“Is Vietnam safe?” – I have been asked this question a lot since I moved to Vietnam. Having lived in Vietnam for many years without any safety concerns, I can confirm that Vietnam is definitely a safe country to visit. However, there are certain factors to consider when travelling here, and taking a few precautions can certainly help to ensure your safety. Below are 15 safety concerns frequently asked by those coming to Vietnam.
1. Is the level of petty crime high?
Yes, but only in big cities. Pickpocketing, snatch-and-grab robbery, and petty theft are the most frequent types of crime reported in big cities like HCMC and Hanoi. In recent years, since the police increased their patrols in the city centre, the petty crimes have reduced significantly. One good tip is to use the money belt that can be worn inside clothing and not bring an excessive amount of cash with you if it is not necessary.
2. Is Vietnam safe for females travelling alone?
Yes. There isn’t any particular danger towards female tourists. In fact, they are respected just as much as male foreigners and would only face the same level of petty crime as all other travellers. Service providers often regard female tourists as “Madam”, just like the time French or American colony periods.
3. Should I leave my check-in luggage unlocked when I arrive in Vietnam?
No. I highly recommend having your check-in luggage locked before your arrival in Vietnam. There are many cases reporting that Vietnam airport luggage handlers stole passengers belongings, especially during peak season. If you suspect someone has tampered with your luggage, and if you find something has been stolen, report it to the airline and the airport authorities immediately.
4. Is it safe to talk to a stranger?
Yes. Vietnamese people are very friendly and often go out of their ways to interact with you. Don’t feel scared if they are over friendly and offer you a drink or offer to show you around. Some locals simply want to help you in exchange for the opportunity to practice their English!
5. Is is safe to drink tap water in Vietnam?
No. Avoid drinking tap water in Vietnam as there is a great chance it is contaminated due to being transferred through outdated pipelines. You should always drink the bottled water or boiled water. A top tip is to buy all your bottled water in convenience stores. If you have to buy water elsewhere, remember to always check the seal!
6. Is it safe to ride on the back of a motorbike?
Yes. Drivers often drive pretty slow in big cities due to high traffic. They tend to drive even more slowly if you are a foreigner. Being on the back of a motorbike can be overwhelming but also be fun. If you are scared, ask your drivers to drive slowly. In fact, booking a local to drive you around is a highly recommended thing to do.
7. Is it safe to go in an unmarked taxi or motorbike drivers?
No. Uber and Grab are a much safer alternative. Do not take “xe om” or motorcycle taxis/cyclos/pedicabs at night. If you are out late at night, take only metered taxis, preferably from the larger registered taxi companies such as Mai Linh Taxi and Vinasun.
8. Is it safe to drive a motorbike?
No. It is recommended to not do so in the cities, even if you are an experienced driver. The road system is chaotic, and traffic laws are widely ignored. The lack of open sidewalks and adequate traffic controls (stop lights at all intersections) creates a precarious situation for pedestrians and motorists. If you are planning on riding a motorbike or bicycle, wear a good helmet!
9. Is it safe to cross the road?
No. Two of the most dangerous activities in Vietnam are crossing the street and driving/riding in traffic. The trick is to let the motorbikes avoid you. The traffic will deliberately avoid you. Once you are used to the flow, crossing the streets is not that difficult. You should ask a local to help you if you are afraid. Vietnamese do understand foreigners struggle to cross the streets and are very willing to help.
10. Is Vietnam safe for me to go out late at night?
Yes, sort of. Depending on how late it is and where you are. In big cities centres, it’s safe to walk around at any time of the day. However, you are not recommended to be out late in these rural areas where crime rates tend to be higher.
11. Is it safe to call someone out if I feel I am being ripped off?
Yes. I have seen many of my friends got ripped off and treated badly by street vendors. The best thing to do is to learn some basic Vietnamese to help you in these situations.
I don’t understand what with all the travel bloggers writing about the rip-off stuff. I constantly meet street sellers who try to openly overcharge me. However, I understand it is a culture thing. Westerners are deemed to be rich and many vendors are living in poverty. This makes many retailers more money driven and aggressive. All you need to do is ignore them and walk away.
12. Is it safe to eat street food?
Yes, sort of. The majority are food vendors and not street foods. If they have a physical store inside, they are generally safe. Try to avoid foods which are sold directly on the street where the standards are much lower. Although food hygiene can be an issue, street foods are often the best ones and that’s how the local eat their foods.
13. Is it safe for me to leave my belongings in the hotel?
Yes. It is perfectly safe to leave your personal possessions in a hotel. However, if you stay in a guest house or a hostel, it is a universal rule to leave your important belongings such as money and passports in a safe or a locked cabinet. The best advice is to lock your bag in case you have to leave it unattended. In Vietnam, break-ins are relatively common in rural areas.
14. What should I do if I get sick? Is it Safe to take the medication?
Yes. If you feel unwell, find a well-regarded clinic or hospital such as FV hospitals or Family Medical Practice where staff speak English fluently. This can be done quickly via a google search. Before your trip, also make sure to purchase a medical insurance with medical evacuation coverage. Most of the hospitals here often ask you to pay cash in advance.
15. How do I call the police if I need assistance?
If you are in trouble, you can call 113 from a local telephone although few operators speak English. Another option is to call your embassy for assistance. In an emergency, do not afraid to ask locals for help even if they speak little English. They can call the authorities on your behalf. In my experience, the locals often go out of their way to help you.
What are your safety concerns about travelling to Vietnam? How was your experience in Vietnam? Leave your comments below.