If you are just one concern away from booking your ticket and if that concern is about “is it safe to travel to Vietnam?” the answer is “yes”. The same answer can be found in Rough Guides, Lonely Planet and Smartraveller just to name a few. Vietnam is safe for backpacker, solo traveller, female traveller and solo female traveller because:
The crime rate is lower than Western countries. Records indicate rare problems against tourist and there is little anonymous violent crime. It is uncommon that robberies, violent attack or sexual assault happen against foreigners. Petty theft and scams do happen in tourist destinations and big cities.
Storms and typhoons are seasonal and happen more frequently in the middle of Vietnam in comparison to the North and the South. Heavy rains occur during the rainy season which normally lasts from June to September in the North and South, and from October to December in central Vietnam. In Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi it can lead to flooding which causes traffic jams for traveling around the city. Make sure you figure out the best time to travel to Vietnam given your preferences.
Traffic related accidents claim to be the top cause of death in Vietnam. Crazy, chaotic and dangerous are just a few words that can describe traffic in Vietnam’s biggest cities. Some of the roads are also poorly maintained. Thick traffic with lots of motorbike can be overwhelming to first-time-to-Asia travellers. Crossing the street seems frightening, but is actually quite common and normally safe. Drivers in Vietnam are used to people crossing the street during normal traffic.
Figure out what means of transportation to take, the reliable brands of taxis to stick with and how public transportation works.
Uber and Grab are available in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. They offer both car and motorbike options. Drivers are required to follow directions on the map so that helps to decrease incidents and scams.
Motorbike taxi or xe om can be an option but this requires bargaining skill, which can be uncomfortable for some people.
For more tips, you can check out articles written by Andrew Fraser an Aussie that has been in Vietnam for a long time.
Operating a motorbike as a first-time visitor is not advised considering the traffic craziness, unless you plan to stay long-term. Plus, driving in Vietnam without proper licence is illegal.
Don’t make sudden moves while crossing the street. Stay calm and make yourself predictable so drivers can avoid you on the street.
Theft and Petty Crime
Unfortunately, tourists especially Western ones are the target because they normally bring along valuable devices and money. They’re typically less conscious of surroundings. Pickpocketing happens more likely in crowded trains, buses and markets. Thieves on motorbike aim at pedestrians or passengers too. It’s quite common for a group of 2 on a motorbike to come by quickly to snatch bags, phone, camera or any valuable devices. They can also be equipped with small Swiss army knives to cut leather straps. So keep your belongings close and try not to walk so close to the edge of the sidewalk.
To prevent it from happening
Leave important documents safely secured in hotel.
Always beware of petty crime and keep conscious all the time to your valuable belongings when going out.
Avoid taking your phone out on the street.
Use money belt instead of bags.
Chain-strap bags are safer than leather one.
Wear jewellery, waving phone, money and handbag on the edge of the sidewalk.
In case it actually happens
Let it go to avoid injury.
Memorize the address and figure out the police office which is in charge of that location. For instance, if you get robbed in Ben Nghe ward, go to police office is at 74 Ho Tung Mau, Ben Nghe, Dist. 1. Then, recruit or ask for help from a local friend who can speak English and Vietnamese to get police report and claim money with your insurance company. You should be able to get the report within the day.
Taxi drivers choose the long way or run around to charge more money so it is important to choose the reliable taxi brands at the airport.
Taxi drivers lie about your hotel’s address or name has been changed to drive you to another where they have a deal of commision. In this case, insist going to the planned address.
As for currency, it will get better later, but beware of VND10,000 versus VND200,000 note and VND20,000 versus VND500,000 note as you might mistake them on hurry.
Bargain before accepting or taking any product or services. Always have small notes with you to avoid those vendors who try to overcharge by not having money for change.
Tips in general to enhance experience in Vietnam
Check government websites for travel advisories. Note the closest address of the embassy and consulate of your nationality in Vietnam.
Its’ warm and humid so keep yourself hydrated by always having water with you. A bottle of water can cost from VND5,000 in convenient stores like Circle K, Shop and Go, Vinmart and Family mart.
Choose vendors that label prices directly on the products to avoid overcharges and surprises.
Respect the authority: There are reasons for political stability in Vietnam, and if your aim is to travel, staying away from controversy is a safe choice. It is smart to avoid talking bad or showing disrespect to the authority, stay away from demonstrations as it can lead to penalties. Always follow the advice of local authorities.
The people: Vietnamese people usually amaze tourists with their friendliness. Travellers can normally receive greetings from locals and sometimes invitation for a bottle of beer if they are walking by drinking places. It is not necessary to drink in order to be polite, normally a “hello” with smile is enough. On the other hand, Vietnamese people have a very different definition of privacy to Westerners. Invasion of personal space can happen to both genders but you should consider this as pure curiosity not anything harmful.
Tips For Female Travelers
You might get questions about your marriage status especially when you travel alone. Having a ring on your finger will somehow save you from such curiosity.
Dressing too cosmopolitan will affect people particularly men’s first impression of you. To stay safe, try to dress locally. Always wear long pants or dress or skirt when visiting temples and pagodas.
Try to not walk alone at night, Vietnam is very safe but you’ll attract unwanted attention for vendors and street pedestrians.
Yes, Vietnam is extremely safe to visit. Nonetheless, just like any other trips to any other countries, it’s about what kind of risks you can prepare to take or find solution to minimize the consequences in advance. Eventually, the main purpose of travelling is to see something different, to experience and to learn. And if the above wordy and informative paragraphs somehow distract you from the first reason to start your research, hopefully this video can drag you back on track and start your checklist, Xin Chào Việt Nam (Hello Vietnam).