Vietnam is a gorgeous country, known for breathtaking natural beauty, a heavy load of history and Buddhist temples and pagodas so beautiful they are worth taking the trip. It is located in Southeast Asia, between China to the north and Laos and Cambodia to the west. During the last couple of years, Vietnam slowly became widely popular, and each year there is more and more tourists coming to visit from all over the world.
Violent crime in Vietnam is rare, and as a tourist, your main concern should be petty crime such as pickpocketing, bag snatching or cell phone theft. Generally, if you respect Vietnamese culture and show common courtesy and kindness towards the people there, any arguments or misunderstandings can be easily avoided and your trip should go smoothly.
Warnings & Dangers in Vietnam
OVERALL RISK : LOW
Vietnam is a relatively safe country to travel to. Its main source of income is tourism, so the tourists' safety is their number one concern. Its capital city, Hanoi has 6 million inhabitants, so street crime is more common there.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : MEDIUM
Means of transport and taxis aren't very safe in Vietnam. Many taxis in Saigon and Hanoi have previously installed rigged meters that charge up to 2 to 8 times more. Your best chance is taking a taxi from reputable companies such as Mai Linh and Vinasun in Saigon. You should consult some guidebooks and travel forums before you travel to Vietnam that will prepare you for petty scams. There is also a very popular scam where the buses break down and the tour operators force people to pay considerable amounts for crummy hotels "while the bus is repaired".
PICKPOCKETS RISK : MEDIUM
Pickpocketing and bag snatching is a very common issue in Vietnam, especially on the side of the roads where motorbike snatching may occur. Keep your belongings by your side at all times and try to leave all your valuables in a security deposit box of your hotel.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
Natural threats include rare earthquakes and occasional typhoons (from May to January) with extensive flooding, especially in the Mekong River delta nearly every year. Vietnam is occasionally also devastated by storms and typhoons that can cause millions of dollars of damage. In case of a natural disaster, follow the instructions of local authorities.
MUGGING RISK : LOW
There are some areas where cases of mugging have been reported, it is generally rare, and foreigners are rarely targeted.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
There is low probability of a terrorist attack, however they should never be ruled out so be vigilant and watch out for suspicious activities.
SCAMS RISK : MEDIUM
There is a number of scams performed on tourists in Vietnam, such as gambling scams where, if you do venture in gambling, there is a great risk you will be scammed or ripped off, or karaoke scams: since prostitution is forbidden, you can find prostitutes in various karaoke bars, which are actually one big scam and their clients often get ripped off, drink spiked and robbed. Apart from these scams, you can get overcharged by everyone: street vendors, taxi and bus drivers, hotel owners and worst of all - the police. Double check every information and pay or negotiate everything in advance.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : MEDIUM
Sexual assaults are common in Vietnam, especially in the following cities: Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang, Nha Trang, Sapa and Cat Ba Island. Avoid overnight trains and buses, and parts of cities that are filled with bars and clubs, since there is a higher chance of running into intoxicated people. Follow basic common sense and avoid walking alone at night and in poorly lit and secluded areas.
So... How Safe Is Vietnam Really?
Vietnam is generally a safe country. Violent crime is rare, but lately robberies, assaults and harassments started occurring, often involving weapons. However, the most common risk for tourists remains petty crime such as pickpocketing, purse snatching and valuables theft, usually not involving violence of any kind.
Tourists should avoid fights and shouting of any kind, because people of Vietnam think of shouting as an insult and in such situations one never knows what their reaction is going to be. General rule of thumb is that if you respect this country’s culture and customs, you should have no problems or incidents.
One of the common issues in Vietnam is motorbike snatching. This usually involves thieves on motorbikes snatching pedestrians’ bags, mobile phones, cameras and jewelry. They especially target foreigners and it happens mostly in Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi and Nha Trang, and it is a crime committed so regularly that even local Vietnamese are commonly targeted.
Also infamously common are thefts of valuables left on popular beaches. Never leave your bag or anything of value unattended on beaches. In hotel rooms, including five star ones, there have been reports of stolen belongings including wallets, cameras, cell phones and jewelry, so put everything of value in a security deposit box.
As for streets, they are generally safe but there are areas that should be avoided, such as parts of cities filled with clubs and bars that are usually filled with suspicious individuals. Sexual assaults and robberies are more probable in these places, so be cautious and avoid these places late at night. Also, petty crime is most common in Vietnam’s capital Hanoi, so be aware of your surroundings at all times when you visit this enormous city.
Avoid purchasing liquor from street vendors since they may not be authentic, and bear in mind that drugs in Vietnam can be laced with toxic ingredients and potentially fatal.
- Visas - All US citizens wishing to visit Vietnam will need to apply for a tourist visa, and no earlier than six months before their planned departure. Your passport should be valid for at least six months past your date of return. If you are not sure about your visa status, visit www.doyouneedvisa.com which will let you know whether or not you need visa based on your nationality and the country you want to visit.
- Currency - Vietnamese dong is the official currency in Vietnam. We recommend changing your money in post offices, banks or larger hotels. Airports also offer a convenient exchange rate.
- Weather - Weather in Vietnam depends on the region you're at. For example, in Hanoi, its capital, summers last from May to October, and winters, mostly dry and mild, last from November to April with average temperatures from 17-22°C. In central Vietnam the weather is hot and dry from January to August, reaching temperatures as high as 30°C. The period from September to October is a rainfall season. Southern Vietnam is mostly dry and hot between November and April, and the rainfalls are common from June through August.
- Airports - The busiest airport in Vietnam is Tan Son Nhat International Airport, located in Ho Chi Minh and a close second is the Noi Bai International Airport in the country's capital, Hanoi.
- Travel Insurance - Just like anywhere else, we recommend getting travel insurance when traveling to Vietnam, since it covers not only the costs of medical problems, but also theft and loss of valuables.