Traffic Jams

It's scary. It's iconic. It's photo-worthy.

Traffic jams in Vietnam only frequently take place in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Vietnamese people seem be accustomed to traffic congestion, even miss it whenever they go to other places.

There is no fixed rule for the time the traffic jams to happen but it is worst during the rush hour when everyone is in a hurry to get to work or come back home. Apart from peak hours, the time between 9 am to 10 am and between 3 pm to 4 pm also witnesses long lines of vehicles, mainly motorbikes, struggling to get out of narrow streets. Whenever it rains, the traffic jam gets more terrible with the joining hand of flooding. Taxis are extremely hard to catch or wave during the downpour. However, it only takes about 30 minutes on average for a standstill and 2 hours to get through the worst, not really bad compared to that of other countries.

Traffic Jams in Saigon - Photo: Vietnamnet

While the rapid increase in car use coupled with the deterioration of roads caused by disordered planning make the matter worse, the most annoying thing about the traffic jam is the way people react when being stuck at the congestion. Most road users ride their motorbikes on the pavement rather than waiting calmly, or they constantly use their horns to hasten riders in the front, even shouting at them from time to time. More luckily, bicyclists can leisurely carry their “war- horses” on their backs and thread their way through messy matrix.

Traffic Jam in Hanoi - Photo: Zing News

The congestion is not anathema to all people and in all cases. One of the redeeming features of the traffic jams is that it is often regarded as a last resort for Vietnamese when all explanations for being late seem unreasonable. It is also used as a familiar topic to strike up a conversation, like weather-related matters. So take advantage of it! And the truth is that winters would be cooler and sadder without traffic jams.

Do you know?

  • Saigonese and Hanoians have different words to refer to traffic jams. In the South it is "kẹt xe"/ jammed vehicles while in the North it is "tắc đường"/congested road.
  • If you plan your trip, avoid the first and last day of Vietnam's major holidays such as Tet Holiday, long weekend from 30 April to 2nd May when locals rush to bus stations, airports or highways to head home. 
  • If your flights fall on rush hours, make sure to allow plenty of time to travel - it can take as long as 1 hour for the 7km ride from District 1 to Tan Son Nhat Airport.

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