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Like everywhere else in Vietnam, traffic in Hanoi is dominated by an incredible number of motorbikes, all of which seem to be making a mad, desperate dash for something just out of reach — all of the time. All the while blowing their horns incessantly. In other words, pedestrian traffic can be overwhelming for visitors, especially in the narrow streets around the Old Quarter. When you leave the curb, look not only both ways but left, right, back and front, and take each step slowly and patiently allowing them to pass because even an eye contact is not enough with the oncoming drivers and actually before you know it, someone is also on your back since there is no such thing as one-directional traffic in Vietnam. The key word here is slowly — don't rush. This way the drivers are aware of you, and can take you into account (along with all of the other motorbikes). It may look, and indeed is somewhat chaotic, but be patient and pay attention when you're crossing any street, large or small, and you should be fine. Definitely, the streets of Hanoi has no place for faint hearted people, with hypertension and heart problems on top of the disabled and the old.
You should look everywhere as you proceed. Holding out your arm toward the stream of vehicles as a "slow down, I am crossing" sign may be a good idea but not acknowledged most of the time. Don't stop suddenly when you see one coming a little fast or rush your steps when you are crossing. Just even your pace and walk slowly. The motorbikes will find their way to avoid you themselves.
Be vigilant when taking a taxi - driver jumps out at destination and dumps most of your bags out of the trunk. While you're busy putting rucksack on he has taken off with your other bags. Ask your hotel which taxi companies are reliable - stories abound of meters that run at an adjusted (much faster) rate.
Also keep all eyes on your belongings, especially in crowded area like Dong Xuan night market, or just don't go at all if it's not worth the risk; expect female pickpockets and don't let them surround you.
Also, be careful around the streets of Hilton prison museum, a lady will approach you and insist on introducing herself with her pick-up line "Hello, I'm a student." (Who cares?)
Be careful of hustler hawkers. Anywhere else in Vietnam, they have a two-tier pricing system - for locals and for foreigners. No other place in Vietnam is this experienced more emphatically than in Hanoi (and also in Ho Chi Minh Ben Tanh Market) where vendors charge you differently according to how you make an impression. Hawkers may charge 3x more their going rate for an item even if your appearance is similar to them simply because you are not a Viet Kiew, you don't speak the language, and you are sporting an expensive-looking wristwatch. They think you deserve this treatment even if you are eating the humblest food.
As in any Southeast Asian city, Hanoi is hygienically challenged especially where locals congregate more to dine. Expect that there may be a non-existing Health Department, or this is not in the priority of the city government.
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