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.
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.
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.
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!!!