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Is Vietnam Dangerous For Ex-pats? | Here Is Your Guide
Vietnam is a magnet for people looking for a new vibrant country to move to. But is it safe for ex-pats to live and put down sticks? Having lived in Cambodia and visited Vietnam plenty of times, I thought this might be my new destination to live for myself. Let me dissect the culture and advise you on what to watch out for.
Vietnam has had a shaky past, to say the least, with three wars in three decades from the French colonial war, The American war in the 1960’s and the Cambodia invasion ending the Khmer Rouge. Vietnam has been battered for its independence but won its freedom in the end.
Since then, Vietnam has moved forward and not looked back with large economic growth and an official safety peace index of 57th out of 163 countries compared to other western countries like the US (114th). Vietnam is pretty safe.
Violent crime isn’t much of a problem, so you don’t have to look over your shoulder if a mad axeman comes running, but scams are circulating with everything from taxi scams, dodgy landlords moving the goalpost, photo scams, and baggage commission cons. Also, be careful when your crossing the road. The traffic can be insane in the cities.
Traffic Safety Tips
The traffic can look overwhelming when you first lay eyes on the destruction derby of the century. Never assume the driver has seen you in the car while crossing. Even if they have seen you, the car may keep going.
Crossing the road can be difficult, but cross slowly and calmly, maintain the same pace and keep looking for traffic. If you find the traffic overwhelming, ask someone to cross with you. I remember the first I arrived in Hoi Chi Minh, and I couldn’t believe people didn’t give you the right of way or didn’t slow down if your in front of them.
I did get tapped by a motorbike, it was nothing serious but enough to think I need eyes in the back of my head from now on. Just don’t take any risks, and if you decide to get a motorbike, make sure you wear a helmet.
Safety Tips For Vietnam
It’s not like theirs zero crime in Vietnam I’ve seen some stuff on the Internet to say otherwise. Like any country, especially in developing countries. I never argue with locals because he never goes down well.
Vietnam is still a safe country, and you should never feel threatened or in danger for no real reason. The countries tourism has multiplied over the last few years and gets around 18 million people a year. I think part of this is Vietnam is the new Thailand but safer and developing quicker.
I always found the Vietnamese people-friendly, more so than Thailand and Cambodia. For the most part, I found Vietnam cheap, with some unbelievable prices for beer ($.60 for 2 liters), with friendly locals being warm and hospitable.
Now that I’ve spoken a bit about Vietnam being safe, I always advise you to be careful because you never know! All developing countries have high corruption, social problems, and generally higher crime, but I found that the family unit keeps things in check in South East Asia, making it safer.
Copy All Your Important Docs
Its always a good idea to have copies of travel documents and keep your passport in a safe location in your apartment. Some tours & rental companies (Motobike) need a passport or a copy of your docs. Its also handy to have copies of docs as a back-up if anything goes wrong.
If you decide to rent/buy a motorbike, make sure you wear a helmet! I know the locals don’t, but its a roulette wheel of chance with an accident toll, you never know? Motorbikes the highest rate of traffic deaths in Asia, so buy a decent helmet!
Traffic Congestion is huge in Vietnam, with 45 million registered bikes and 3 million cars zooming around, giving zero **** (Not being derogative), but it can be dangerous. Just get used to driving here before you make long trips anywhere.
Overly Friendly People
While you’re living in Vietnam, you will meet loads of great people with warm hospitality and interest in you. But if a stranger is overly friendly and wants to know everything about you, they most likely want to make commission from you. Usually, they will try to get you to a store, hotel, or massage parlor to extract money from your pocket.
The way I deal with these people is to smile politely and keep walking and never look back. They will soon lose interest once the potential sale has gone.
When I visited Vietnam, I got conned by a taxi driver when I was under the influence of alcohol, and the journey was x3 as much. Another tactic is going the long way round, which is a real pain in the backside. The areas this is most likely going to happen are tourist hotspots and train stations picking up new tourists.
To avoid any opportunity to get ripped of, download the Grab taxi app. The service is a pre-paid price agreement before traveling anywhere and is safe.
Stay away from every type of drug in Vietnam. This country does not take lightly to drugs at all. The maximum penalty for drug possession is the death penalty, with a few westerners actually on death row right now! Never get caught up in a circle with friends who do drugs because you’re rolling the dice of life, and the wrong roll can get you seriously banged up.
Corruption is high in Vietnam, and you will meet corruption in some way, shape or form, with traffic police being the worse. Traffic police normally target licenses or helmets, so make your up-to-date, and everything is official. Depending on where you live, the level of corruption changes, Hoi Chi Minh police are less friendly than police in Da Nang.
Other Useful Tips
Never, ever take pictures of any military checks or operations, this can land you in deep water fast.
Avoid social justice behavior and don’t join protests with Vietnamese locals. The odd protest does happen but remember this is a communist country, and things can change rapidly and not in your favor.
Drink, drink, drink and drink some more water till you need the toilet at least 10 times a day. Vietnam pounds down the heat, and the humidity makes you sweat like theirs no tomorrow. Keep watered.
Where money belts and key ring chains when walking in congested areas like downtown Saigon or Hanoi. Thieves are trained experts in pickpocketing and remove large items from your pocket without any trace of when you lost it, so be vigilant.
Pro Tip- Leave your debit card at home and carry credit cards when your out. If you somehow get hacked, and the thief has immediate access to your funds, the bank may not compensate you! Now, if your credit card gets stolen its easier to be compensated with less hassle.
Local Sims- Don’t call with international sims from your country! Their a complete rip-off compared to the South-East-Asian market. You can buy a sim for just $4 a month with unlimited data and 1000 minutes of call time per month. The internet is fast too, with 5.46 MPS (Ranked 74 out of 189 countries)
In all Asian countries, the currencies are a little confusing. With 23,000 Dong to 1 US dollar, you will be a millionaire with 50 dollars in your back pocket. But the benefit of a cash society is the fact you can haggle and budget better.
When drawing cash from ATM’s always be aware of your surrounding, especially at night. If you can find ATM’s with 24hr security with a cash point installed in a bank, you will always be going to be safe.
Its possible to live alone and build a big social circle fast. The Vietnamese are friendly, loyal, and always make you feel welcome. I found the easiest way to meet people was sports bars, as soon as you sit down, other people join you watching football or MMA, and normally theirs a social circle to join.
Join Facebook ex-pat groups
If you post on a ex-pat group, “anyone up for a pint or a game of pool?” You will get replies from other ex-pat wanting to do something. Another option is to look at events going on where you live. Typically their are football clubs, pool tournaments, MMA clubs etc… Seriously you can do an event every night of the week for the rest of your life.
Dating Apps like Badoo & Tinder
Apps are great for meeting people and building relationships. Its not like West, where a man has to sell himself for a week before a date is discussed. Vietnamese people are laid back, friendly, and fun and more than willing to share a glass of wine with you.
No matter where you live in Vietnam, you can find a tour to hop on. Their are plenty of amazing trips for you to discover in this wonderful country.
My verdict is simple- Vietnam is extremely safe and absolutely fine to live by yourself. If your thinking about moving here, do! Theirs zero reasons to feel unsafe here other than maybe getting ripped off a few times. Take the plunge and never look back. Ian