There are many amazing cities in Vietnam that will give you a glimpse of its splendid culture. From tunnels and temples to Vietnamese dishes and unspoiled natural wonders, there will always be something to look forward to every time you visit the country. It’s no wonder why there are many tourists flocking this country. But just like any other country, there are also scams and crimes that can inconvenience your trip. So, most often, before finding out the best time to visit Vietnam, you’ll find yourself asking: “is Vietnam safe for tourists?”
Although it’s generally safe in Vietnam. There are still things you have to keep in mind to ensure that your trip to Vietnam is safe. Here are some of them:
Common Scams in Vietnam
1. Money Switching
This is one of the most prevalent scams in Vietnam. When you buy from the markets, you could get muddled with the noise and unfamiliar environment. And in split seconds, your supposedly VND100,000 change could be switched to VND10,000. But you won’t notice it right away because of the number of zeros. Or sometimes, your VND10,000 and VND500,000 banknotes could be switched because they quite have a similar color.
Although this may seem like a one in a million chance, you can still get lucky. So, one way to avoid this is to prepare ahead of time. Similar to how you are doing hardcore research on the things you want to do, research also on the current banknotes of Vietnam. Familiarize yourself with the colors, numbers, and tricks on how to find out if your dong is fake. Then, when you get to Vietnam, always pay attention and count your change.
2. Taxi Schemes
Another common scam in Vietnam is related to taxis. One is when you ride a fake taxi and another is when you take the correct taxi but they pretend that they don’t know the route. To be safe, take Vinsun and Mai Linh taxis, the two trusted taxi companies in Vietnam. Vinsun has this distinct red and green line on its doors, while Mai Linh is a green-painted taxi with a yellow checkered line on its doors.
You might come across taxis that look like them, but during your ride, you will notice that the meter goes up quickly. Sometimes, they will even tell you that the meter got broken and would just negotiate a price instead. The other one is when you take a taxi but they pretend that they don’t know the route. Instead of only taking around 20 minutes, you’ll end up circling around the area for an hour. With this, you will incur a higher meter.
You can avoid this by booking your trip through Grab. Or, if the fare is too high, you can just open your Google Maps or Waze to check if you’re going on the correct route. Don’t ride taxis that don’t have meters or signage. If you think the driver smells alcohol, get off and hail another one.
3. Motorcycle Scam
In Vietnam, motorcycles are more than just a mode of transportation. Perhaps, they are an extension of their limbs. Ranking fourth in the world’s highest number of motorcycle riders, you will definitely include riding a motorcycle in your Vietnam bucket list. However, there are horror stories that will make you question if Vietnam is safe. There are some motorcycles that will negotiate with you and take you to your destination. But when you get to your destination, you will be surprised because they will ask more and even argue with you. Since you’re a foreigner, they will try to intimidate you more because they know you’d avoid any kind of hassle as possible.
There have been stories about the erotic tourism industry in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. You’ve probably heard about spas, KTV Bars, and notorious red districts. Although prostitution is illegal in Vietnam, it’s still rampant yet regulated. However, there are times when things still get out of hand.
This is pretty common among men along the red districts. You will be spotted by a beautiful Vietnamese. She will sit next to you, seduce you, and caress your groins. Then, while you’re distracted, another person will empty your pockets. There are also times when you will be invited to an amorous massage parlor. You probably have imagined that the attractive woman will give you a massage so you hurriedly paid the fee. Then, when you’re lying on your stomach, you’ll feel hulking palms against your back.
One way you can avoid this is by politely dismissing hookers on the street. Or, at least, do research on where are the reputable establishment to get the service that you are looking for.
5. Annoying Shoe Shine
There are some busy streets in Vietnam where you will encounter shoe-shiners, especially if you’re wearing leather shoes. They will negotiate a price and convince you to do it. Often times, you will just agree. But, by the time you’ll get your shoe back, you will be surprised because the price doubled. They will argue that the price they gave you was just for one shoe.
So, if you really need to get your shoe shined, you can look for reputable businesses. But if not, just politely decline and walk fast away from them.
6. Overpriced Coconut
When you’re traveling, you’ll come across things that you don’t see in your own country. Aside from its impressive colonial architecture, you will also find unique cyclos and vendors selling coconuts on shoulder poles. So, you will take photos of them. But while you’re taking those Instagram-worthy shots, the vendor is already splitting coconuts to sell you. Although sipping some coconut under the Vietnam heat will quench your thirst, it’s not something that you asked for. But this is where it will get more complicated. When you decline them, the tables will be turned and you’ll be the phony foreigner.
You can avoid this awkward situation by asking to buy coconut first then asking for a picture. In this way, you can control the situation and most likely they will be nice enough to give you a photo op.
Things to Note for a Safe Trip
Similar to traveling to other countries, make sure that you have travel insurance. This will ensure that your current financial assets are protected from paying hefty hospital bills. In general, Vietnam is safe. But follow the minimum safety protocols:
1. Wear your helmet.
2. Cross the street safely and confidently.
3. Keep an eye on your valuables.
4. Keep copies of your passport, ticket, and visa (if there is).
5. Never touch artillery, bombshells, and don’t go inside bomb craters. Since Vietnam had a lot of wars, there are still tons of undetonated explosives around that can just explode anytime.
6. Avoid taking photos or videos of government buildings, especially those with positioned guards. This is considered illegal and you may be inconvenienced.
For Solo Female Travelers in Vietnam
In Vietnam, there is a very low rate of heinous crimes. Most of them are only non-violent crimes such as pickpocketing, petty theft, and tandem motorcycle snatching. Most of the time, female travelers fall victim to these. To ensure you’re safe, blend in the crowd. Wear clothes that are still considered acceptable by Vietnam’s conservative standards. Don’t wear flashy jewelry. Put your money in your pocket. Avoid bringing out your electronics when walking on the streets.
For Solo Male Travelers in Vietnam
Just like with female travelers, you can also come across non-violent crimes. So, it’s also important that you practice minimum safety precautions. Wear clothes that are still considered acceptable in Vietnam’s conservative standard. Put your money in your pocket. Avoid putting out your electronics when walking on the streets.
But unlike female travelers, male travelers are not usually the main target of these non-violent crimes. Most of the time, they fall victim to amorous scams in spas, KTV bars, and notorious red districts. So, you have to be vigilant and trust your guts. Only bring enough cash and be careful with your credit cards.
For Family Travelers in Vietnam
If you’re traveling with your kids, heinous crimes like kidnapping are very rare. Although it happens, it’s rare for foreigners. But some of the precautions that you can follow is putting IDs on your children so in case they get lost they know what information to give to the authorities. Include your current roaming number, hotel address, name of the parents, and even your home address and contact details. Also, if your children are older, you can give them instructions on where you can meet up just in case they get lost.
Also, inform your children to never touch artilleries, bombshells, and jump into bomb craters since these might explode. You can even show them pictures. In general, you can also practice minimum safety precautions. Since you will be traveling with your family, you have to be more vigilant especially if they are kids.
So, is Vietnam safe for Tourists?
In general, yes, Vietnam is safe. Vietnam is welcoming of tourists and there is a low crime rate. But just like in any other country, you can fall victim to any scam, accidents, and other inconveniences if you let your guard down. So, just practice minimum safety precautions and be vigilant. With this, you will surely enjoy your time in Vietnam!