There’s no discernible method to the madness that passes as a traffic system in Vietnam so it’s extremely important that you don’t stray out onto the roads unless you feel a hundred percent confident about doing so. The theory is that you drive on the right, though in practice motorists and cyclists swoop, swerve and dodge wherever they want, using their horn as a surrogate indicator and brake. Unless otherwise stated, the speed limit is 60kph on highways and 40kph or less in towns.
Right of way invariably goes to the biggest vehicle on the road, which means that motorbikes and bicycles are regularly forced off the highway by thundering trucks or buses; note that overtaking vehicles assume you’ll pull over onto the hard shoulder to avoid them. It’s wise to use your horn to its maximum and also to avoid being on the road after dark, since many vehicles either don’t have functioning headlights or simply don’t bother to turn them on.
On the whole the police seem to leave foreign riders well alone, and the best policy at roadside checkpoints is just to drive by slowly. However, if you are involved in an accident and it was deemed to be your fault, the penalties can involve fairly major fines.
When parking your bike, it’s advisable to leave it in a parking compound (gui xe) – the going rate is from 5000đ for a motorbike and 2000đ for a bicycle – or paying someone to keep an eye on it. If not, you run the risk of it being tampered with.