How safe is Ho Chi Minh City, really?

Good news - Vietnam has been praised as the safest country to visit in Asia in 2024 by US travel website Travel Off Path.
Ho Chi Minh City, often known as Saigon, is considered by many to be a safe destination for tourists, particularly solo travelers, due to its lower crime rate compared to other large cities around the world. However, similar to any big city, they are more dangerous than smaller towns - that's just the reality of it! 
So, while no location is completely risk-free,, it is critical to practice caution and stay aware of your surroundings. Here are some different aspects to consider for a safety trip in Ho Chi Minh City:

1. Risks when crossing the road

If you know anything about Vietnam, you will know that there are a lot of motorcycles. Vietnam is one of the countries with the largest motorcycle usage; therefore, traffic is a little more chaotic! 
And, because motorcycles are the dominant means of transportation in Saigon, drivers frequently maneuver quickly and closely, making it difficult for tourists to anticipate their movements.
ton duc thang chaos on rush hour
The chaos of HCMC's rush hour on Ton Duc Thang street | Source: Bobby Vu for Vietcetara

→ Crossing the road safely in Vietnam:

  • Examine the traffic patterns, watch how locals cross, and follow what they are doing. If you notice a group of locals crossing the road, it's generally a good idea to join them because they're more experienced in navigating the traffic. 
  • Raise your hand to ask for the right of way and cross confidently while maintaining a steady pace. 
  • Avoid abrupt speed changes, like running or changing directions, as that may confuse drivers and lead to accidents. 
  • Search for white-marked pedestrian crossings or traffic signals. These crossings give drivers a clearer indication that you want to cross the road.
  • Remain alert and constantly check the road for oncoming vehicles.
  • Avoid distractions like using your phone or chatting with your friends and family.
If you follow these tips, you will likely become an expert at navigating the dense traffic in Saigon in no time.

2. Street food stalls that sell unsafe food

Ho Chi Minh City is well-known for its both cheap and delicious street foods, but is every street food stall completely safe for tourists to try? Some street food stands may have lower sanitation than established restaurants. 
The climate in Saigon is usually always hot and humid, and some food stalls might keep the ingredients outside for too long, which can turn the food bad or rotten. That's why it's critical for you to seek out stalls that are clean and well-kept.
night street food in ho chi minh city
Street food stalls in Saigon. | Source: Freepik.

→ Tips for choosing street food vendors that serve safe food:

  • The first thing you need to know is that you should pay attention to the overall vibe of the stalls, how they handle the ingredients and foods, how clean the utensils are, and observe how the food is prepared and cooked.
  • Be wary of condiments and sauces, make sure they come from clean, covered containers. If you're in a situation where you can't see much, or it's hard to tell, instead search for stalls that have a high customer turnover, as it usually suggests that the food there is likely to be freshly made and safe to eat.
  •  Ask locals or other reliable sources for suggestions on decent streetstalls, as they know which vendors have a good track record regarding flavor and sanitation. 
But most importantly, if anything doesn't feel right or you have concerns about a certain stall, you should look for another choice. 

3. Pickpocketing crimes

As mentioned before, Ho Chi Minh City has lower crime rates compared to other major cities, which is a good thing. Nonetheless, pickpocketing and petty theft are not uncommon in Ho Chi Minh City, much as they are in many other major tourist destinations worldwide. Pickpocketing can happen in busy areas, tourist sites, marketplaces, and on public transportation. 
Thieves frequently target valuable items such as wallets, smartphones, or watches. Stay alert, safeguard your possessions, and avoid displaying your valuables openly.

→ Things to keep in mind to avoid being pickpocketed in public places:

  • Keep your belongings secure and close to you as much as you can. Wear purses and bags with zipper closures in front of you, preferably with the strap across your body.
  • Avoid showing off valuables such as expensive jewelry, cameras, or any significant amounts of money, and try to keep your phone and wallet in safe pockets or a money belt concealed beneath your clothing.
  • Call 113 if you encounter a pickpocket (no need for a local SIM card).

4. Taxi scams

One of the benefits of visiting Saigon is that you won't have to worry about not being able to get around. On the other hand, however, it can also be a drawback to traveling to Saigon. Due to the high volume of taxi services, some people may try to trick visitors into taking one of their trips. 
taxi in vietnam
Be wary of unofficial taxi drivers. | Source: jody h - Flickr.
Taxi drivers may attempt to overcharge visitors by manipulating the meter or taking longer-than-normal routes, which is easy to pull off if tourists are visiting for the first time and are unfamiliar with the city.

→ Tips: Avoid being scammed by taxis in Ho Chi Minh City: 

  • Choosing a reputable company such as Mai Linh or Vinasun (the most prevalent) or getting a ride through ride-hailing applications like Grab, Gojek, Be, or Xanh SM. These apps show you exactly how much you need to pay and allow you to opt for cash or card payments.
  • Make sure the meter is functioning and ask for an estimated fee before departing.
  • Before taking a taxi, take note of essential information such as the license plate, driver's identity, and company name. 
  • Maintain awareness of the overall route to your destination and use map applications to follow it during the journey to ensure the driver takes the most direct route.
  • Carry modest denominations of local cash to avoid dealing with change.

5. Fake travel agencies

As with any large tourist location, there will be some fraudulent travel businesses that will tell you whatever you want to hear in order to scam you. These fraudsters typically build a new website and copy a well-known travel company's page, steal photographs and information from other businesses,  and use fraudulent billing information.
Some fraudsters go all out of their way to create bogus comments and reviews in order to deceive you into trusting their organization. Once the customer transfers the funds to pay for the service, the agency will delete all traces of their existence.

→ Avoid being scammed by fake travel companies:

  • Before scheduling any trip or service, thoroughly research the agency: : historic reviews, website legitimacy, and try to verify their credentials and licenses, if possible.
  • Beware of street solicitations. Legitimate agencies use advertising and recommendations, not street touts.
  • Remember to request a complete itinerary and contract specifying the services, hotels, transportation, and charges. If an agency is evasive, gives minimal information, or fails to answer your inquiries properly, it should raise concerns.
  • Be wary of immediate payment or any request of large sums of money upfront without providing sufficient documents.
If anything appears suspicious or too good to be true, trust your instincts and look for other options, like asking other travelers, residents, or hotel concierges for suggestions on reliable travel agents.

Safety for Solo Female Travelers

Is Saigon safe for tourists, especially solo female travelers? 
Saigon actually sees many solo tourists - and a particularly high number of solo female tourists - due to its safety and appeal to solo travelers. There are even a number of communities and activities targeted towards solo female travelers in Saigon.
First and foremost, the city boasts a low crime rate, including violent crimes, making it a generally safe destination. The local culture values hospitality and respect, and Vietnamese people are recognized for their kindness to visitors, so female solo travelers are frequently welcomed and assisted by locals. 
Saigon also has a well-developed tourism infrastructure, with a diverse selection of accommodations, transit options, and tourist services accessible. 
These advantages make it simpler for female solo travelers to stay or move about safely and have a more enjoyable experience here.
Vibrant Saigon
Saigon is safe for female solo travelers. | Source: Freepik.
Not to mention, with the presence of so many other visitors and solo travelers, it increases the sense of security and provides opportunities for interactions and shared experiences among solo travelers.
Saigon's cultural norms encourage gender equality and respect, resulting in a generally safe atmosphere for women. Respect for women is a cornerstone of Vietnamese culture (Vietnamese Women's Day is celebrated annually on October 20th), so while it is vital to exercise caution and adhere to common-sense safety precautions, female solo travelers can feel comfortable visiting Ho Chi Minh City and enjoying its dynamic environment.

Is Ho Chi Minh Safe for Tourists at Night?

The answer is yes. Ho Chi Minh City is considerately safe to go around at night, but you should exercise care and remain alert to your surroundings, as you would in any location.
While the city comes alive after dark, with colorful street markets, thriving nightlife, and crowded streets, it also becomes a good opportunity for pickpockets to keep an eye on you. 
By sticking to well-lit and busy locations, such as prominent tourist districts like District 1, where you'll see more residents and visitors, you will feel safer walking around at night. 
hcmc at night
Ho Chi Minh City is safe at night. | Source: Freepik.
The most important thing you need to remember is to trust your instincts. Your instinct is always correct, and if you feel uneasy or encounter any potential dangers, seek help from nearby businesses and people, or head to a well-populated location. 
If you take these extra steps to be safe, wandering around Ho Chi Minh City at night will be an enjoyable experience that you won't forget!  
If you want to fully experience the vibrant nightlife of Ho Chi Minh City safely as well as gain more insight into the history, culture and people here, our Saigon night food tour is one of the leading choices in Saigon with our former brand, Saigon Kiss Tours!
Author: Vy

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