Walking isn’t as simple as putting one foot in front of the other

In Georgetown, Malaysia sidewalks are used for parking motorcycles so pedestrians must dodge vehicles on the street

In Georgetown, Malaysia sidewalks are used for parking motorcycles, so pedestrians must dodge vehicles (and deep rain ditches too!) on the street

Think you can avoid traffic accidents by simply not driving in another country? Think again — walking is treacherous too. 

My latest article, How to walk in Asia, was published today in the March 2016 issue of the in-flight magazine for Singapore Airlines regional fleet, Silkwinds. (Taking a flight on Silk Air? I’d love it if you grabbed a copy of the magazine for me!)

Crowded bike Johanna Read TravelEater.net

One of the things that surprises me about travelling is that the walking habits are different in every country I visit. Some are obvious — in countries where they drive on the left, they walk on the left too (mostly).

Others are less obvious. Did you know, for example, that:

  • People walk on the right in the medina of Marrakech (someone will advise you to move if you don’t), but in Fez‘s medina it’s more of a free for all? How can two Moroccan cities have such different rules?
  • In Peru, even in the big city if Lima, people walk slowly and a group of two or more will spread out to take up the whole sidewalk, not caring if you’re trying to pass, or even if you’re coming toward them.

    Ripped up sidewalk tiles are everywhere in Buenos Aires

    Ripped up sidewalk tiles are everywhere in Buenos Aires

  • In Buenos Aires, I encountered street battles with tough Porteños who refused to move to their right if walking in my path was in the shade of the hot sun or avoided two common BA street hazards — piles of sidewalk tiles and dog shit.

But Southeast Asia was the most challenging places I’ve ever found to walk.

Everyone hears stories about how it is so difficult to cross streets in Ha Noi, Viet Nam. That’s nothing! Cambodian streets and sidewalks are far harder to manage — next to the sidewalk is usually another lane of two-wheeled traffic going the opposite direction to the lane beside it. If you put one foot off a curb without triple checking both ways,  you could easily get smacked by a motorcycle.

Like chaotic traffic stories? Read Pursued by police in Phnom Penh about my first visit to Cambodia, written for The Globe and Mail.

And if you’re travelling to Asia, you’ll want to read my tips on How to walk in Asia.

The only way you'll have streets cleared like this in China is if you're in a big entourage, like a press trip

The only way you’ll have streets cleared like this in China is if you’re travelling in a big entourage, like a press trip

 

 

 

4 responses to “Walking isn’t as simple as putting one foot in front of the other

  1. So true. We call it “Hanoi-ing it” When we wade out into traffic to cross a street with no rules, but we found that Cairo was just as bad as Hanoi, only that instead of getting run over by a motorbike it was a car.

    Some of the major highways (I’m thinking Ramkhamhaeng in particular) in Bangkok as are you mention in Cambodia, with the far left lane being a free-for-all of taxis and buses pulling in and out and the random family on a bike going the wrong way. Fun stuff!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for reading and commenting Jeff :-) Yikes – cars in Cairo I’m sure are less maneuverable than motorbikes in Asia!
      Despite (or perhaps because of?) all the traffic chaos, I find drivers in these conditions tend to be better than in the west — though I make a point of not watching the road as a passenger abroad!
      Happy travels !
      Johanna

      Like

      • I think you are right that they are better drivers. In Morocco our taxi driver marveled at how wonderful it was when he visited the U.S. and drove in NYC and Boston. “Everyone stayed in the lines!” he said. Most Americans would think those cities are hard to drive in.

        Liked by 1 person

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