How to Cross the Street in Hanoi (and Other Asian Cities)

HANOI
Hanoi is renowned for its busy streets and seemingly unfriendly roads for pedestrians. Lots of visitors have stories about being stuck on one side of the street for minutes, as they’re too timid to cross given the endless stream of motorbikes and cars.

But really, crossing the street in Hanoi is simple: just don’t look. Step into the road and start walking, and the traffic will flow around you. If you look, you’re liable to get scared and hesitate, and that’s much more dangerous than maintaining a steady pace.

There’s one caveat, though, which is buses. While everything else will flow around you, buses are the one thing which will NOT necessarily drive around you. Watch out for buses, lest you end up like Regina George.

I want to make fetch happen…

PENANG
Penang is awesome, but crossing the street in Georgetown can be a bit intimidating. The street lights can be verrrry long (like you’ll be standing there for 2 minutes to wait for the light), which is annoying when it’s 90+ degrees out and the sun is bearing down on you. Even worse, there are busy intersections without crosswalk lights, so you just have to figure out when you need to go yourself.

The main strategy is thus extremely aggressive jaywalking. Cars won’t intentionally hit you if you’re in the road, but it’s not like Hanoi where pedestrians are expected to just walk into the street, so you need to be vigilant about openings and seize them aggressively. I also observed some brave souls just walk out into traffic with their hand out toward the oncoming traffic, but I’m not sure I’m that brave.

BEIJING
Crossing the road in Beijing terrifies me because it’s one of the few places where I felt like cars would actually hit me if I didn’t scurry out of the way quickly enough. In most Asian cities, cars and motorbikes honk at you to let you know that they’re there; in Beijing, cars honk to let you know that you need to get the eff out of the way before they hit you. Even if you think you should have the right of way, you need to watch out for cars.

Granted, I’ve (thankfully) never been hit by a car, but I dread crossing the street in China much more than any other Asian country I’ve been to. Your strategy? Get across as quickly as possible and don’t assume that the cars driving toward you will stop.

FINAL TIP
If you don’t know how to cross the road, just wait until some old person needs to cross and stick to them like glue. No one wants to hit an old person crossing the road.

2 thoughts on “How to Cross the Street in Hanoi (and Other Asian Cities)

  1. NF

    Also, don’t be staring at your phone while crossing the street in Vietnam. Someone on a scooter will yank it from your hands.

    Reply

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