Is Vietnam safe to travel?

Is Vietnam safe for a Western tourist? Based on my own experiences during six months here, my answer is definitely yes. If I would not feel safe, I wouldn’t like to live here.

I have travelled in Vietnam also alone, without my husband and I have never experienced anything threatening. Violence or harassment towards tourists is very rare here.

Using your common sense is as important here than in any other country in the world. You shouldn’t do anything that you wouldn’t do in any other travel destination. However, there are some issues to notice and remember when you are having your vacation in Vietnam.

Traffic

It is impossible to describe traffic in the big cities in Vietnam. It is chaotic – traffic rules are not obeyed and the largest and strongest vehicle has right of way. As a pedestrian you are in the weakest position. You have to be careful and observant all the time – also when the light is green for you and when walking on a sidewalk .

Don’t even imagine renting and driving a car – it would be impossible. Just sit down in the taxi or Uber and try to relax!

When you travel a longer way by taxi, check that the safety belts are functioning. When you take a boat trip, check that there are safety vests for every passenger. Don’t go with the cheapest tour operator. Pick one who pays attention to safety issues.

Food safety

I have spent six months in Vietnam and have not suffered from any stomach problems. Not my husband either, and he has been here already for almost two years. On the other hand, some friends who visited us got an upset stomach already in the first day of their visit. I don’t have any explanation why it happened, and why we have avoided those problems.

It is true that the health standards in Vietnam are not at the same level than in our own countries. However, you don’t need to worry about it too much. One of the highlights of travelling is to enjoy local food! In Vietnam, it is ok to eat street food, have ice in your drinks and enjoy salads and fresh herbs. If you choose a restaurant that is full with people (locals and/or tourists), you are usually safe.

If you ask for water in the restaurant, they will bring you bottled water. Ice is made of clean water and it is perfectly ok to have ice in your drinks. Local people don’t drink tap water either.

We avoid eating street food of the smallest food stalls or vendors. We never touch food with our hands. To get a genuine Vietnamese meal, we usually go to a proper restaurant with tables and chairs. Street food is not the only option of getting great food experiences in Vietnam!

Pickpocketing, snatch-and-grab robbery

Unfortunately, robberies are increasing especially in downtown Ho Chi Minh City. I have never witnessed any incidents but I have heard that it happens quite a lot. The criminals usually use motorbikes during their assaults. There are two individuals riding a motorcycle, with the passenger snatching a victim’s bag, camera, cell phone, etc.

Keep this in mind when walking around Ho Chi Minh’s District 1. If you want to take a picture with your phone, don’t do it too openly and not too close to the road and bypassing motorcycles.

Environmental hazards

Vietnam has a long coastline and is often affected by typhoons coming from the South China Sea. In early November 2017, Typhoon Damrey hit Central Vietnam badly and caused a death of over 100 people. Typhoons are most common in the autumn months.

 

 

As a summary:  use your common sense, don’t carry too much money or other valuables with you, don’t get too drunk, and be as alert as possible to the traffic around you.

And most of all: Enjoy your time in Vietnam!!!

 

 

 

Don’t travel to Vietnam without these!

What to pack for Vietnam?

Even though you are a seasoned traveller and you know what to pack and take with you, there are some issues you should know about Vietnam before packing your luggage.

Although you can buy almost anything you need in Vietnam, it can be difficult to find your sizes or familiar western brands. There are some items that you should remember to pack to avoid any extra hassle during your vacation. This is my “must bring” list:

  1. Sunscreen

Sunscreen products are not widely sold in Vietnam. Having sunbaths does not belong to the Vietnamese culture. Local people avoid getting tanned by staying in the shade or wearing long sleeve shirts. During my six months in Vietnam, I have seen only one small bottle of Nivea sun lotion in a small shop in Hoi An!

Phu Quoc and other popular beach resorts may have better selections. However, you will need sunscreens also in big cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Better bring them with you!

  1. Bandages

In Vietnam, bandages are not sold in supermarkets. If you get a cut or a scrape, you don’t want to spend any time searching for the pharmacy. I always carry some bandages and disinfection wipes in my bag.

  1. Pain Killers and Medication for Diarrhea

These do not take much room in your luggage. In case of illness, it is much nicer to treat it with familiar medication.

  1. Good Walking Shoes

When travelling in Vietnam, appropriate shoes are even more important than in many other travel destinations. Bring a spare pair, too. If your shoe size in a Western scale is average or big, you will probably not find proper shoes in Vietnamese stores. Flip flops are then your only choice.

You really need good walking shoes in Vietnam. Even in big cities, sidewalks can be in bad condition. They are uneven and have holes, cracks and garbage. In Hanoi, sidewalks in Old Quarter are taken over by motorbikes, shops and restaurant tables and you must walk in a roadway. I would not feel comfortable there wearing flip flops.

  1. Underwear and swimsuit

This especially concerns women. If you forget these home, you may have serious troubles in finding bras or bikinis big enough for you. If your size is petite, you have more choices.

  1. Earplugs

Vietnamese people are early birds and the cities are full of life and noise – even karaoke singing! –  already at seven in the morning. Earplugs may help you sleep later.