Is Vietnam Safe? Here's Everything You Need to Know

Is Vietnam Safe? | F*ckity bye | by Ryan Somohano

Vietnam is one of the most breathtaking countries on the face of this awesome planet. It has natural beauty, unmissable nightlife, excellent food, incredible food, delicious food, and food. What other reasons do you need to visit!?

But is Vietnam safe for foreign tourists?

In short, the answer is yes. The police are thorough in keeping tourists safe given that tourists represent a huge portion of the country’s economy. Also, the locals of Vietnam are typically lovely and at worst will keep to themselves.

Still, as with any place you visit, there are Vietnam safety issues you should be aware of. Let's go over the main ones below.

Scams

ATM possible scam image

Scams do exist in Vietnam and in many other parts of South East Asia. As a traveler, it's common that you'll want to see the best in the locals you meet. After all, doing so is an important part of opening yourself up to rewarding cultural experiences.

Unfortunately, that openness can be abused by locals looking to turn a quick profit and undermine Vietnam safety. Below are the top scams I’ve witnessed and have heard of during my travels through the country.

ATM Predators

In Vietnam, you'll want to do your best to not withdraw money from ATMs that are outside. These have a much higher likelihood of being tampered with than indoor ATMs.

A tampered with ATM could steal your card data allowing for predators to later retrieve the information and make purchases online. Tampered with ATMs can also eat your card, which then sets up a popular scam where a “good Samaritan” offers to help retrieve it for a fee.

As a final "is Vietnam safe" ATM tip, always stay mindful of people suspiciously loitering nearby. They may be looking to swipe your money post-withdrawal.

Heavily Discounted Bus Tickets

Getting from point A to point B within Vietnam is best done via buses. You can book these buses through your hotel for maximum convenience or at bus stations which is more complicated but cheaper.

Sometimes you'll find a hotel or tourist booth that's offering tickets to a destination at a rate that's significantly cheaper than competitors.

Could it be an awesome deal you’re staring down? Sure... It could be.

More likely though you'll end up on a bus that will drop you off far away from your destination city. You then may be pressured by salespeople into buying tour packages. If you refuse their up-sells you’ll be left to find your own way to city-center.

That discounted bus ticket isn’t looking like such an awesome deal now, is it?

Remember, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Street Currency Exchanges

In Vietnam, you may run into people on the street offering better than average exchange rates. Doing business with them could mean getting fake Vietnamese Dong (the name of Vietnamese currency) which will get you in trouble if you accidentally use that fake money to make purchases later.

Always get your currency exchanged at a bank or other official currency exchange. For the best exchange rates, I recommended you withdraw money from an ATM with your no foreign transaction fee debit card. Doing so will ensure you always get fee-free Vietnamese currency!

Drugs

While purchasing certain drugs in your home country may be legal or at least decriminalized, drug possession is a heavily punishable offense in Vietnam.

In some cities, you may find friendly dealers offering you everything from marijuana to cocaine. Best-case-scenario, your dealer will be legit and you buying from them means running the risk of getting in severe trouble (admittedly not a great best-case-scenario). At worst, these dealers will be affiliated with corrupt police officers. Right after selling to you they will tip those officers off who will then quickly pull you aside, find your drugs, and request a bribe in exchange for letting you off the hook.

My advice, stick to alcohol while you're in Vietnam if you're looking to get crazy. Also, for any legally prescribed drugs, always keep them in their packaging which outlines your prescription.

Other General Safety Advice

Kids carrying bags while travelling opening themselves up to theft

In addition to the scams listed above, take into account the following is Vietnam safe general safety considerations.

Theft

Violent theft is extremely rare in Vietnam. You’re much more likely to run into a criminal of opportunity that will pick your pocket or swipe your bag when you're not paying attention.

To help dodge that bullet, don't carry valuables in loose pockets. I recommend using a money belt/fanny pack for valuables that need to be on you during adventures.

Also, if you're carrying day bags, make sure nothing valuable is stored in them. Day bags can get slashed and even stolen altogether when set down on the ground during pho slurping sessions.

Undetonated Explosives

Vietnam's war-ridden past has led to a number of undetonated landmines being strewn throughout its jungles. When trekking through those jungles (a popular activity) you run a very serious risk of accidentally setting off one of those devices. As a matter of fact, 40,000 people have been killed or seriously injured by undetonated explosives since 1975.

To reduce your risk, consider skipping trekking or, if trekking is a must, stay on visible, forged pathways.

The Roadways

Vietnam's roads are notoriously bonkers. While it can be tempting to hop on a motorbike and join in on the insanity, my advice is to fight that urge if you you want the answer to "is Vietnam safe" to remain yes. (or take out a good insurance policy)

In my travels through Vietnam, I've encountered people with horrifying scrapes, busted bones and bruises who were involved in motor accidents due to Vietnam's street’s anarchy.

Don’t worry if you're an adrenaline junkie. Even if you’re not on a motorbike you’ll be able to more safely enjoy the road’s frenzy from sidewalks and while dodging vehicles as you cross the street.

The Ocean

Vietnam boasts wonderful, warm water beaches. This awesome water is not without its dangers though.

The most likely danger you'll face is jellyfish which commonly sting swimmers. Always be vigilant and make sure you don't end up floating through a jellyfish school.

Another more obvious water-related danger is drowning. Lifeguards at Vietnamese beaches are generally non-existent or if they are present, may not be as invested as you're used to at your at home beach.

Enter the water at your own risk and always stay on shore if you're at all concerned with the tide’s behavior.

Wrapping Up Is Vietnam Safe

The first question people often ask when visiting Vietnam tends to be "Is Vietnam safe?". I'm happy to report that yes, Vietnam is very safe.

So long as you take into consideration the Vietnam safety tips listed above and practice common sense, you should have a problem-free experience visiting the country!

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