying attention.
Also, try to use your eyes and look at riders when you are crossing the street and signal that you need time and space to cross the street, whilst it may seem scary, the motorbikes will stop or slowly move around you.
Note: There is currently a push to improve the road laws in Vietnam and foreigners are being targeted by the police. You must make sure you have your Vietnamese license, motorbike blue paper and insurance with you at all times. The link to the crackdown is here.
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