Most Vietnam tours are smooth, but you should take reasonable precautions to protect yourself and your belongings in major cities and tourist areas.
Do not hand your passport over to third parties as collateral (eg motorcycle rental shops, owners) as there have been many cases of companies holding passports against alleged damage.
You must remain vigilant and take care of your belongings, especially in crowded areas and places frequented by tourists where pickpockets and bag thieves operate, including on motorcycles. Consider dividing the key items between the bags.
British nationals have reported a number of personal assaults, including rape and sexual assault in areas popular with expatriates and tourists. When reporting such attacks in Vietnam, as compared to the UK, the burden of proof is on the victim to demonstrate that the sex was not consensual, especially when the victim had consumed alcohol or when the alleged perpetrator was known to the victim.
Foreign women have also been victims of indecent assault and harassment (including inappropriate touching and groping), particularly when walking alone. You must take reasonable precautions.
There have been reports of arguments over hotel, restaurant or taxi bills that have become violent or abusive. It is worth researching places to stay before you arrive. To avoid potential disputes, make sure you are familiar with the level of service you can expect to receive and the associated fees.
A number of British and foreign visitors have died or been injured in Vietnam while engaging in adventure tourism in rural and mountainous areas. Some areas can be dangerous and far from emergency services of any kind. And the rainy season – see Natural Disasters – can quickly and dramatically increase risk, especially for localized flooding, navigating swollen streams and rivers, and landslides. Safety standards are generally lower than in the UK and compliance varies. Stay on the main roads and, if necessary, take a reputable guide. Always follow safety guidelines, check local authority websites for approved adventure travel companies that meet safety standards, and check local weather forecasts before traveling.
You should avoid illegal tour guides who are known to offer tours and activities prohibited by local regulations. In some areas, local regulations require the use of a guide. Make sure your travel insurance fully covers your planned activity.
Travel is limited near military installations and some areas of Vietnam are quite inaccessible. If you want to visit a village, town or neighborhood near the border, you may need to get permission from the provincial police department. Contact the relevant local authority for more information.
Mines and unexploded ordnance are a constant danger on former battlefields, especially in central Vietnam and along the Laos border, once crossed by the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Mined areas are often unmarked.
Practice any recreational activities that include firearms at your own risk, and be sure to be supervised by a reputable guide. People familiar with these activities have reported cases of hearing loss.
Traveling by motorbike in Vietnam involves significant risks. Road accidents and fatalities are common. According to statistics from the World Health Organization, you are more than 8 times more likely to be killed in a road accident in Vietnam than in the UK (around 26.4 deaths per 100,000 people in Vietnam compared to 3.1 per 100,000 people in the UK).
A number of British nationals have died in motorcycle crashes in Vietnam, and many more have been involved in crashes, some very seriously injured. Before choosing to ride a motorbike in Vietnam, it is essential that you are an experienced biker, check your motorbike carefully and rent it from a reputable organization, have a good quality motorbike helmet, understand the roads you are planning on to travel and that your travel insurance covers your planned activity.
Compliance with local road regulations is poor. It is advisable to reduce your speed and be prepared for the unexpected. If you plan to travel as a motorcycle passenger, please wear a good quality helmet and make sure that your medical insurance is complete. It is illegal to be on a motorcycle without a helmet.
If you are involved in a traffic accident, you could face criminal charges and you may need to pay compensation to the injured person, even if the injuries are minor. If you are involved in an accident or under investigation, offer your full cooperation to the police and notify the British Embassy in Hanoi or the Consulate General in Hoi Chi Minh City.
As of March 28, 2019, if you wish to drive cars or motorcycles in Vietnam, you will need to present your UK driving license and an International Driving Permit (IDP) issued in the UK. If you are a long-term resident of Vietnam, you can qualify for a Vietnamese driver’s license with diplomatic ID, temporary residence card, or residence card with a validity of 3 months or more, as well a valid UK driving license or IDP issued in the UK. Vietnamese driver’s license applications can be made at the local offices of the Ministry of Public Works and Transport.
You should also make sure you have third party liability insurance as required by Vietnamese law.
Do not use your passport as a deposit for vehicle rental or in lieu of a fine for traffic violations.
Large company metered taxis are generally reliable. There are many taxi operators and the meters are set at different prices. The meter should start at around 8,000 to 20,000 VND, depending on the size of the taxi and the taxi company. If possible, ask hotels or restaurants to book you a reputable taxi. Always make sure the driver identifies himself before setting off. If you are booking a taxi online or through an app, make sure the vehicle and driver details match those provided by the company.
Surcharges for taxi rides in and around tourist hot spots in Hanoi Old Quarter and at Hanoi Airport are regularly reported. The same happens at Ho Chi Minh City Airport and popular tourist attractions. Check the fares posted near taxi stands or an online app before you start your trip, or consider booking a taxi or ordering one through an online app.
Bus and coach accidents are not unusual and increase in regularity at night. Vehicles are often poorly maintained. When traveling by bus, be vigilant against petty theft as there have been reports of lost passports and personal effects while traveling by overnight bus. Beware of free hotel transfer offers unless they are arranged in advance, as they can be bogus.
It is illegal to drive cars or operate motorcycles when your blood alcohol level is above zero. This is applied rigorously.
Train travel in Vietnam is generally reliable. Be aware of the risks of petty theft, especially while sleeping on night trains.
Safety regulations and standards vary widely and are not at the same level as in the UK. Ask your guide about boat safety and registration, as well as personnel certification before setting out. Make sure you receive a full safety briefing when you join a boat. Carefully consider safety standards before taking an overnight boat trip to Halong Bay, as some boats have sunk quickly and without warning.
Piracy in the coastal areas off Vietnam is very rare. Mariners must, however, report all incidents to coastal State and flag State authorities. See Piracy and armed robbery at sea.
Vietnam has a one-party political system, which does not welcome dissent. Some protests in recent years have turned violent or have been violently suppressed by the authorities. You should avoid all protests.
Providing prompt consular assistance can be difficult outside of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Vietnam is a large country and some areas do not have well-developed infrastructure or frequent flights.