Expat Living in Vietnam

One of the first lessons to learn about survival in Vietnam is the highway code.

Some Basic Road Rules

Traffic Control. Until very recently Hoi An’s main traffic control device was the pot hole. Recent over zealous road repair has seen the demise of this age old system, with a new scheme involving protruding manhole covers taking their place.

Rule 1. Don’t look and the law of averages dictates that you should be O.K.

Rule 2. Permitted vehicle speed on the outskirts of town is proportunate to vehicle mass, ie a push bike is permitted to drive at 15kms per hour, whereas a bus or lorry is permitted to travel at 150kms per hour in the same area out of town. A wide or unstable load on a vehicle permits you to travel at speeds in excess of 200kms per hour.

Rule 3. Severe penalties apply if driving your vehicle when your horn is broken.

Rule 4. Driving proficiency is determined by the number of tasks you can perform at the same time as driving your vehicle, eg sending an SMS, holding a conversation (or hands) with the person traveling beside you or carrying a 4 square meter piece of glass, the family pig and Bahn Mi stall. The more of these tasks that can be carried out simultaneously, the greater the degree of skill.

Rule 5. An unstrapped, plastic motorbike helmet has forcefield properties and is accepted as offering head protection for up to seven children riding pillion.

Rule 6. The silent assassins. Electric bikes. You have been warned.

Other ways of getting around.

Cyclos. Due to the eccentricities of Hoi An, cyclo’s are one of the easiest ways to get around town in the searing heat. Tours are best taken early morning before your driver has had lunch with his brother (usually around 11.30am), any tour taken after that time and it might be more advisable to get a ‘real experience’ and swap seats with your driver.

Rice Wine. A natural and traditional local drink, best taken close to where it is made. Ask any local cyclo driver for information on the best available at any time and will be happy to take you out to his brother’s house to try some. Be warned, it’s surprisingly strong.

Also available on most street stalls mixed at 80/20 concentrate with gas and water, at this concentration it is generally used as motorbike fuel.

Walking. It’s safe walking in Hoi An, very safe (with the exception of walking back from the beach at 5pm). But be careful on the new zebra crossings, they are not crossings, but are just suggested areas to be run down. When crossing roads in Hoi An it’s best just to wait for a local to go, grab onto them and shut your eyes, sadly as most locals use their bikes to cover long distances such as road crossing you may have to wait a long time.

Bicycle Rental

There is no better way to explore the villages and rice fields surrounding Hoi An than by getting lost on a bicycle. All hotels and guesthouses generally have a masked ninja set up outside offering real bone shakers at cheap daily rates. Some even offer Asama mountain bikes too, but don’t get too excited.

Xe Om – These cheerful chaps can make getting around easy, using their translation skills you will explore more. Just don’t let him drop you off at his brothers tailor shop / house. See rice wine.

Fishing Boat (Race). Pop yourself down to the river and you will be inundated by tiny women in their 80’s offering to take you on a hour long tour of the river on something almost boat like and without the clouds of diesel. Go at night for a truly romantic experience or get a team together for a sunset fishing boat race! Lan is the current leader, but due to her weak bladder, competition is hotting up.


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