Vietnam is a safe country, and it’s quite rare for visitors to stumble into dangerous situations. Almost all of the crime that tourists experience is nonviolent, and involves petty theft. Criminal punishment in Vietnam is quite severe, which explains the low rate of crime. Drug possession is heavily penalized, and heroin position is punishable by death. It Is highly inadvisable for visitors to partake in any kind of recreational drug. You may see people smoking on the street out of what appear to be giant bongs, but those are in fact water pipes used to smoke tobacco.
If you do experience any crime, it’s most likely to be in the form of a scam — unscrupulous taxi drivers might tamper with their meters, or a currency exchange might give you a bad exchange rate. These types of crimes are easy to avoid with a few common sense precautions.
Common Sense Precautions
As with travel to any metropolis, guard against petty theft by keeping your valuables secure. Carry purses that zip and don’t put valuables in the back pockets of backpacks. Don’t take too much cash with you — most hotels will have safety deposit boxes where you can safely store your cash.
Only take licensed taxis. Mai Linh and Vinasun are two reliable taxi companies. Any taxi you hire should have a working meter. If your driver attempts to charge you an unreasonable fare, go ahead and argue with them. Most drivers are willing to negotiate. (As an easy alternative, keep in mind that Uber is available in Vietnam.)
Riding a motorbike in Vietnam
Motorbikes are the most popular mode of transport in Vietnam. Whether you only take a few motorbike taxis in the cities or if you embark on a cross-country road trip, there are some serious safety risks to consider.
It is not recommended to ride a motorbike yourself if you are not a confident rider. On the other hand, Vietnam is a great place to learn if you have a good teacher and a decent amount of time to practice. A motorbike road trip is a classic Vietnam experience that many do not want to miss.
Not wearing a helmet in Vietnam is, despite appearances, illegal. If you are going to ride a motorbike yourself, or you are to be a passenger for more than a few days, we suggest you invest in a full face helmet that protects both your head and face.
Even if you aren’t planning to ride a motorbike, you need to understand a few road rules before you walk around Vietnam. While people don’t necessarily drive very fast in Vietnam, they do drive relatively aggressively. Many people never look behind them when turning or accelerating. Drivers are used to driving around foot traffic, and as a pedestrian you should try not to change your speed or direction as you cross the road — this will only confuse the approaching drivers.
Keep in mind that you must have a visa, or a letter of approval from the Vietnam government before you arrive. If you plan to get your visa upon arrival, make sure to bring passport-sized photos with you. Hotel check-in clerks will often ask you to give them your passport, so make sure to keep it handy but secure.
Government and military zones
Wherever you travel in Vietnam you are likely to come across both government buildings and military outposts (both active and inactive). The Vietnamese are very protective of their privacy you are advised to keep any camera equipment out of site in such locations. They are particularly wary of drones and filming equipment.
In Case of Emergency
If you do get sick or injured, rest assured that medication and trips to the emergency room are much cheaper than they are in the United States. It’s wise to purchase travel insurance in case you need advanced medical treatment, which may not be as easy to find in Vietnam. This is especially important if you need specialized medical treatment that requires air transport.
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