Vietnam Survival Guide: Most Common Scams & Safety Tips

Is Vietnam safe? This is one of the first questions every foreigner asks when coming to Vietnam. The quick answer would be yes. The more elaborate answer would be that, as one of the most visited countries in the world, Vietnam has also its fair share of tourist scams. Although they are not dangerous and can be debunked very easily, it’s always better to be well aware and prepared. Follow our Vietnam survival guide to avoid the most common tourist scams and have a safe and pleasant journey in this wonderful country.

Most dangerous city in Vietnam?

Is Vietnam safe? Ho Chi Minh City has a higher rate of scams
What goes down in Ho Chi Minh City at night?

Scams are more common in big cities such as the capital Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City, as they attract more tourists. It may be arguable, but there is no “most dangerous city in Vietnam”, although some people think that Ho Chi Minh City is more prone to scams, especially “snatch thefts”.

The most common scams and how to avoid them

Snatch thefts

Is Vietnam safe? Snatch thefts are among the most common scams
Snatch thefts happen very quickly

Especially known in Saigon as the “Saigon cowboys”, this type of daylight robbery is operated by bike. Sometimes, it happens in markets or even in nightclubs. Thieves will either blatantly snatch your bags or use a more complicated scheme to distract you to steal your belongings. In order to avoid them, opt for a lockable cross-body bag, or at least a type of bag close to your body that is not easily removable. Keep your valuables stored in the main compartment of your bag (not the external pockets) and avoid wearing shiny jewelry or watches. Try to not talk on the phone on the street. If you absolutely need to hold your phone, keep it in your opposite hand to the street. Always pay attention to your belongings and do not leave them unattended.

Taxi scams

These scams can be seen pretty much everywhere. Drivers will either not turn on the meter, take a longer route or offer a flat rate. Always ask to put the meter on and keep an eye on it, otherwise, you can end up paying twice the actual rate. The rates depend on the city, but for reference, the rates in Ho Chi Minh City are approximately 12.000 VND ($0.51) for the base fare and around 13.000 VND ($0.50) per kilometre. Also, try to look for legitimate taxi companies such as Mai Linh and Vinasun. One of the best ways to avoid this kind of situation is to use free travel apps like Grab (an equivalent to Uber), which allows you to book taxis and have an estimation of the fare in advance. You can either pay in cash at the end of the course or by credit card if you link to your account on the app. Grab is cheaper than traditional taxis and more reliable.

Overcharging prices

This kind of Vietnam scams is common in very touristy areas. Street vendors will often try to overcharge you. You can either walk away or be prepared by having a clear idea of the actual price of things. For example, snacks and fruits are very cheap here, and not your country kind of cheap. Paying more than 100.000 VND ($4) for a coconut or any kind of street snacks is too much, and you should look for at least half of this price. Keep in mind that some places will really try to scam you, while others will just apply the general rules of business.

Currency exchange

Pay big attention to the differences between each bill as they can look very similar to a foreigner’s eyes (e.g. a lot of people get confused between 10.000 and 100.000 VND banknotes). Always count your change after paying, and even more when exchanging currency. The safest places to do so are at the airport, banks (although the exchange rate might be higher), at your hotel or gold shops. You can also install the XE currency app to know the current exchange rate.

“Authentic” pictures

Is Vietnam safe? Be aware of the pictures scams

Ever seen those ladies carrying hawker baskets? Well, some of them will gladly lend you their hat and their hawker baskets for a funny picture, in exchange of a little commission. Be aware that they can be very insistent. In Hanoi particularly, these ladies have a very elaborate scam scheme, called the “Hanoi Banana Pole Mafia”. Long story short, sellers would kind of force you to take pictures and then ask for money, while preventing you from leaving until you pay.

Attraction tickets

Always book your tickets or tour through a reliable source, such as your hotel or travel agencies. Be aware of fake famous travel agencies in big cities, so check their location on their official website first.

Some safety tips

On the road

As you may or may not know, traffic in Vietnam is extremely busy and can look very scary. When crossing the street, be very careful. Moving vehicles prevail on pedestrians, meaning that they will not stop to let you cross. To go to the other side, look for a less crowded gap. Walk slowly but confidently while keeping your gaze on the drivers to let them know you are trying to cross. Stop and let them pass in front of you if needed.

If you rent a motorbike, as it’s the most efficient way to get around in the city, the traffic can be an issue. Motorbikes have their own way of driving. Always use your indicators when you change lanes. You will soon realise that the one who has priority is either the biggest vehicle or the first one to engage. If you drive in Vietnam, you’ll see that honking is common practice and doesn’t have the same meaning as in your country. Drivers honk all the time to warn others of their presence, for example when crossing an intersection or passing by another vehicle. Finally, it’s common sense but always wear a helmet on a motorbike. Other than safety reasons, road controls are common and you may get a fine for not wearing one. You may see 3 or 4 people on one motorbike, but always with a helmet.

Is Vietnam safe at night?

Is Vietnam safe? Be aware when wandering around at night

Overall, Vietnam is a safe place to wander alone at night. It’s, however, better to stay vigilant in areas with bars or nightclubs, like any other country. If you want to be extra careful, staying with friends [link to article] will ensure your safety, and will be more fun than staying alone. If you’re travelling alone, other expats will gladly join you or help you. Find yourself in a pickle in Hanoi? You can join those expats FB groups: Hanoi beautiful (ladies only) or Hanoi massive.

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A blog covering all things Vietnam: from itinerary planning to destination highlights and handy travel tips & tricks. Wander wisely with our travel articles!

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