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Is Vietnam Safe to Travel?

You have never been to Vietnam before but have already heard about the congested traffic in main cities, or the various tourist scams?

Well first, living in Vietnam, we can tell you that this is quite exaggerated, and it is far to happen every day. VIETNAM IS TOTALLY SAFE TO TRAVEL

In any case, traveling to any unknown country represent potential troubles and mishaps. Things can change quickly without any notices.

Within the scope of this article, you will find the most popular safety topics for Vietnam such as is it safe to travel alone (even for solo female traveler)? or is there any danger to travel with kids?

We also help you realize 13 popular tourist scams and how to avoid it.

By following our below advices and common-sense precautions, you will be able to avoid any danger and get through Vietnam in total safety and serenity.

Is Vietnam safe to visit?

All in all, Vietnam is an extremely safe country to travel in. Millions of people each year visit this country – and increasingly not only intrepid backpackers! Couples on a long holiday, retirees, families; all sorts of people are coming to Vietnam.

  • The police keep a pretty tight grip on social order and there are rarely reports of muggings, robberies or sexual assaults.

  • Scams and hassles do exist, particularly in Hanoi, HCMC and Nha Trang (and to a lesser degree in Hoi An).

  • Be extra careful if you’re travelling on two wheels on Vietnam’s anarchic roads; traffic accident rates are woeful and driving standards are pretty appalling.

Is it safe to visit Vietnam right now?

Vietnam is a one-party communist state, which is something you should be aware of. The Vietnamese government represses free speech and censors a lot of dialogue. Reporters Without Borders rank Vietnam as 175 out of 180 countries in terms of press freedom.

At the same time, young people here are open-minded, knowledgeable and happy to make friends. Most of Vietnamese locals are perfectly normal and far more Westernized than you expected.
Vietnam’s population is not totally passive. In June 2018, there were many protests in cities across the country. These were peaceful and were more concerned with China but were still ‘dispersed’ by police. An American citizen was also detained whilst participating.

When it comes to politics, just stay away – don’t get involved in local issues.

Dangers and annoyances in Vietnam

Here are some safety precaution for tourists traveling in Vietnam

Crime

Petty crime against tourists is increasing, particularly in the larger cities. Pickpocketing is common in:

  • Tourist areas
  • Markets and shopping centers
  • Crowded buses and trains

Motorcyclists grab bags and other valuables from pedestrians and from passengers or drivers on motorbikes. This often results in injury to the victim.

Criminals are more likely to target hotels and tourist areas.

Bag slashing is a frequent occurrence in crowded streets and markets.

Although violent crimes such as armed robbery are still relatively rare in Vietnam, perpetrators have grown increasingly bold. Knives and razors have been used in attempted robberies in Ho Chi Minh City.

Aggravated assaults, including sexual assault, are rare but do occur. Groping and sexual assault also occur.

Threats of physical injury related to personal disputes occasionally occur. If you are in this position, contact the local police and the closest government office immediately.

We recommend:

  • Not to wear jewelry ostentatiously.
  • Do not walk on the sideroad with a bag in your hand.
  • Leave papers and airline tickets in the hotel's safe.
  • Do not leave money or valuables in the vehicles when you leave, even if the driver stays there.
  • Avoid taking trishaw at night.
  • Not to leave money or valuables in the same place as paper and airline tickets. If you lose a bag without money that contains the papers, you will have a better chance of finding it.

In case of loss, notify your tour guide immediately or, failing that, your dedicated Sonasia Holiday travel consultant.

In case you leave luggage or items at the hotel, you must request an acknowledgment of receipt from a hotel agent.

Finally, physical attacks against tourists are extremely rare.

Credit card fraud

Both tourists and expatriates have been targeted by credit card forgery crime. Avoid using your credit card in smaller establishments, and pay careful attention when others are handling your card. Consider obtaining a second card, with a low credit limit, for use during your stay in Asia. 

To minimize risks:

  • Pay careful attention when your cards are being handled by others
  • Use ATMs located in well-lit public areas or inside a bank or business
  • Avoid using card readers with an irregular or unusual feature
  • Cover the keypad with one hand when entering your PIN
  • Check for any unauthorized transactions on your account statements

Noise & pollution

Noise is omnipresent in big cities because the traffic of motorcycles is intense. Hồ Chí Minh-City is the most noisy and crowded city in Vietnam. Hanoi comes next. The other cities are quieter. Even if at night the noise is lower, do not forget your earplugs if you are a light sleeper.

Check the Youtube video below to have the general idea of the noise from the street of Hanoi.

Undetonated Explosives

For more than three decades, four armies expended untold energy and resources mining, booby-trapping, rocketing, strafing, mortaring and bombarding wide areas of Vietnam. When the fighting stopped, most of this detritus remained exactly where it had landed or been laid; American estimates at the end of the war placed the quantity of unexploded ordnance (UXO) at 150,000 tonnes.

Since 1975 more than 40,000 Vietnamese have been maimed or killed by this leftover ordnance. The central provinces are particularly badly affected, with more than 8000 incidents in Quang Tri alone.

While cities, cultivated areas and well-travelled rural roads and paths are safe for travel, straying from these areas could land you in the middle of danger. Never touch any rockets, artillery shells, mortars, mines or other relics of war you may come across. Such objects can remain lethal for decades. And don’t climb inside bomb craters – you never know what undetonated explosive device is at the bottom.

You can learn more about the issue of landmines from the Nobel Peace Prize–winning International Campaign to Ban Landmines (www.icbl.org), or visit websites of the Mines Advisory Group, which clears landmines and UXO.

Political situation & demonstrations

Political issues are not major Vietnam travel risks since there is no unrest or terrorist activity in our country at the moment. 

Anti-government propaganda and demonstrations are not allowed in our country and you should not discuss political opinion in public places. Avoid taking photos of the police and military.

Public demonstrations are generally not tolerated in Vietnam and can carry heavy penalties, including lengthy jail sentences.

  • Avoid areas where demonstrations and large gatherings are taking place
  • Follow the instructions of local authorities
  • Monitor local media for information on ongoing demonstrations

17 top safety tips for traveling to Vietnam

Vietnam is an amazing destination, which is partly because it’s so easy and safe to travel around. Everything from catching long distance buses, to going on tours, even walking around tourist areas doesn’t come with the same alarm bells that you’d get in other countries. 

HOWEVER, things can change quickly, wherever you are in the world.  Here are our top tips to always keep things right.

  1. Wear a helmet when riding a motorbike – you are an actual idiot if you don’t. It’s not cool.
  2. Carry copies of important travel documents – it’ll save you a whole lot HASSLE if anything goes missing.
  3. Don’t flash any of your expensive tech on city streets – mainly, this goes for Saigon. People sometimes have their phone snatched right out of their hands.
  4. Keep your money safe in a special belt – Money can suffer the same fate as your tech. Keep it totally secure using a money belt – these are inconspicuous, effective, and sometimes good-looking.
  5. Watch out for the weather – in the rainy season, it can be fine one minute, completely torrential the next. Dangerous on treks.
  6. Stay hydrated – Vietnam gets HOT. REALLY HOT. Humidity makes it harder to regulate your temp, so have a water bottle and keep drinking water.
  7. Try to blend in – singlets and short shorts may be your favorite, but you should use the locals as models instead and be respectful. ESPECIALLY at religious sites.

Here is the Temple etiquette in Vietnam

  1. Be conscious of government buildings – if someone’s on guard, it’s important. Keep a wide berth and you won’t get told off.
  2. And don’t take pictures of them either – that is actually illegal.
  3. Make sure you count your change – you’ll be a millionaire… in dong. All those big numbers can be tricky to figure out. Some unscrupulous store owners know this and will hand back a random (lower) amount of cash as change.
  4. Careful what you’re drinking – some rice wines – homebrewed maybe – have CRAZY levels of alcohol. Know your limits
  5. Trust your gut – if people seem weird or if the situation doesn’t feel right, remove yourself.
  6. Drugs are NOT legal – drugs, especially cannabis, are easily obtained. People offer it to you all the time and it’s an easy way to see a much darker side of Vietnam. Mind you, possessing a small amount of ANYTHING can entail serious consequences.
  7. Don’t stray from rural roads alone – there’s still plenty of UXO (unexploded ordnance) for unsuspecting travelers to step on.
  8. Cross the road confidently but carefully – motorbikes will swerve out your way. Hesitating is much more dangerous.
  9. Respect the sea – dangerous currents and dangerous critters make the sea pretty perilous. On another note, DON’T swim whilst drunk.
  10. Watch your bags! – we’re talking handbags, tote bags, grocery bags, camera bags, any kind of bag. Motorbike riders have been known to take these as you’re walking along, or even if you’re just in the back of a motorbike taxi

The main issue you’ll in Vietnam is bag snatching. To be fair, this is mainly an issue in Saigon and other big cities. Scammy behavior, in general, is something to look out for, too.

Ultimately, Vietnam is still a safe place to visit and travel around. As with anywhere in the world, being sensible and travelling smart is going to ensure you have a blast. Following time-tested habits like these will help you stay safe and keep possession of your valuables.

Top safety topics in Vietnam

Is Vietnam safe to travel alone?

Travelling by yourself is GREAT! It’s fun, it’s freeing, enlightening, and challenging, all at once. But it can sure as hell be daunting.

However, Vietnam is safe to travel alone. Absolutely. It’s is not only SAFE to travel alone, but we reckon it’s one of the best places for a first-time solo traveler anywhere in the world.

There are things to keep in mind though as solo travel comes with its own set of risks.

  • Letting people know where you are is a good idea. You might be finding yourself, you might want to be an enigma, and you might want to be alone. But it’s still a good idea to call your parents and loved ones, even if it feels like a drag. Checking in not only lets your family and friends know you’re safe, it also keeps you in touch with reality, which can be easily blurred when travelling alone.
  • Getting a Vietnam sim card is really going to help you out, especially with maps and getting around. If you don’t have or can’t get a roaming sim, don’t worry. Downloading an offline maps app like Maps.me will really be a lifesaver when it comes to finding your way around a city.
  • Definitely read reviews of hotels and make sure one suits you. At the same time, you’ll want to stay somewhere with A LOT of generally good reviews and high scores. This will heighten your chances of being safe and having an amazing time.
  • Talk to the staff at your hotel and learn things like how much tours or nearby attractions should cost, or simply where to eat and what to do in any given place. You won’t have anyone to bounce ideas off when you’re travelling alone; so make the most of local knowledge.
  • Make friends! Whether that’s with local students, which will definitely open up the country in a whole different way, or with fellow travelers, you’ll be rewarded. Plus, travelling solo CAN get pretty lonely. Talk to people, share travel stories, tell people about your country, listen – you might even end up making a travel buddy!

  • Vietnam is a deceptively large country and the distances between places can be HUGE. You shouldn’t wear yourself out by trying to do and see everything. Don’t forget: you’re already doing a lot just by travelling solo!
  • If this is the first time travelling outside your country, consider taking a tour. Even if it’s just a walking tour organized by your hostel. It’s a great way to get acquainted with the country and the city streets. Plus, you might make some new friends too.
  • Ok, so Vietnam might seem cheap, but keep track of your money. Good money management will ultimately lengthen your trip! At the same time, if something bad DOES happen – all your stuff goes missing, whatever – you should have a backup credit card. This will save you so much stress and hassle you would not even BELIEVE.

As you can see, there’s still plenty of things that solo travelers can do to keep themselves safe in Vietnam. That said, this Southeast Asian country is thankfully very safe. But more than anything, keeping happy is going to be key to having an amazing trip. Make friends, have an awesome time, and remember how fortunate you are to be in this amazing country!

Is Vietnam safe for solo female travelers?

Women travelling by themselves have to do so by a slightly different set of rules. While this is an unfortunate situation, it is something that needs to be taken into consideration regardless of where you travel.

But Vietnam is safer for female travelers than a lot of other countries in the world. Vietnamese women are particularly amazing and will, more often than not, help out any woman visiting by themselves.

For solo female travelers, making a trip to Vietnam is totally doable. To make sure that your trip is free of trouble and harassment, we’ve included a couple extra tips for women travelling to Vietnam.

  • Vietnam is still relatively conservative and this, in turn, affects how women should present themselves. The conservative values go all the way to how you’re dressed, of course. Generally, tight and/or revealing might possibly get you propositions (however this often goes no further). Check out what the local women are wearing around you and try to adapt as much as possible.
  • Book yourself into a female-only dorm at a hostel. This a nice idea to get to know fellow female travelers, share stories, and swap tips – maybe even about a destination you’re planning to go to. Obviously, doing research and reading reviews is going to make sure you end up staying at an awesome hostel.
  • Making friends is a good idea. Not only does it remedy those solo travelling blues, but it may give you a new buddy to explore Vietnam with.
  • If you’re getting hassled by anyone, whether it’s a taxi tout or another backpacker, make a fuss. It’s unusual for anyone in Vietnam to make a scene and get loud, so this will definitely draw some attention.

  • This goes for pretty much anywhere in the world, but if someone seems like they’re a bit too interested in you and they’re asking a load of questions, don’t reveal too much. You don’t NEED to tell anyone your address, whether you’re married or not, or even your full name. If you’re not interested in someone, or if they’re weirding you out, don’t give them anything, even if they’re another traveler. You never know who they are or how weird they might be! Use your gut, basically.
  • DON’T walk around by yourself at night, especially around train stations or sketchy backstreets. Let’s face it, that’s where you’ll find people with ill-intentions. Main streets will be safer, but we still wouldn’t recommend it. Harassment and assaults have happened, even in well-touristed areas.
  • If you’re a victim of a crime, the onus is often on you to prove what’s happened. This can make pursuing justice somewhat challenging, especially if you’ve been drinking (locals don’t respect drunks). If you want to report a crime, take someone who speaks Vietnamese with you to help plead your case.
  • Train travel tip: if you find yourself in a room on a sleeper train with people you really don’t comfortable with, alert the train guard and see if they can move you.

Traditionally patriarchal Confucian values persist in Vietnam, however, women play an important role in society. Look at any street and you’ll see who’s doing the most work (spoiler alert: women). If you’d like to learn more about gender roles in Vietnam, we recommend going to the Women’s Museum in Hanoi, which is one of the most inspiring and interesting places which can be the highlight of your journey.

Women here still face daily domestic struggles, but things are always getting better, thanks in part to increased education. While Vietnam is still generally safe for solo female travelers, the situation will get even better over time.

Is Vietnam safe to travel for families?

Absolutely, Vietnam is safe to travel for families. For kids and parents alike, Vietnam can be an awesome experience!

If you and your family love spending time on the beach, there are plenty here. If you’re all about beautiful nature, there’s plenty of that too. (Ever heard of Halong Bay?) There are colonial cities, there are amazingly colorful markets, cultural immersions, and a whole lot more on offer in Vietnam for families.

Here are some tips to maximize your Vietnam experience with your children

1. Avoid any long transfer especially with multi connections

The more connections you have along the way the higher the risk of losing your bags. This is the nightmare that you do not want to have with your children.

2. Various activities

The kids will get bored if they have same toys for 1 week though it is the most interesting one that they have been long dreaming of.

Plan activities that include something everyone can enjoy. Definitely have a few beach days but ask what your family wants. Perhaps hiking, water sports, golf, or tours of fantastical temples would be interesting.

There is plenty of things to do in Vietnam. It’s a shame for anyone to feel bored. Do some research before you leave and discover the activities that are geared for children.

3. Make a good and safe food choices

This is absolutely right with no doubt, and there is nothing to worry to find a good and safe place to eat.

Vietnamese food is among the best and most delicious in the world. There is no doubt you can always find something interesting and yummy for you kids.

First off, in case your children are not that easy, you can always find the western food almost everywhere, especially in big cities and tourist hubs.

Secondly, come prepared with a few snacks, which are sold almost every corners of the countries. Grab a few snacks that will hold up in the heat, just in case your child gets the munchies.

Third, don’t eat from a street vendor or place that others aren’t eating from, or that you don’t feel confident about. Children have sensitive stomachs, and the last thing you want to deal with is a child who is sick.

You can find more about the food in Vietnam below in the food safety section.

4. Always bring water along

Vietnam has different seasons, but the center and south of Vietnam has warm climate. The entire family should stay hydrated, but children especially so. Dehydration leads to headaches, tiredness, and irritability at the beginning, and far more serious problems if it progresses.

Carry bottled water with you and have it readily available. Do not drink the water in your hotel or at restaurants unless it is bottled or purified.

5. Choose a family friendly hotel

Though Vietnam is safe, you may not want to expose your young children to the nightlife. Research which places are best suited for children in the evening, and which ones are great during the day.

A family-friendly hotel should locate inside the family-friendly location with various suitable activities around the corner.

The next strong bullet, the hotel should have a kid-friendly swimming pool. And finally, it will be perfect if the hotel also offers a babysitter service.

6. Prepare your child in advance

Vacations are always more memorable if your child knows a bit about the country and its culture in advance of arriving. Vietnam, with its unique culture and wonderful flora and fauna, is an excellent example of a destination that’s begging for this treatment.

Let your children know about the weather, the temples, the history, the animals. Talk about the ocean and some of the wonderful landscapes they might see. This helps them understand what they experience in a better way.

7. Have everything your child needs

Traveling with an infant is a challenge, no matter where you are going. During the long flight, they will experience the compression and decompression of takeoff and landing, as well as being in an airplane for many hours. 

If you are certain that you want to travel to Vietnam with your baby, be sure that you have the necessary travel papers and vaccinations that your baby should have.

While baby supplies are common in Vietnam, and not difficult to find, you may want to bring your own if your child is fussy towards a specific brand or has allergies or other requirements.

8. Your first day should be a relaxing day

Whether you got a direct flight or not, the first full day in Vietnam should be relaxing. Everyone will be experiencing tiredness from travel. Plus, your child needs to acclimate to the time zone, the climate, and the understanding of new surroundings.

Don’t plan any huge activities your first full day in Vietnam. Take it easy and let everyone get rested and ready for the rest of the vacation. Consider keeping your mornings as the time when you do the activities, and the afternoons and evenings for relaxing fun. Mornings are cooler, and your child will be more refreshed and less prone to public breakdowns or weariness at the start of the day.

9. Keep cool when necessary

If the heat is getting to your child, don’t be afraid to go into a convenient store (VinMart) or a mall. Enjoy a respite from the heat and take in the cool A/C as needed. The more uncomfortable your child gets, the more likely they’ll show it with fussy behavior or crying.

It’s perfectly OK to take advantage of a little A/C now and then.

If you follow all these tips, then there is nothing to worry bringing your small family to Vietnam. They’ll love it!

Is it safe to drive in Vietnam?

The rumors you’ve heard are true – the roads in Vietnam are mental.

Somehow, Vietnamese people know how it works and you’ll see motorbikes effortlessly meander between each other in a chaotic ballet of vehicles.

Foreigners are now permitted to drive in Vietnam with an International Driving Permit (IDP). This must be combined with local insurance for it to be valid. In reality on the ground virtually no car-hire agency will provide a car to a foreign visitor without including a driver.

So you can find the car to drive, but we still wouldn’t recommend it.

However, as many travelers do, you can easily rent a motorbike. These are available EVERYWHERE.

  • Should you decide to rent a motorbike in Vietnam, be wary of the condition of it. Take pictures before you head out. For that matter, rent from somewhere that has been well reviewed and that is willing to give you a brief lesson if you need on. Far better to actually have some motorbike riding experience. 
  • And always, ALWAYS, make sure they give you a helmet and that you wear it.
  • The roads are pretty scary out there. Driving in a city is NOT something we’d recommend as it really is crazy. Plenty of people do embark on a Hanoi-Saigon road trip. For this purpose, some people even buy motorbikes and sell them at the end of their trip.
  • But as we said earlier, the roads are actually more than just scary, they’re dangerous in Vietnam. Know that if you embark on a trip there are high risks involved. You are almost 8 times more likely to be killed on the roads in Vietnam than on those in the UK.
  • The unexpected can always happen. Animals in the road is a real hazard and road regulations are almost nonexistent.

At the end of the day, driving in Vietnam can be a very cool experience, so much so that many people are willing to accept the risks. The amazing landscapes, open roads, the romance of a road trip, the adventure of it all, the amount you’ll save; we totally get it.

Just keep in mind that IT IS RISKY!

Is UBER safe in Vietnam?

Uber in Vietnam ceased operations in early 2018. So that’s that.

You can use Grab, fastgo, be or Go-Jek to order taxis. You don’t need cash, it’s all tracked, and it’s pretty safe.

Are Taxis safe in Vietnam?

Taxis ARE generally safe in Vietnam. Again, like most countries you’ll visit, there are scams.

Ordering through your hotel will greatly reduce your chances of getting ripped off. You can even pay by card in some taxis. Otherwise, make sure you have small denominations as taxi drivers don’t like breaking larger bills.

Taxis in Vietnam run on a meter, and the cars are usually clean and well kept. There are 2 main and trustful taxi companies that you can count on: Mai Linh and VinaSun.

As always, if it doesn’t feel right, don’t get in.

Then there are the infamous xe om (literally, ‘hug taxis’). These are motorbike taxis that you’ll find pretty much everywhere. It’s a normal mode of transport. You should haggle for the best price, and there’s no room for luggage – just so you know! Tip: only women ‘hug’ the driver, women should grip the drivers’ shoulders!

These are sort of taxis, but you can get a cyclo (like a bicycle rickshaw) in some of the cities. These are known to be quite touristy and therefore pretty expensive, however. Make sure you barter!

Regardless of which type you choose all forms of taxis are safe in Vietnam.

Is public transportation in Vietnam safe?

Ok, so first things first: public transport in Vietnam is AWESOME! Using it will add so much authenticity and insight into your trip. This is particularly the case with trains.

Not only are the train stations beautiful in a crumbling, in that Old World French colonial way, but they’re great places to soak up local life. Travelling on the train in Vietnam is perfectly safe and is, probably the best way to see the country without any hassle.

When it comes to night trains, there’s a number of rooms on offer. You can sip a coffee as the world whizzes by your window. Or head up to the restaurant carriage where the guards will sell you a beer if you want it. You can even buy tickets online in advance to make sure you get the seat (or bed) you want.

The trains might not always be the cleanest, so if that counts as unsafe for you, you might want to opt for some sort of private minibus service. If you can deal with a bit of grime, honestly – they’re amazing.

In the cities themselves, there are public bus systems, but these are not worth the effort. You can pretty much walk or take a taxi to anywhere you need to. If you’re somewhere like Hoi An, or anywhere else rural, renting a bicycle to get around is totally doable.

Night buses are safe, but obviously, there are the perils of the Vietnamese roads to contend with. For that matter, the bus drivers can drive erratically. Accidents do happen. If you need to travel long distances, either travel by day or jump on one of those trains.

If you’re REALLY desperate to travel quickly, you can even catch a cheap flight.

Is the food in Vietnam safe?

Seriously? The food in Vietnam is the reason some people COME here in the first place. It’s amazing. Everything from pho and banh mi to delicious goi (like a mini, Vietnamese pasty) and unusual street food like banh trang trong (rice noodles with dried beef, squid, and plenty of chilli)… Wow. Just wow.

It’s also super affordable. Especially the street food. Missing out on the street food will mean missing out on a whole slice of where Vietnamese life is actually played out. To help you get your taste on, here are some tips.

  • Before anything else, wash your hands! It’s not just other people’s hands that can make you sick, it’s your OWN. Who knows what you’ve been touching all day? If you can’t wash them, get some hand sanitizer.
  • If you’re really on the look-out for something good, go online and read reviews. Those street food stalls are there in the same spot, day in, day out, and of course have their own Google reviews. This is especially good if you’re vegan or vegetarian (there are some tasty options for you too, don’t worry).
  • Stay away from raw blood pudding. There are bacteria in this that can really make you fatally ill.
  • Pho is the iconic dish of Vietnam, and when you do get a bowl of this delicious noodle soup, make sure it’s hot. To be honest, this goes for any food. Freshly prepared = less likely to make you ill.
  • What are the locals doing? What are they eating? If everyone’s eating the same thing at one food stall, that’s a sign. If you see a REALLY BUSY place, that’s an even better sign. Popular places are going to be super tasty and will have good reputations. People don’t return to restaurants that make them sick.
  • However, your stomach might not be used to this food and it might make you ill anyway. Sometimes it can be downright spicy, too. Ease yourself in. Don’t go crazy straight away. Try new things in moderation to be on the safe side.

  • If meat is ropey looking and you actually can’t even identify what animal it’s come from, maybe opt out. It might have been sitting there uncovered for days, it could be from an animal you personally don’t agree with eating – you just can’t know.
  • Just because you’re seated on a plastic stool on the side of the road with scrunched up tissues on the floor, doesn’t mean it’s dangerous. This is just the way it is in Vietnam. You’ll even find office workers perched on these little stools. Places are cleaned daily, washing is regularly done, and sometimes if a place looks like it’s been open for decades, it probably has – and for good reason!
  • That said, if you’re thinking of a homestay in a remote area, the hygiene might well NOT be up to scratch. And though what you eat might be delicious, it might just be crawling with germs. Be cautious and make sure you bring appropriate medication – this goes for any general trip to Vietnam, not just homestays.
  • Don’t eat fruit that you haven’t peeled yourself. Just a good rule of thumb, really.
  • Totally drink the coffee though! Amazing! Milk in Vietnam – not so much. The condensed milk in a Vietnamese iced coffee is ALL GOOD, on the other hand.
  • What’s next? Don’t be afraid of egg coffee!
  • Traveling with an allergy? Research ahead of time how to explain your allergy. Keep in mind that store owners and restaurant staff might not know all the foods that contain allergens, so it’s helpful to know the names of some of these too. If you’re gluten-free, pick up a handy Gluten-Free Translation Card with descriptions of Celiac disease, cross-contamination risk, and local Vietnamese ingredients in Vietnamese.

Crouching with everybody else as motorbikes chug by in the loud streets of Hanoi might not seem like a paragon of cleanliness. But looks can be deceiving – the food is incredible and (guess what?) safe in Vietnam. Food that looks dodgy, too spicy, too exotic, or too filling; these are ways that you get sick.

As long as you’re considerate and you wash those mitts of yours, you’re bound to have a blast exploring what the beautifully fresh cuisine of Vietnam has to offer. Now we’re super hungry.

Can you drink the tap water in Vietnam?

In Vietnam, avoid tap water as much as possible and only drink bottled water. Generally, even locals will avoid tap water and will drink boiled or filtered water at home. Bottled water is almost always available for sale at any local restaurants and hotels

Is Vietnam safe to live?

Vietnam has become increasingly popular as an expat destination in recent years and it is now recognized as a safe place for foreigners to live and work. Expats are attracted by the nice weather, low cost of living, lively culture and the steady improvements in Vietnam's infrastructure.

Many expats choose to live in Vietnam, especially in cities. In particular, Saigon has a sizeable expat community.
A lot of people teach English in Vietnam. It’s an easy ‘in’ and a way to experience another culture.

The cost of living is probably going to be comparatively low. So much so that it might be painful to return to your own country!

You’ll have to contend with things like people trying to rip you off, petty theft, scams, and, of course, the roads. Pollution in big cities is present in sometimes unhealthy amounts. Even Hanoi is getting increasingly worse in terms of air quality. The pollution is caused by the burning of coal, which is one of Vietnam’s primary sources of energy.

Saigon, in particular, is quite smoggy. In 2018, air quality was actually more deadly than its roads – four times more deadly. Sometimes it’s so bad that people stay inside or wear a mask; that’s not what we’d call safe. Understandably, it’s a big concern to the expats who already live there.

There’s something that’s initially not an obvious concern but could easily become a problem. Cheap alcohol and a lack of judgement could become a slippery slope. A lot of expats fall into alcoholism and making friends with people like this may not be the best idea.

Other than all that, Vietnam is safe to live in. There are no MAJOR health risks, no MAJOR crime. Just do your research, find out where you want to live, don’t isolate yourself, and you’re bound to enjoy your time living in Vietnam.

How is health care in Vietnam?

Despite being a communist state, there is no universal healthcare in Vietnam. Go figure.

Public hospitals and healthcare in cities are adequate if you’ve got a minor illness or injury. In the countryside, less so.

Private hospitals are decently equipped in Saigon or Hanoi. Doctors will most likely speak English, or French, and will have trained overseas. The quality of private services, in general, is pretty high.

However, if you need complicated treatment, or you have a serious injury, you may have to be airlifted to another country. So insurance basically goes without saying.

For really minor ailments, pharmacies are great. They’re well stocked and you’ll find them all over big cities, mostly in malls amongst other places. BUT make sure you check the expiry date – medicine has been known to be sold even when expired. If you really want to be safe, go to a pharmacy in a private hospital or clinic.

In an emergency, dial 155. However, ambulances are slow and their equipment is bad. Expats have been known to take taxis instead of ambulances as they’re faster. Seriously.

Healthcare in Vietnam is acceptable so long as you stick to private. Stay healthy and don’t take unnecessary risks!

Vietnam tourist scams

13 Scams for tourists in Vietnam and how to avoid

1. Money switch

It’s usually motorbike taxi drivers that try this one. They use sleight of hand to switch whatever money you give them for smaller denominations, and then they put on a dramatic show of indignation — like you’re the one trying to rip them off. The most common version is switching a 500,000VND note for a 20,000VND, which is easy to fall for since they’re both blue. 

How to avoid it: Try to prepare and pay with small bills. Break your larger bills at convenience stores, restaurants, or other reputable businesses.

Learn more about Vietnam national currency here

2. The coconut photo shoot

This one happens mostly in Hanoi. Street vendors with baskets of coconuts will ask if you want to use their bamboo baskets for a photo shoot. But while you’re clicking away, they’re chopping open coconuts for you that cost an obscene amount. You didn’t ask for them? Get ready for some shouting and a crowd of people who don’t take kindly to foreigners cheating locals.

How to avoid it: If you don’t want to pay for a picture, politely but firmly say ‘no’.

3. The groin grab

This one preys on men in touristy areas. An attractive girl will start flirting with a man off by himself, telling him how handsome he is and asking if he wants a massage as she plays with his groin. While he’s distracted, she empties his pockets. Girls often work in teams for this one.

How to avoid it: Do not be distracted with a strange beautiful girl, and do not try something like that as it is illegal in Vietnam

4. Fake taxis

Fake taxis are so common throughout Southeast Asia they’re pretty much an essential experience, but not if you’re clued in. While taxi licensing isn’t well regulated, there are still some signs you should look out for before getting into a cab. For instance, the Vietnamese pride themselves on providing professional services, and they’ll dress accordingly. If your taxi driver isn’t wearing a shirt, tie and slacks, it’s likely they’re not a licensed cab driver.

Similarly, some cabs will paint their cars to look like licensed taxis (which are usually green or white). They’ll also put a sign on their doors advertising they are ‘metred’. Ironically, this is done to attract tourists who might be worried about unmetered taxis. Once these hapless passengers get in, they quickly realise they’re being taken for a ride (and not the one they intended).

How to avoid it: Before climbing into a taxi, check for branding to make sure it is properly licensed operator (such as Vinasun Taxi), the driver is dressed professionally and the car isn’t spruiking its ‘metred’ services.

5. Fake travel companies

This one is similar to the fake taxis mentioned above. When a travel company gets popular, fake businesses open shops with similar names, hoping to trick foreigners who are unfamiliar with Vietnamese. Of course, you cannot expect something good from those copycats.

How to avoid it: Research everyone online before you buy from them and check the spelling closely.

6. Gambling

Tourists have been victims of gambling scams in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (particularly in the Pham Ngu Lao neighbourhood). This scam usually starts with a friendly invitation to someone’s home to meet a relative interested in visiting or studying in Canada. While the visitor is waiting for this individual, a casual game of cards will begin. Even though they started with only a small wager, victims have lost thousands of dollars over the course of an evening.

How to avoid it: Do not join any invitation of any casual game at all. Even if you are good at that, you can never win and walk away easily.

7. Beggars & touts

At some tourist spots, you may be surrounded by beggars and street sellers who sell fruit, chewing gum or souvenirs. Sometimes ethnic children even ask you for money to take photos of them. Try to say “No” if you feel uncomfortable.

Some Vietnamese people think that foreign tourists are rich, so avoid being overcharged. Remember always negotiating the price when you buy anything. Check information with your guide or hotel receptionist, and give them the fair price. 

When entering a restaurant, ask the waiters/waitresses to see their menu before ordering. There are plenty of convenience stores and supermarkets in big cities in Vietnam, head to these places if you want to buy a bottle of water or a quick snack.

8. The two-shine

If you’re wearing dress shoes in a touristy area, prepare to be hounded by shoe-shiners. Oftentimes, foreigners accept just to be left alone. They negotiate a price, but when the shoes come back, the price has doubled, because the price they gave you was for just one shoe. If the foreigner puts up a stink, underworld muscle is never too far away.

How to avoid: If it is not necessary, there is no need to clean your shoes on the street. In case you really want to try, make a firm negotiation before giving them your shoes. The guide also can help you with this.

9. A fine bag of tea

Marijuana is illegal in Vietnam, but many foreigners smoke it openly. The problem is that tourists usually buy it from the motorbike taxi drivers who lurk around the hostels and bars. They’ll let you smell a bag of real marijuana as they negotiate the price, but once you pay, they’re gone and you’re left with a bag of tea. And good luck reporting it to the Better Business Bureau.

How to avoid: As said, it is illegal in Vietnam, do not even try this.

10. The motorbike/cyclo tour

Walking down the street you might have a motorcyclist slow down and practice some small talk – ‘where are you from?’, ‘how do you like my city?’. Eventually they will ask where you’re going and offer you a ride for a small fee. If you agree and climb aboard, they’ll then charge you an inflated price once you arrive at your destination. Try to argue and they’ll say you misheard them when they first picked you up. It’s a common trick that takes advantage of curious tourists who want to experience the country’s famously frenetic traffic up close.

The motorbike scam can also be an invitation to see the rice paddies just outside town, or as a guided city tour (such as in Hue or Hoi An).

How to avoid it: If you’re tempted by the idea of a motorbike ride, talk to your tour leader or hotel reception about booking a tour with a licensed tour operator.

11. The wandering fare

Even the reputable taxi companies have drivers that pull this one on tourists. Foreigners don’t really know the best routes, so the drivers use this to their advantage. They take a creatively long and circuitous route, often pretending to be lost so they can get a few more dollars by wandering around through back streets. A good way to avoid this is by having a map open on your phone. If the driver goes off in a strange direction, wave the map at them. 

How to avoid: The best way to avoid this is to take Uber or Grab. They follow routes on the map.

12. The luggage handler

From Rome to Rio, the luggage handler is a common character around the world. If you’re getting ready for an overnight train, or simply loading your taxi for the airport, you might meet one. They’ll swoop in unexpectedly and pick up your bag, carry it to your carriage or car, and stow it for you. Meanwhile you’re left standing there wondering what just happened. As the luggage handler sees it, they just provided you with a service and should be tipped.

How to avoid it: The best thing you can do to prevent this is to keep a close eye on your bags around train platforms and ask the train station staff or taxi driver to help you lift your bags. If you’ve been stung, you could try hold your ground and refuse to offer a tip (although it might be better to give them something small to make them go away).

13. The squeaky donut

Street food is everywhere in Vietnam (and it’s absolutely delicious), but there are a few street snacks you should be wary of. Occasionally you’ll walk past street vendors carrying plastic bags of little brown donuts. They’ll stop and ask if you’d like to try one for free (a universal red flag, people). If you say ‘yes’ and taste one, the vendor will gently pressure you into buying a small bag of donuts. On the surface this might seem simple enough; after all who doesn’t want a bag of crunchy fried donuts? The problem is the oil used to fry these donuts is unregulated. You don’t know where the oil has come from and it could go unchanged for days (or even weeks) at a time, meaning your donuts might have been cooked in unsanitary conditions. Many travellers have reported feeling sick after eating street donuts.

How to avoid it: With so many great street food options available, skip the donuts and opt for another street snack instead – like banh mi or banh xeo (stuffed pancakes).

It’s important to remember that these tricks are few and far between and, while it’s something to be mindful of, they shouldn’t keep you from enjoying all the temples, street food and tea houses this beautiful country has to offer.

General tips to avoid scams in Vietnam

Be wary of anyone who approaches you to offer a service or goods. If you need something, like a taxi, it’s best to approach them. Be extra cautious when traveling solo and trust your instincts. If something seems fishy, it probably is! Having internet access on your phone is also helpful. If something doesn’t feel right, take Honig’s advice and Google it: If it’s a scam, it’s likely happened to others and been widely reported.

And this goes without saying but watch your personal belongings and always lock your passport in the hotel safe. Theft may not always be accompanied by a complicated hustle, but it can still ruin your trip.

What to do if you are the victim

If you’ve been a victim of a serious scam, contact the nearest police office immediately. Staff at your hotel may also be able to help.

Keep the following emergency numbers handy when traveling to Vietnam:

  • 112 - Search & Rescue
  • 113 – Police
  • 114 – Fire
  • 115 – Ambulance/First Aid

Helpful Vietnam travel phrases

While many Vietnamese speak English in the touristy areas, once you get off the beaten path, you’ll find almost no one speaks English. Even in popular cities, only basic English is spoken. Knowing Vietnamese travel phrases will not only help you get around Vietnam, it’ll also help you connect with the culture!

  • Hello = Xin Chao (Sin chow)
  • How are you? = Ban Khoe Khong (Ban Kwe Khom)
  • Thank you = Cam on (kahm uhn)
  • Sorry = Xin Loi (Sin Loy)
  • No Problem = Khong co gi (Khong koh zi)
  • Goodbye = Tam Biet (Tarm Byeet)
  • No, Thank You! = Khong! Cam On (Khom, kahm uhn)
  • Can you speak English? = Ban noi tieng anh duoc khong? (Banh noi thien an durkh khom)
  • How old are you? = Ban bao nhieu tuoi (Ban ban nyew twoi)
  • I am __ years old = Toi ___ tuoi (toy ___ doyy)
  • What is your name? = Ten ban la gi?  (Ten bang la zi)
  • I don’t understand. – Toi khong hieu
  • What is this? – cái gi the này?

Yeah, it is quite the good start for you. Keep it up! Below is the Youtube video with some useful travel phrases if you want to go further.

Government travel advice

The following government websites offer travel advisories and information on current hot spots.

Frequently asked question

Q. Is it OK to wear short in Vietnam?

In general, it is ok to wear shorts (even short-shorts) in Vietnam. There is no problem with that except at the temples/pagodas or government buildings. And remember not to wear shorts if you plan to walk alone at night (this seems right everywhere, not only Vietnam)

Q. How much money do you need per day in Vietnam?

For a backpacker, you need a minimum budget of $30-35/person/day. For the guided tour, the budget should be around $90-120/person/day.

Here is our full guide of the cost for traveling in Vietnam

Q. When is the best time to visit Vietnam?

The best time of year to visit the whole Vietnam is spring (February to April) and autumn (September to November). The temperatures are more moderate, and rainfall is lighter. In spring, March and April have the lowest rainfall across all destinations and temperatures are pleasant, though still cool in the far north.

Q. What is the cheapest time to fly to Vietnam? 

Logically, the cheapest time to fly to Vietnam is during the off-travel season (roughly from March to April, and September to October) when there are not many tourists visiting the country.

According to cheapflights.com.au, the cheapest flights to Vietnam are usually found when departing on a Monday. The departure day with the highest cost is usually on a Friday.

Moreover, Vietnam flights can be made cheaper if you choose a flight at noon. Booking a flight in the morning will likely mean higher prices.

Simply follow this, sometimes you can have the promotion of 40-50% discount.

Here is our guide to get the cheapest possible ticket to Vietnam

Q. Do you need a visa to visit Vietnam?

The answer is “Yes”. You need a visa to visit Vietnam. But it is much easier now, especially for travelers from western countries. Check out the Vietnam visa policy here

NOT READY YET?

We believe you have the right to arm yourselves with as much information as possible before making any decision.

Check below our detailed tips & guide for every places to visit in Vietnam, recommendation regarding the inclusion in each theme you prefer, and what you can do based on the time frame you have.

PLACES TO VISIT IN Vietnam
Hanoi
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Ha Long Bay
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Sapa
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Hoi An
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Hue
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Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)
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Vietnam PLANS BY TRAVEL THEME
Must-see
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Check out all the must-see places and things to do & see

Luxury
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Unique experience combined with top-notch services

Honeymoon
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Easy excursions combined with unique experience making the long-lasting romantic memories

Wellness & Leisure
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Easy excursion combined with week-long beach break

Cruise
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The combination of some must-see experience and the cruise tour along the mighty rivers

Family
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The combination of fun and educational activities

Unseen
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Reveal off-the-beatentrack routes, least explored destinations, and unknown tribe groups

Cycling
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Explore every corners of the destination on two wheels

Trek & Hike
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Explore the least visited destinations and unknown experience on foot

Vietnam PLANS BY TIME FRAME
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SPECIAL Vietnam TIPS & TOURS

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Vietnam BLOG ARTICLES

On June 7th, 2012, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has eased travel recommendations for more than a hundred countries and territories, including Vietnam and Laos in the list of "safest to travel".

Time to travel now? We do not think so! Let's check more detail below.

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The Hmong New Year celebration is a cultural tradition that takes place annually in select areas where large Hmong communities exist and in a modified form where smaller communities come together. During the New Year's celebration, Hmong dress in traditional clothing and enjoy Hmong traditional foods, dance, music, bull fights, and other forms of entertainment. Hmong New Year celebrations have Hmong ethnic traditions and culture and may also serve to educate those who have an interest in Hmong tradition. Hmong New Year celebrations frequently occur in November and December (traditionally at the end of the harvest season when all work is done), serving as a Thanksgiving holiday for the Hmong people.

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Backpacking Vietnam… If you are seeking epic adventures, unique experiences, mouth watering foods and ancient historical sights; Vietnam is the place for you. Once upon a time, the very mention of Vietnam conjured up images of war-torn destination but now Vietnam is a backpacker haven and travelling in Vietnam is a popular part of many Southeast Asian adventures.

Backpacking Vietnam offers an incredible opportunity to get off the beaten track… Explore dramatic mountains in the North, stop in for some corn wine and a friendly chat with the locals before heading south to party the night away…

Many travelers opt to explore Vietnam by motorcycle. Vietnam is a big country and there are lots of Vietnam backpacking itineraries on offer… The most popular backpacking route is heading from Hanoi to Saigon.

Backpacking in Vietnam is a great choice for backpackers on account of the super cheap cost of living and the plentiful adventures.

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The phrase ‘banana pancakes trail’ is the stuff of legend in Southeast Asia’s backpacker route. Along the banks of the Mekong, across many a dorm room and questionable dive bar, backpackers come to learn the story of the first tourists to travel ‘on the ground’, making a conscious effort to immerse themselves in local life. Decades later, their influence is having transformed the region: tourism here is now the fastest growing on Earth, receiving a quarter of total travelers worldwide. 

When you travel through Southeast Asia these days, it is hard to imagine that tourism was almost non-existent just a half century ago. Here is the story of how hippies, guidebooks and banana pancakes helped to create one of the most famous backpacker routes in the world.
 

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Lantern Festival is celebrated in China and other Asian countries that honors deceased ancestors on the 15th day of the first month of the lunar calendar (usually falls around mid-February of Gregorian calendar). The Lantern Festival aims to promote reconciliation, peace, and forgiveness. 

Originally, the holiday marks the first full moon of the new lunar year and the end of the Chinese New Year. In some other Asian countries such as Thailand or Laos, the festival is celebrated around late October or early November to mark the end of the Buddhist Lent & the beginning of the festive season.

During the festival, houses are festooned with colorful lanterns, often with riddles written on them; if the riddle is answered correctly, the solver earns a small gift. Festival celebrations also include lion and dragon dances, parades, and fireworks. 

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In Vietnam, nibbling on mooncakes and sipping tea with loved ones is an essential part of the Mid-autumn Festival, or Tết Trung Thu. As long as we can remember, it is tradition to serve bánh nướng and bánh dẻo — golden baked mooncakes and soft sticky rice mooncakes — on the night of the harvest moon. If you are in Vietnam during this festival, you can experience the fun of your own mooncake celebration. Here is all you need to know about Vietnam’s mooncake tradition.

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CHECK OUT OTHER DESTINATIONS
Thailand
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Friendly and food-obsessed, hedonistic and historic, cultured and curious, Thailand tempts visitors with a smile as golden as the country's glittering temples and tropical beaches.
Cambodia
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There's a magic about this charming yet confounding kingdom that casts a spell on visitors. In Cambodia, ancient and modern worlds collide to create an authentic adventure.
Myanmar
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It's a new era for this extraordinary and complex land, where the landscape is scattered with gilded pagodas and the traditional ways of Asia endure.
Laos
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Vivid nature, voluptuous landscapes and a vibrant culture collide with a painful past and optimistic future to make Laos an enigmatic experience for the adventurous.
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