Ho Chi Minh City, also commonly referred to as Saigon is the largest city in Vietnam and the former capital of the Republic of Vietnam.
It has been “officially” renamed Ho Chi Minh City following the fall of Saigon in 1975, but before that it was known as Saigon and is still sometimes called that by both Vietnamese and foreigners.
An abundance of investments and construction boom lead to a huge change of the face of the city, and the construction of many new skyscrapers all over the city.
Through all that, Ho Chi Minh preserved its own identity. To this day, tourists rush to see the shady alleys with low structure French style buildings, elegant Notre-Dame cathedral and the magnificent pagodas.
In the evening, though, they rush to Ho Chi Minh’s famous restaurants with delicious food and indulge in its vibrant nightlife.
Warnings & Dangers in Ho Chi Minh City
OVERALL RISK : LOW
Ho Chi Minh is a relatively safe country to travel to. Its main source of income is tourism, so the tourists' safety is their number one concern. The street crime is more common in cities like Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : MEDIUM
Means of transport and taxis aren't very safe in Ho Chi Minh. Many taxis in Ho Chi Minh 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 Ho Chi Minh. 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 Ho Chi Minh, 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 in Ho Chi Minh where cases of mugging have been reported, but 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 Ho Chi Minh City Really?
Ho Chi Minh is generally a safe city, as safe as other similar cities throughout the world.
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.
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.
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.
As for streets, they are generally safe but there are areas that should be avoided, such as parts of Ho Chi Minh filled with clubs and bars that are usually filled with suspicious individuals.
Sexual assaults and robberies are more probable in these places, so be cautios and avoid these places late at night.
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.
- Currency - Vietnamese dong is the official currency in Ho Chi Minh. We recommend changing your money in post offices, banks or larger hotels. Airports also offer a convenient exchange rate.
- Weather - 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. It is located inside the crowded urban core of Ho Chi Minh City.
- Travel Insurance - Just like anywhere else, we recommend getting travel insurance when traveling to Ho Chi Minh City, since it covers not only the costs of medical problems, but also theft and loss of valuables.