Is Ho Chi Minh City Safe?

Is Ho Chi Minh City Safe?

If I had to say the most common question we get asked when people find out we live in Saigon, it would have to be “Is Ho Chi Minh City safe?”. It’s a tough question because it depends on what you think is safe. In my opinion, Ho Chi Minh City and Vietnam, in general, is one of the safer places we have visited provided you display a certain amount of common sense. However, if you ask my Vietnamese students, they would have you believe it is one of the most dangerous cities in Vietnam, if not the world. I would counter this with the fact that their experience and knowledge of the rest of the world in general is somewhat limited and I’ve been to 102 countries, many of them in the developing world. Ho Chi Minh City definitely has it’s fair share of pick pockets, bag snatchers and general scammers in the tourist areas but violent crime against foreigners is rare.

Some Tips for Staying Safer.

Here are my top 10 tips for staying safe in Ho Chi Minh City (or any other city in the world for that matter!)

  • Don’t flash your jewelry, cash or expensive camera around. Many people here are poor. 99% are honest, but some of your stuff is probably worth at least a couple of months wages to a local. Display some sensibility and don’t dangle the temptation.
  • If you don’t have a safe in your hotel room or need to take everything with you, keep your passport, extra credit cards and the majority of your cash in a money belt under your clothes rather than in a wallet in your back pocket, your handbag or backpack.  Keep the majority of your “ready” cash and cards in a neck wallet under you shirt and keep a few small notes in your pocket. Don’t under any circumstances leave a bag unattended in a public place.
Is Ho Chi Minh City Safe? - Money belt

Keep your valuables in a money belt under your clothes

 

  • Don’t leave your valuable things scattered around a hotel room, even if it’s 5-star. Put them in the room safe, deposit box at reception or lock them in your luggage. Remove the temptation and you eliminate the majority of the risk.
  • Be aware of wandering hands in crowded places such as markets and public transport. Put your camera away and keep your hands in your pockets or on your bags, depending on where you have your valuables stowed away. Keep your handbag, camera case and backpack zipped up and DO NOT let it dangle in your blind spot or behind you.
  • Is Ho C hi Minh City safe? Keep valuables secured

    Keep your bags and camera securely around your body

    Carry your handbag and camera across your body on the opposite side to the traffic. Do not keep valuables in the back pocket of your day pack and use a small carabiner to clip the zips together on the compartment where you keep valuable things if you have to carry it on your back.

  • Small children wanting a hug, especially in groups may be extremely adept pick pockets,  Stay at arms length even if they are really, really, really cute. I have seen far less of this activity since we’ve been back this time although it has been a problem in the past. There is a good chance touchy feely street masseurs are looking for your valuables as well.
  • Make sure everything is secure if you decide to take a ride in a cyclo, or on a XeOm (motorcycle taxi). If you must open the window of a cab, then make sure your luggage is out of reach or secured.
  • Don’t take all your valuables with you if you are going for a massage. Many salons are reputable, but you don’t want your stuff stolen as you nod off into oblivion.
  • Guys (and girls), who go out and get drunk in bars, and suddenly finding themselves very attractive to the opposite sex are likely as not setting themselves up to be mugged. Prostitution is common, and you are more than likely being set up for a sting. If you are going out to get smashed, only take out cash you need to have a good time and leave the rest behind in your hotel safe or another secure location.
  • Do not walk down dark, deserted streets. If you’re out late at night take a taxi for a couple of bucks rather than walk home and risk of being mugged, especially if you have had a few drinks. A local speciality is two girls getting rather touchy feely with drunk males walking down the street. They only realize they’ve been fleeced as the girls melt off into darkness or when they wake up the next morning.

Please note, these are the same precautions we use whether we are in Saigon, New York, London orRome. 102 countries and we have never been mugged or had anything stolen. Lucky or sensible? I think more the latter with a bit of luck thrown in.

Annoying but not dangerous.
Is Ho Chi Minh City safe? Street Vendors

My weekly tissues and chewing gum supplies.

There are lots of street vendors selling everything from maps and fans through to razor blades and sunglasses. Many people find this annoying, but it’s one of the unique experiences of Asia. Sit in one place and you’ll be offered everything you might ever want in the way of trinkets and personal hygiene items and more. If you want to buy something, bargain hard but be polite. If you don’t, be firm but stay polite. Yes, it can get annoying after the fifteenth one, but these guys are only trying to make a living. If it bothers you, find a second story or seat inside the bar or restaurant. They rarely come inside without an invitation.

There are also a fair few beggars in the city, not just the tourist areas. Many of them are heartbreaking. I leave it up to you if you can spare the equivalent of a few cents that will make at least a little difference to their lives. We usually do if there is only one individual, they are obviously in need, and we can do it without being noticed by everyone around. Otherwise, we steel ourselves and try not to feel like crap.

If Something Goes Wrong

If something does go wrong and you are the victim of a crime, report it to the police as soon as possible. You will need a police report to claim on your insurance. Report the crime to a police station near to where it took place.

There are police stations all over Ho Chi Minh City but the chances of someone speaking English vary.  Try and take a trusted local with you to help with language difficulties. (Reward them for their trouble appropriately)

For backpackers and budget tourists, there is a police station right in Bui Vien, across from Bobby Brewers.

Closer to the big hotels in District 1 there is one at 24-26 Pasteur Street in District 1 right near the Fideco Tower. They are open 07:30-11:30 and then 13:00-17:00 Ph +84 (0)8 38297373.

Is Ho Chi Minh City safe? I think so if you use your common sense and follow my suggestions above. You’ll be missing out on a fantastic experience if you let yourself be scared off by the bad experiences of an unlucky few. The vast majority of people here in Ho Chi Minh City are honest, hardworking and incredibly happy you have come to visit their city. Come on over and see for yourself.

Please leave a comment about your thoughts on trip safety below and let me know of any other safety tips you have for worry free travel.

Note: I do not receive any payment for this post (or any others on the site for that matter!). I do receive a small amount of money by allowing advertisements on the site and any purchases made through those links.

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25 Responses

  1. Kevi says:

    Thanks sharyn, your experience of 108 countries is certainly helpful, not competing with you but I wish I can also visit at least half of your score :))

    • Sharyn says:

      You’ve got to have goals. 🙂 (Incidentally, we just spent the last 12 months cycling through Scandinavia and Eastern Europe and working on a yacht in the Caribbean. It’s 125 countries now 🙂 )

  2. Chuck Kuhn says:

    Good to refresh to somewhat safe while touring any country. Arriving in Hanoi in Aug for 30 days then to Cambodia. This will be my 3rd trip in 8 yrs. Going solo, but with hundreds of friends in Vietnam. They pick me up daily and take to places off the beaten track for Photography. One thing I would add if you decide to take the train to Sapa or overnight, take lock with chain to secure you backpack or sleep with backpack as pillow. Great information , Thanks

    • Sharyn says:

      Thanks Chuck. Always good to have insight from those with experience.You obviously enjoy being here, as do we. It’s a fantastic place to come for photography. I just wish I was a better photographer.

  3. Claire Bear says:

    Re: Xe Oms, without a doubt keep your bags between you and your driver at all times if you have anything you don’t want stealing in it. And beware videoing while on the back of the xe om too!

    Bui Vien is certainly the worst area in HCMC for pickpockets and opportunists…I have lost count of the tourists taking selfies or talking on their iPhones on the corner of the street that are whipped out of the tourist’s hands within seconds. It’s not hard to take better care of your valuables, people…

    Almost the second you leave Bui Vien, though, I would say everything feels much safer…generally HCMC is full if beautiful and kind people who are just happy to try to sell you a little something! I miss it…(not Bui Vien so much, though!)

  4. Pio says:

    Interesting info. Thanks

  5. Gordi D. says:

    Great tips. I especially like the one to keep your purse on the side closest to traffic. An extra little safety measure.

  6. Nathaniell says:

    Is it worth reporting crimes to the police here? When I was in China, the police were so corrupt and inept that most people agreed that it was not worth the time and hassle to contact the police about crimes.

    I had my apartment robbed once and my boss said there was basically nothing I could do, and the same happened when my colleague got her purse stolen!

    • Sharyn says:

      You must have a police report to claim on your travel insurance. It won’t help you get your stuff back but at least you should get some compensation. I’m a big believer, if you can’t afford travel insurance you can’t afford to travel.

  7. Rosalyn says:

    Hi Tim and Sharyn,
    I am not a world traveler, but I always wondered how on earth I would learn about things such as you have talked about here.
    In the US I would know but going out of the country without knowing languages and different customs, you can’t be too careful.
    Thanks for the great info. What an accomplishment. 102 counties. When I decide and can afford to take the plunge, I will visit your site again.
    Rosalyn

  8. Katie says:

    very good post on practical tips to keep safe and what to be aware of, so that you can enjoy the experience of exploring safely

  9. Jack says:

    Thank you for sharing your commonsense travel safety tips, I found them very informative and were a good refresher for someone like me who does not travel overseas much. Hopefully that will change, as my wife and I plan on traveling quite a bit in a few years. Beautiful website, Sharyn!

    Jack 🙂

  10. Faith says:

    Very helpful – it is amazing how common sense tends not to to be common practice

  1. October 21, 2014

    […] Stay safe. Secure your valuables. If you are wearing a daypack or handbag, attach it firmly and put it in front of you. Backpacks should be worn on the front. Handbags over your body and adjusted so it is in your lap between you and the driver. Do not have anything hanging out of your back pockets. […]

  2. October 21, 2014

    […] Unless you can’t live without it, leave your valuable jewellery at home. It’s one less thing you will need to worry about. If you absolutely must bring it, read my tips for staying safe in HCMC here. […]

  3. February 5, 2015

    […] and soft muggings tends to go up just before TET. Make sure you read and follow my tips for staying safe in HCMC and be extra […]

  4. March 20, 2015

    […] handed over a 500 000 VND note rather than a 20 000 and it disappeared pretty damn quickly. Also, stay alert and watch your bags and wallets. There are a lot of tourist police in this area for a very good […]

  5. May 24, 2015

    […] The obvious answer is that you have to watch out for the snatch and grabs. Foreigners really underestimate how determined they are. But it’s very safe. No one is ever going to hold you up with a knife and demand your wallet here. It’s just unheard of. (Editor. My tips for staying safe here) […]

  6. June 21, 2015

    […] As with any city, there are the petty crimes that could be avoided.  Just be aware of your surrounding and take care of your belongings and you should be able to have a very enjoyable and memorable time in Ho Chi Minh City. (See my safety tips here) […]

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