Millions of multi-national tourists annually flock to Vietnam, one of Mekong’s hottest holiday destinations. This year alone has already recorded a whopping 4,005,878 arrivals. Most visits are enjoyable and trouble-free.
For “westerners”, Vietnam’s uniqueness could be a challenge, at first, to get used to, especially without prior knowledge of the Southeast Asian culture and peculiarities. And, much like every corner of the world frequented by scores of holidaymakers, Vietnam does not fall short of incidents like petty crime, overpriced tourist areas and the like.
What follows bellow is a list of useful information and safety tips that will help any prospective vacationers to take precautions and prepare for a hassle-free experience.
Petty Crime and Thieving
Based on thousands of traveller reviews, Vietnam’s crime rate is reportedly at a moderate level. Petty crime, such as pickpocketing and snatch-theft, is the more worrisome problem for foreigners. Violent crimes are uncommon in Vietnam, especially without provocation. With a sprinkle of common sense and some good-to-remember tips, you can easily steer clear of any unwarranted problems.
Keep it Locked and Concealed
This rule applies to all valuables, whether you are carrying it with you or leaving it behind in a hotel room. You will most likely want to keep all your most valuable items (i.e. camera, phone, money, passports etc.) as close as possible. Keep it hidden and avoid open pockets when touring outside (preferably opting for zipper pockets or keeping your hands tucked in deep.) Be discreet when in public. Flaunting your rolling stack of cash when paying for a cheap souvenir, or advertising your brand new, cutting-edge smartphone when snapping a selfie with the locals, is a bad idea no matter where in the world you are. Keep your cash separated for just-in-case incidents, and avoid filling your pockets with loads of jiggling loose change.
Secure all other items left behind in a padlocked suitcase, tastefully placed out of sight or under a bed.
Money Belt and Thick Straps
Investing in a practical money belt is a great way to go, especially if you like carrying too many things in your pockets, likely to spill out every time you need to pull something out. If you prefer a backpack or bag, thick straps are definitely the best anti-snatcher security measure. Bags with delicate straps, worn road side, make for an easy and tempting target.
Dissatisfied visitors to Vietnam often cite being overcharged as the main reason for their negative impressions. In a country where poverty is still persistent, swindling the tourists is not such a surprising phenomenon.
Agree on Prices Beforehand
Vietnam is a relatively cheap destination. Bargaining is not frowned upon, though over-arguing prices will be. Trying to get a ride from Vietnam’s famous Xe Om motor taxis? Query the driver for a set price for your destination and try to meet in the middle. Still not seeing eye to eye? Smile and walk away. You will most likely find a better alternative around the corner, or you will choose to pay a little extra for a headache-free service. Whatever the scenario, do make sure that you agree on a price before getting in (or on) a taxi and emphasize politely the price agreed upon to the driver.
Know your Money
American dollars are popular in Vietnam, so be sure to carry some along with your Vietnamese dong. Do your research before arriving, so that you know roughly the currency equivalency and avoid being had.
Also, knowing a little something about the local currency can’t hurt:
- Notes come in 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000, 50,000, and 100,000.
- Vietnamese dong cannot be cashed beyond the borders, so make sure you spend it all before you leave.
- 500 and 200 dong coins can be pretty hard to get rid of.
Dress Code and Female Safety
Clothing can affect how the locals approach or behave towards you. Dress tactfully, particularly when going to places of worship. The same rule applies both to men and women.
Vietnam is generally considered safe for female travelers, even women visiting alone. That being said, it would be best to keep in mind that Vietnam still maintains a traditional character when it comes to certain things. Vietnamese women tend to dress conservatively, covering most parts of their body even when in high temperatures. Try to follow their lead and never go topless at the beach or poolside.
Safety in numbers
Roaming alone in the streets in a remote area, in a foreign country, in the middle of the night is inconsiderate towards your personal safety. It goes without saying that you are safest in busy locations. Maybe more so in tourist hotspots, where you’ll meet other like-minded travelers. Meet new people, make friends with the locals and keep your cool to avoid uninvited trouble.
No special immunization is necessary for a holiday to Vietnam. It should be noted that some cases of locally transmitted Zika virus have been confirmed recently. To be on the safe side, check with your local healthcare provider, especially if you are pregnant.
Cyclone season in Vietnam generally runs from May to November and usually affects the eastern coastline. Keep an eye out for weather reports and follow the local authorities’ instructions.