Golden Riding Rules

Sapa on a motorcycle is amazing

Explore Indochina Golden Driving Rules

As a motorcyclist, you will be aware of and will follow instinctually many of these rules already. No harm, however, for a friendly reminder, mainly because there are many additional tips that will keep you on the road and out of trouble that are specific to Vietnam, Laos and India. After all, it’s worth bearing in mind that riding unfamiliar roads, in what’s likely to be an unfamiliar country for you, will always require all the extra care that you can muster.

What You Should Always Do

  • Use your horn ALL the time, especially when overtaking other road users, passing people, animals, your driving mates, and when driving through intersections. The horn exists not to tell people that you’re frustrated with them. Instead, it’s a safety tool for communicating with other road users.
  • Keep your distance from your mates and other road users!!! Not only does this help to avoid accidents, but it means that you’re not taking in a face full of grit thrown up by the bike in front of you, nor a lungful of exhaust fumes. Your vision is improved, you won’t pressure your mates, and you will have much more time to react appropriately should the road user in front of you make a sudden stop.
  • Give way to anyone or anything that is in front of you. You are responsible for not hitting anything in front of you, even if that person or thing has cut in front of you. If it’s in front, it’s in the right as far as Vietnamese, Laotian and Indian traffic systems are concerned.
  • Always low down while driving through populated areas or zones of unpredictability, such as an intersection, an adjacent pig and buffalo etc. Just slow down whenever things get uncertain so that you’re ready to make timely and effective evasive action should you need to.
  • View every human or animal on or near the road as a potential accident victim. Look out for bikes that have slowed down and look like they are about to turn and kids running away from you with their backs turned. Be particularly wary of kids playing games like soccer or badminton on the pavement or at the side of the road. Watch out for pigeons (they can fly up into your face), cows and buffaloes, and children running away from you on the side of the road (they might suddenly cut onto the road). Be especially wary of calves as one cry from the mother cow, and they could bolt across the road. Don’t be startled by chickens or cats. They are very soft and don’t pose a problem. However, dogs, pigs and goats may break your suspension and send you over the handlebars, so keep an eye on them and use your horn. Buffaloes, however, are much more solid and will take you out, so try another strategy!
  • Remember that larger, moving vehicles often hide other road users behind them, which can cause havoc if you make false assumptions at intersections when blindly cutting in front of the larger vehicles, either travelling parallel or at right angles to you. Get in the habit of looking under oncoming vehicles.
  • If crossing a busy intersection, move into another vehicle’s ‘down traffic’ side. The vehicle’s ‘traffic shadow’ will buffer you against other traffic, and you can then cross with ease.

What You Should Never Do

  • Take your helmet off while riding.
  • Drive faster than the speed dictated by the guide.
  • Pass vehicles on the inside.
  • Ignore your horn.
  • Go wide in a blind corner.
  • Race.
  • Drink alcohol while riding.
  • Ride fast in wet conditions.
  • Turn abruptly. Instead, make long, curved turns.

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