Confession: I am a reluctant jaywalker.
Where other people can rationally observe and gauge the volume and speed of traffic in order to make a well-timed jaywalk, I can only see a crush of cars careening toward me intent on my demise. I am that person who eyes the road warily and says ‘hey, let’s walk up the block and cross at the lights’.
I can’t say I wasn’t warned about Vietnam. I had convinced myself that it was all exaggeration and that everyone was kidding when they told me it was easier to just close your eyes and go.
At least, until I saw the streets of Ho Chi Minh City for myself…
I never would have guessed that one of the greatest mental challenges of my trip around the world would be attempting to cross the street to get to a hostel. Watching the stream of hundreds of cars, trucks, and motorbikes weaving, dashing, and honking past me on the sidewalk, ignoring the precious few traffic lights and crosswalks was like a bad dream.
I had to give myself five minutes of panic before I collected myself and started to problem-solve the situation. I spent another fifteen minutes watching other people cross the road without getting run over and working out the system.
To save my fellow reluctant jaywalkers twenty minutes of panic and deduction, here are the guidelines to successfully crossing the road in Vietnam:
1. The traffic does not stop and does not thin out. Do not try to wait it out.
2. Wait until there are no big vehicles (cars, vans, buses, trucks, etc.) on the road. They cannot go around you. You will get hit.
3. Step out very deliberately and WALK AT AN EVEN, STEADY PACE across the road at a CONSISTENT SPEED. The swarms of motorbikes must be able to predict where you will be so that they can go around you.
4. DO NOT STOP or you will get hit.
5. DO NOT RUN or you will get hit.
Safe crossings, everyone.