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Overseas Security Advisory Council
Bureau of Diplomatic Security
U.S. Department of State

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Vietnam 2020 Crime & Safety Report: Ho Chi Minh City

This is an annual report produced in conjunction with the Regional Security Office at the U.S. Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City. OSAC encourages travelers to use this report to gain baseline knowledge of security conditions in Vietnam. For more in-depth information, review OSAC’s Vietnam page for original OSAC reporting, consular messages, and contact information, some of which may be available only to private-sector representatives with an OSAC password.


Travel Advisory


The current U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory at the date of this report’s publication assesses Vietnam at Level 1, indicating travelers should exercise normal precautions. Review OSAC’s report, Understanding the Consular Travel Advisory System.


Overall Crime and Safety Situation


Crime Threats


The U.S. Department of State has assessed Ho Chi Minh City as being a HIGH-threat location for crime directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests. Despite this assessment, most visitors feel relatively safe. The level of crime is comparable to other cities of similar size throughout Asia. Visitors regularly fall victim to non-violent property crimes, which are usually non-confrontational crimes of opportunity. Pick-pocketing and other petty crimes occur regularly. Although violent crimes such as armed robbery are still relatively rare in Vietnam, perpetrators have grown increasingly bold, and there are reports of criminals using pipes, knives, and razors in attempted robberies in Ho Chi Minh City. Thieves congregate around hotels frequented by foreign tourists and foreign expats and areas such as Ben Thanh Market. Victims have reported assaults in outlying areas at night. Another increasingly common tactic is for a female associate to approach a male victim on the street, grabbing and rubbing him while propositioning him with sexual favors in order to distract the victim while picking his pockets. Maintaining an extremely high level of situational awareness and alertness at all times is critical to avoiding becoming a victim of this type of petty street crime. Do not resist theft attempts; report them immediately to local police and to the U.S. Consulate General.


Theft from motor scooter is a popular modus operandi whereby criminals grab bags and purses from victims while speeding past. This approach can cause serious injury to victims if they are unable to extricate themselves from bag straps quickly; motor scooters can drag victims behind them at high speeds. Carrying bags on the arm opposite curbside and walking as far away as possible from the edge of the curb can discourage potential motor scooter thieves. Smart phones are very popular with motor scooter thieves, who snatch them from victims’ hands while passing. Review OSAC’s report, All That You Should Leave Behind.


The four to six weeks prior to the Tet holiday (Lunar New Year) is typically the peak crime period of the year; those preparing to return to their families and villages for the holiday seek to acquire high-value gifts and cash rapidly to satisfy traditional gift-giving requirements. During the one-week holiday (dates vary each year), police and public security agencies remain at full operational staffing in order to maintain peace and order in crowded public spaces, and to respond to the increase in domestic disputes and residential burglaries of vacated homes.


Violent crime (e.g. homicide, armed robbery, kidnapping) involving foreigners remains relatively rare.


While sexual assault of foreigners by Vietnamese citizens does not appear to be common, the Embassy is aware of two incidents that occurred in 2019. One involved a foreign-national perpetrator traveling with the victim; in the other case, the U.S. Consulate never confirmed the identity of the perpetrator. Incidents are likely underreported to the U.S. Consulate due to the difficultly of obtaining police assistance or a viable prosecution in all sexual assault cases, but particularly in cases involving two foreigners or any incident not involving extreme force and injury. Anecdotally, several Western consulates in Ho Chi Minh City noted an increase in reports of rape in 2018-19, which coincides with increased tourism and easing of visa restrictions.


Residential security is generally good, if appropriate and adequate security measures are in place. These measures include the consistent use of good deadbolt locks, securing all man-passable entries, and using alarms and perimeter walls and gates.


Hotel rooms are generally safe if occupants take sensible precautions, such as securing all money and valuables, including electronic and mobile devices, in the room safe. Laptops and mobile devices are subject to tampering; some U.S. government travelers have reported the contents of their secured hotel room safes were obviously disturbed, although no items went missing. Review OSAC’s reports, Hotels: The Inns and Outs and Considerations for Hotel Security.


Several Consulate local staff members have reported receiving a phone call from a post office or bank claiming that the employee owes a bank a large sum of money. This call usually involves a bank with whom the employee does not have a bank account, and might even be in a different city. The bank or post office then provides the phone number of a police officer that the employee can contact to report that they are victim of fraud. Although the phone number does appear to originate from a legitimate police office, these phone calls are part of a scam. The “post office” or “bank” and the “police investigators” are all part of a scheme to bilk money from the victim. The “police” will threaten to arrest the employee unless they cooperate by opening a bank account and transferring a large sum of money into it, which is then withdrawn without the victim’s knowledge. Victims receiving this type of phone call should end the conversation promptly. 


U.S. citizens who form small business ventures with Vietnamese partners have reported threats from their partners or employees if the business relationship deteriorates. Some foreign expatriates have faced threats, vandalism, and harassment in connection with their business dealings, but have not reported acts of physical harm.


Organized crime syndicates continue to accrue influence and power since their comeback in the past decade. These criminal organizations focus much of their attention on drug manufacture, sales, and smuggling; extortion schemes and protection rackets; manufacturing and distribution of counterfeit goods; and loansharking.


Cybersecurity Issues


Banks in Vietnam reported detecting skimming devices attached to ATMs, as well as cameras recording PIN code keypad entries. Despite a police request for Vietnam’s commercial banks to install and test anti-skimming devices on ATMs, most banks have not yet done so. Most ATMs in Vietnam use simple technologies that render these machines particularly vulnerable to theft of cash using fake credit and ATM cards. The majority of ATM scams in Vietnam are the responsibility of non-Vietnamese nationals. Review OSAC’s reports, The Overseas Traveler’s Guide to ATM Skimmers & Fraud, and Taking Credit.


In early December 2019, authorities identified a Vietnamese state-backed threat group, APT32, also known as “Ocean Lotus,” for cyberattacks that compromised the networks of BMW and Hyundai over several months. The hacking group has mainly targeted foreign businesses with a stake in Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries. Since 2017, the group has incessantly targeted the automotive industry.


Review OSAC’s reports, Cybersecurity Basics, Best Practices for Maximizing Security on Public Wi-Fi, Traveling with Mobile Devices: Trends & Best Practices, and Satellite Phones: Critical or Contraband?


Other Areas of Concern


While the Consulate has not declared any areas off-limits, the Government of Vietnam considers certain areas of the Central Highlands bordering Cambodia and Laos politically sensitive; these areas are still open to tourists. Avoid military installations and camps in these areas. Foreigners must enter and exit Vietnam through a major international land or seaport, and cannot cross overland into Laos, Cambodia, or China except at designated international checkpoints.


Read the State Department’s webpage on customs and import restrictions for information on what you cannot take into or out of other countries.


Transportation-Safety Situation


Road Safety and Road Conditions


The combination of a chaotic road system and common disregard for traffic laws makes crossing the street and driving/riding in traffic two of the most dangerous activities in Vietnam. Police are unable to control the burgeoning number of vehicles on the road, which includes cars, trucks, motorcycles, and motor scooters. The number of traffic enforcement police is simply insufficient to deal with the number of vehicles on the road.


In 2019, Vietnam’s jam-packed streets continue to worsen. A large influx of motor vehicles plus an increasing amount of motorbikes has created a chaotic traffic scene in Ho Chi Minh City on a regular basis. Combined with poorly maintained sidewalks, inadequate traffic controls (i.e. stoplights at intersections), and the common practice of using sidewalks as parking spaces for motor scooters creates a precarious environment for pedestrians.


Vehicles, particularly city buses, do not yield to pedestrians in crosswalks. Accidents involving motor scooters are common, and a motor vehicle accident can quickly draw large crowds with intense arguments between those involved. Drivers of cars and motor scooters alike frequently text on their cell phones while driving, further aggravating erratic driving behaviors.


By Western standards, the comparative death toll from traffic-related accidents is high. The leading cause of death due to unnatural causes for U.S. citizens in Vietnam is motor scooter accidents. Although the Government of Vietnam requires that all adult motor scooter drivers and riders wear a helmet, there are no safety standards for these helmets. As a result, most available helmets are substandard and provide minimal, if any, protection to the wearer. Those planning to drive/ride motor scooters in Vietnam should use a U.S. Department of Transportation-approved helmet.


If the passenger of a vehicle opens a car door and hits or causes injury to a passing motor scooter, the driver of the vehicle is responsible; police will detain them and confiscated their driver’s license for an indefinite period.


Review OSAC’s reports, Road Safety Abroad, Driving Overseas: Best Practices, and Evasive Driving Techniques; and read the State Department’s webpage on driving and road safety abroad.


Public Transportation Conditions


There are no U.S. government restrictions on public transportation. Exercise vigilance with personal belongings on crowded intra- and inter-city buses, both public and private.


Due to poor management, deteriorating infrastructure, and a culture of disregarding traffic signals at crossings, railway accidents are common. Most fatalities occur when a train collides with a vehicle driving on roads built illegally over train tracks. Collisions and derailments contribute to train delays, with most of these accidents taking place on the popular route connecting Hanoi with Ho Chi Minh City.


Take only marked and metered taxis. The taxi industry is unregulated, allowing each taxi company to set its own rates. Some metered taxis use rigged meters that accumulate charges rapidly. MaiLinh and VinaSun taxi companies are the two main, registered taxi companies that use fair meters.


Beware of fake taxis. Identify authentic taxis by the correct telephone number painted on their sides, uniformed drivers, equipment (e.g. meter, receipt machine, and tablet for GPS next to driver), and unique taxi number inscribed on the rear of the front headrests and prominently displayed on the exterior of the vehicle itself.


Grab Taxi, Grab Bike, and GoViet are popular and safe to use where available. When using a ride-sharing service, ensure that the license plate of the vehicle matches that on your app.


Negotiate the fare for xe om (motor scooter taxi), pedicabs, and cyclo-rickshaws (pedicabs) prior to using, and do not take these forms of transportation at night. Passengers riding in cyclo-rickshaws may be especially prone to theft of personal possessions by snatch-and-grab thieves, because they ride in a semi-reclining position that readily exposes their belongings and does not allow for good visibility or movement. Some cyclo-rickshaw drivers have reportedly kidnapped passengers and extorted money; it may be risky to hire cyclo-rickshaw not associated with reputable hotels or restaurants.


Review OSAC’s report, Security In Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.


Aviation/Airport Conditions


Ho Chi Minh City’s airport, Tân Sơn Nhất (SGN), meets ICAO standards. Some flights, particularly those of budget airlines, do not board at the gate, but instead use buses to transport passengers from the gate to tarmac.


Take precautions when choosing ground transportation at the airport. Travelers have reported robberies at the hands of drivers who greet them upon arrival with a placard showing the traveler's name. To minimize this, ask the company for the driver’s name, phone number, and license plate number before traveling, and never let the driver see your wallet. Write down or take a picture of the name of the taxi company, plate number, and any other identifying information so that in any incident you can report it to the local authorities. Do not patronize taxi touts, particularly at the airports; these individuals have been involved in “express kidnapping” schemes wherein they take passengers to remote areas and threaten them until they agree to withdraw money from ATMs. Avoid over-the-counter pre-payments at taxi booths for taxi rides from the airport; these are for unlicensed taxis.


Take only licensed and metered taxis from established airport taxi queues. Taxi touts (i.e., unlicensed cabs) are illegal. At the international arrivals terminal, the taxi queue is located curbside to the left of the doors exiting the terminal building, as indicated by signs. Outside the domestic arrivals terminal, there are two legal taxi queues. The first queue is curbside and includes taxis from all companies except for MaiLinh and VinaSun; these companies have a separate queue located in the center island, easily identifiable by Taxi Ambassadors wearing green button-down shirts assisting with communicating destinations to taxi drivers. At the taxi queue, passengers can use any taxi in the queue, and do not have to use the first taxi. Insist on using the taxi company of your choice. Other airports in south and central Vietnam also have legal taxi queues that travelers should use.


Other Travel Conditions


Pedestrians do not have the right of way, even when crossing with the light in a crosswalk. When crossing the street, even within a crosswalk, look both ways before stepping into the street. Walk at a steady pace following a predictable (i.e. straight-line) trajectory towards the other side. Do not zigzag, stop, or speed up or slow down suddenly. Motor scooter drivers will swerve around you as long as they can predict your location in the crosswalk based on your speed and path. Adults must hold the hands of children tightly near or in a crosswalk. Buses do not slow down for pedestrians in crosswalks.


Legitimate tour guides and operators must have licenses and registration. Waterfalls and other areas of natural beauty lack safety guards and warnings typical in the United States. Many boat tourism operators lack basic safety and rescue equipment on their vessels.


Terrorism Threat


Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns


The U.S. Department of State has assessed Ho Chi Minh City as being a LOW-threat location for terrorism directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests. In September 2019, authorities detained an individual for allegedly causing an explosion in Binh Duong Province’s tax office, charging him with a terrorism offense. The explosion may have taken place in a restroom inside the four-story building. Authorities claim the individual was acting under the guidance of a U.S-based organization called the "Provisional National Government of Vietnam," which is classified as a terrorist organization in Vietnam. The Vietnamese government has also designated California-based “Viet Tan” as a terrorist organization and accused the group of training members to sneak into Vietnam to organize protests and instigate violence.


Anti-U.S./Anti-Western Sentiment


Most Vietnamese regard most Westerners in a positive manner, and are friendly to foreigners. The most recent Pew Research poll of Vietnamese showed 84% had a favorable view of the United States.


Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence


Civil Unrest 


The U.S. Department of State has assessed Ho Chi Minh City as being a LOW-threat location for political violence directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests. Public security officials highly discourage civil unrest. Demonstrations, protests, and marches may proceed only with a government-issued permit. Although public security officials periodically allow smaller, more spontaneous demonstrations to proceed, once the size of the crowd reaches a certain mass, the police will end the protest using force, if necessary.


Demonstrations at the U.S. Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City are commonplace, but rarely focus on the U.S. Government or its citizens. Instead, demonstrators take advantage of the Consulate’s high profile and large numbers of visa applicants to air their complaints against the Government of Vietnam. Periodically, these demonstrations temporarily disrupt Consulate operations; however, police rarely allow disruptions to persist. Usually, the demonstrators are land-rights activists protesting the Vietnamese government’s uncompensated seizures of land.


No large-scale protests occurred in Vietnam for 2019. Review OSAC’s report, Surviving a Protest.


The government strictly controls all forms of political speech (particularly dissent) whether on the internet, in the traditional media, or in public fora. Individuals engaging in public actions the government deems political or critical of the government or Communist Party are subject to harassment, surveillance, detention, and arrest. This includes criticizing the government or Communist Party, and/or their policies; possession of political and religious materials; and unsanctioned religious activities (i.e. proselytizing). Private conversations can lead to legal actions; U.S. citizens have faced arrest for political activities in Vietnam. The new cybersecurity law, which came into effect on January 1, 2019, criminalizes anti-government content and allows investigators to request user data from internet service providers. Review OSAC’s report, Lèse Majesté: Watching what you say (and type) abroad.


Religious/Ethnic Violence


Tensions between the central government and ethnic minorities in the Central Highlands provinces on the western border of Vietnam continue; the government considers the ethnic minorities to be a national security issue. A number of ethnic minority groups from this area report harassment and persecution. Vietnam does not experience large-scale ethnic violence; tensions between ethnic minorities and the Government of Vietnam do not affect tourists.


Post-specific Concerns


Photographing military, police, or other government facilities may result in detention and questioning, as well as the confiscation of film or photography equipment. Detention of individuals traveling to sensitive areas and taking photographs of sensitive areas or situations has occurred. Review OSAC’s report, Picture This: Dos and Don’ts for Photography.


Environmental Hazards


South and central Vietnam experiences two seasons: wet and dry. In Ho Chi Minh City and the central Highlands, the dry season runs from December to March; rainy season is from April to October/November, with minimal chance of typhoons, since wind speeds greatly diminish inland. Resultant rains routinely cause severe street flooding throughout the city. Police occasionally close bridges connecting Districts 1 and 2 if vehicles cannot pass safely. Due to poor drainage, even brief but heavy downpours will cause flooding, disrupting traffic. Due to safety concerns, many taxis and on-demand drivers will not drive when streets start to flood, stranding people until rain abates and flooding subsides.


Typhoons strike the central coastal areas of Vietnam, resulting in flooding and landslides, causing severe property damage and posing a hazard to local populations. In November, Tropical Storm Matmo killed one person, tore the roof off many residences, uprooted many trees, and destroyed over 250 houses in the Central provinces.


Additionally, the Mekong Delta in southern Vietnam is particularly vulnerable to severe flooding during the rainy season. Climate change has caused environmental deterioration in the Mekong Delta, further aggravating drought, saline intrusion, and flooding in the region.


Vietnam is home to a variety of dangerous and poisonous insects and snakes. Hikers should take appropriate precautions when walking in heavily forested areas and national parks. Review OSAC’s report, When Wildlife Attacks.


Critical Infrastructure


Electricity is generally stable, as are water supplies. However, in October, an oily sludge contaminated the Da River, a crucial water source for one of Hanoi’s local water treatment plants. Subsequently, authorities arrested three suspects for dumping waste oil into a stream, an act that affected approximately 1.4 million people in the capital.


Economic Concerns


The theft of intellectual property (IP) remains a problem in Vietnam. Despite revamped IPR laws on the books, IP enforcement and prosecutions do not deter rights violations. Several enforcement agencies are involved in and vested with the authority to address infringement issues. However, the lines of responsibility are not clear, and the lack of human resources and technical knowledge often results in poor enforcement at both the market and street level. A wide variety of counterfeit consumer goods, including pirated CDs and DVDs, are readily available throughout Vietnam. Court actions are lengthy and relatively costly; therefore, administrative enforcement has been the most effective approach and should be the first step in dealing with infringement cases.


Currency exchange is legal only at banks and authorized dealers. Vietnam officially allows the use of the Chinese yuan for trading goods in its northern border towns; merchants, residents, and related banks and institutions engaged in cross-border trade may use either the yuan or the Vietnamese dong in these locations only.


Privacy Concerns


There is no expectation of privacy in Vietnam. Public security organizations with robust monitoring and surveillance systems throughout the country use electronic and digital methods, as well as official watchers and civilian informers. The government monitors hotel rooms, telephones, fax machines, and internet use. Movements and activities may be subject to surveillance by public security and police entities. The Consulate routinely receives reports that intruders access and search electronic devices, such as computers, laptops, and mobile devices in hotel rooms and private residences when such devices are not in the possession of their owners. Personal possessions, media, and documents are subject to search in hotels, residences, and workplaces. Use of hotel room safes protects against theft but does not safeguard contents from search. Be cautious when discussing any sensitive or proprietary information, including while in vehicles.


Personal Identity Concerns


Although acceptance of LGBT issues has yet to be widespread in Vietnam, foreigners do not typically experience discrimination to the extent that Vietnamese LGBT do, since the Vietnamese have a generally more open and tolerant attitude towards the behavior of foreigners. Same-sex sexual activity is legal in Vietnam, but there are no laws protecting against discrimination based on sexual orientation. Review the State Department’s webpages on security for LGBTI+ travelers.


Due to the legacy of the Vietnam War, general attitudes towards those with disabilities are less harsh than in other Asian countries. However, poorly constructed or deteriorating sidewalks, the lack of sidewalks, frequent obstructions (parked motor bikes) on sidewalks, and chaotic traffic make mobility challenging, particularly for those in wheelchairs. Additionally, there are no standards or requirements for providing access to those with disabilities, and the entrances to many buildings require traversing steps. Some office and apartment buildings lack elevators. Review the State Department’s webpages on security for travelers with disabilities.


The Government of Vietnam considers some persons born in Vietnam or born to parents holding Vietnamese citizenship to be Vietnamese citizens unless they formally renounce Vietnamese citizenship with the Vietnamese Government. (Note: becoming a U.S. citizen does not automatically result in the loss of Vietnamese citizenship.) As a result, Vietnamese officials may treat U.S. citizens of Vietnamese origin differently than other U.S. citizens. For this reason, all U.S. citizens should enter Vietnam using their U.S. passports.


Proselytizing, unsanctioned religious activity, and possession of certain religious materials are illegal in Vietnam. The government has confiscated religious materials from U.S. citizens whose stated purpose of travel to Vietnam was tourism but who engaged in proselytizing or unsanctioned religious activities, such as holding Bible study groups in hotel rooms; it has also detained, fined, and expelled them from Vietnam. Religious organizations must register with the Government of Vietnam. Religious activists and practitioners have reported harassment and abuse at the hands of local authorities. Review OSAC’s report, Freedom to Practice, and the State Department’s webpage on security for faith-based travelers.


Drug-related Crimes


Vietnam is a transshipment and destination country for illegal narcotics, which come across shared borders with Laos, Cambodia, and China. Punishments for violations of drug laws are particularly harsh, even for possession of small amounts of illegal narcotics. The government still regularly employs the death penalty for certain types of drug crimes – particularly drug smuggling; it has sentenced foreigners to death in recent years, and regularly sentences foreigners to life imprisonment.


Drugs, including cannabis, cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine, are readily available in certain areas of Ho Chi Minh City, including Phạm Ngũ Lão Street (also known as the Backpacker Area) in District 1, and outlying districts of the city. Within the consular district, Tây Ninh province on Vietnam’s western border with Cambodia and recently Tan Son Nhat International Airport are infamous for trans-border narcotics smuggling into Vietnam, although adjacent provinces also experience this type of illegal activity.


The increase in methamphetamine and intravenous drug use is a significant contributor to the increase in crime. Illicit drugs may contain unknown and toxic or dangerous ingredients.


Kidnapping Threat


The kidnapping of foreigners for ransom is rare in Vietnam. More common is taxi kidnapping, or express kidnapping, in which criminal drivers take passengers riding in illegal taxis to a remote location and threaten them until they pay a ransom for immediate release or a ride to their desired destination. Use only marked and metered taxis. Review OSAC’s report, Kidnapping: The Basics


Police Response


Police are underfunded and lack training in a number of areas. Nonetheless, police are generally very responsive and reliable in cases involving foreigners, particularly for cases involving serious or violent crime. Case closure rates for serious crimes are high; however, for pickpocketing and other petty property crimes, case closure rates are very low given the frequency of these types of crime and difficulty identifying perpetrators. While the overall policing situation is gradually improving, some police openly solicit bribes or compensation – particularly traffic police, who may set up roadblocks in outlying regions for this purpose. Foreigners might be able to avoid paying bribes to traffic police by claiming not to understand what the police officer is saying; however, this tactic is not always successful. By law, police have the right to demand to see identity documents and individuals must comply.


Police often will not take a report of rape, including from a foreigner. Rape is extremely difficult to prosecute in Vietnam, since the victim must demonstrate a certain percentage of bodily injury resulting from the sexual assault; this is difficult to prove unless injuries are visible and serious. Police typically will not investigate rape cases even if the victim insists on filing a police report. Additionally, although Vietnam has laws pertaining to domestic violence, police do not consider domestic violence to be a serious crime, and commonly blame the victim for engaging in behavior that provoked the violence.


Police in cities typically have a fast response time compared to those in remote or rural areas, where road conditions and distances may delay response.


The U.S. Government considers bearers of U.S. passports to be U.S. citizens for the purpose of notification and access when arrested. Upon arrest or detention, U.S. citizens should immediately identify themselves as citizens of the United States and provide proof of citizenship in the form of a passport or photocopy of their passport to local authorities, and request to call the U.S. Consulate.


A 1994 agreement between the United States and Vietnam states that police must give notification within 96 hours of a person’s arrest and grant access within 48 hours after that. Despite this agreement, police rarely notify U.S. consular officers in Vietnam in a timely manner when they arrest or detain a U.S. citizen. There have also been very significant delays in U.S. consular officers obtaining timely access to incarcerated U.S. citizens. Police generally do not charge an arrested under a specific article of law until the conclusion of an investigation, which can last months. The problem of access has been particularly evident when the Vietnamese government considers the U.S. citizen to be a citizen of Vietnam, irrespective of proof of U.S. citizenship. According to the 1994 agreement, U.S. citizens, including dual nationals, have the right to consular access if they received admission into Vietnam as a U.S. citizen with their U.S. passport, and should insist upon contact with the U.S. Embassy or the U.S. Consulate.


The emergency line in VIETNAM is 113; few operators speak English. In Ho Chi Minh City, the Criminal Task Team can assist victims of theft, fraud, assault, or threat of violence. The Criminal Task Force’s phone number is (098) 186-0202. Depending on the situation, local citizens may assist foreigners in distress by contacting police or medical authorities. Another option is to go to a hotel that caters to foreign visitors, since reception staff can usually speak English and are generally helpful in emergencies. Victims must report all crimes to the police in the district in which the crime took place. Police in Vietnam will not accept a report on a crime that took place out of their jurisdiction.


If involved in an altercation, traffic accident, or other situation that draws a crowd, ask bystanders to call the police and/or leave the immediate area and call the police.


Download the State Department’s Crime Victims Assistance brochure.


Police/Security Agencies


Vietnam has an extensive public security and law enforcement regime with many different branches. The mostly commonly seen police and public security personnel are:


·         Traffic police, who wear tan uniforms, manage traffic and enforce traffic laws.

·         Public security police, who wear dark green uniforms with red epaulets, perform routine police functions, such as respond to calls and investigate crimes.

·         Mobile police, who wear black uniforms with the letters “CSCD,” carry out the functions of riot police and SWAT police.


Other uniformed groups perform quasi-police functions, such as the Civil Defense Force, volunteer traffic, tourist security, and private security guards, who have no actual legal authority.


The People’s Public Security falls under the Ministry of Public Security and is the primary police and security force of Vietnam. People’s Public Security has two branches: the People’s Security and the People’s Police. The security branch is responsible for national security, internal security, intelligence, borders and immigration, and other aspects of security relevant to all peoples and areas of the country. The police branch is responsible for traditional law enforcement functions such as crime prevention, criminal investigation, traffic and road safety, civil defense, firefighting, and disaster and emergency preparedness.


The Ministry of Public Security (MPS) finished its significant national reorganization at the beginning of 2019. The declared intent of this restructuring is to reduce or eliminate redundant or overlapping functions in MPS, as well as reduce the number of points of contact. As part of this reorganization, significant personnel reassignments occurred at senior leadership levels within MPS, reducing the number of personnel in the senior ranks, and resulting in the early retirement of many high ranking officers. One short-term result of the MPS reorganization is that a substantial amount of MPS focus and effort redirected to implementation of the restructuring plan.


Medical Emergencies


Find contact information for available medical services and available air ambulance services on the U.S. Consulate website.


Health care infrastructure in Vietnam does not meet Western standards. The quality of medical care in major metropolitan areas is limited and in rural or remote areas can be nonexistent. Hospitals in major metropolitan areas are more likely to be able to handle serious emergencies, but medical care in rural and remote areas may be difficult to obtain and may lack the capacity or capability to handle cases that are more serious. Even when adequate medical care is available in private clinics, it is expensive by Vietnamese standards, although often less expensive compared to U.S. standards. Private clinics typically require full payment at time of service.


The emergency number for calling an ambulance is 115. Ambulances are rudimentary and typically only have a non-English speaking driver. They only transport a patient to a public hospital, provide no life-sustaining treatment, and are not able to stabilize patients. Private clinics, such as Family Medical and SOS, have their own private ambulances, with equipment staffed by doctors and nurses, which can transport patients to their clinics.


Although many types of over-the-counter and prescription medications are available in Vietnam, they may be sold under a different name and the composition of ingredients may differ. Counterfeit pharmaceuticals exist in Vietnam. Bring an ample supply of all necessary medications with you.


Medical education in Vietnam does not meet U.S. standards. The Consulate refers its employees to private medical clinics staffed by physicians trained in the United States, Europe, Australia, and Japan. All serious medical cases go to Bangkok, Singapore, or the United States for further treatment. Dental education in Vietnam also does not meet U.S. standards; however, a number of private clinics staffed with foreign-trained dentists can provide quality dental care at prices lower than in the United States. Additionally, some Consulate staff use high-end private dental clinics catering to expatriates and wealthy locals staffed by Vietnamese-trained dentists. Private clinics require immediate cash payment upon receipt of services.


Strongly consider purchasing medical insurance with medical evacuation (medevac) coverage due to the poor quality of medical care in Vietnam, particularly in rural areas. Rural and provincial areas lack the ability to transport critically injured patients by helicopter to metropolitan areas; all transportation is via road using ambulances. Review the State Departments webpage on insurance overseas.


Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance


Tap water in Vietnam is not potable, but is safe for brushing teeth and bathing.. Drink bottled water only. Ice used in restaurants, cafes, bars, and by street hawkers is generally safe to consume, since ice made from purified water arrives regularly from factories. Treat vegetables and fruits with a disinfecting solution prior to consumption if eaten raw. Otherwise, wash thoroughly with running water. In restaurants, raw lettuce and herbs consumed as part of traditional Vietnamese dishes are already treated. Review OSAC’s report, I’m Drinking What in My Water?,


Ensure you receive all routine childhood immunizations. Most travelers should also have hepatitis A and typhoid vaccines, since you can contract both diseases through contaminated food or water in Vietnam. Some travelers should receive immunization for Japanese encephalitis, hepatitis B, and rabies, depending on the length of their stay, activities in Vietnam, and destinations in Vietnam. There is no risk of yellow fever in Vietnam, but travelers coming from countries with risk of yellow fever (not the United States) must show proof of yellow fever vaccination.


July and August 2019 marked the peak of a widespread, serious outbreak of dengue fever, which is particularly severe in Hanoi and HCMC; the outbreak infected over 200,000 people, killing 50.


Malaria typically occurs only in rural areas, with the exception of the Red River Delta and the coast north of Nha Trang. There are rare cases of malaria reported in the Mekong Delta, and no reported cases in major cities such as Ho Chi Minh City, Nha Trang, Đà Nẵng, and Quy Nhơn. Visitors to malarial areas should seek guidance from their physician for information on how to avoid contracting malaria. Some general best practices include taking a prescription anti-malarial drug, using insect repellent containing DEET, wearing long pants and long-sleeved shirts to prevent mosquito bites, and sleeping in well-screened rooms under a mosquito net.


Zika is endemic in Vietnam.


The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Vietnam.


Review OSAC’s reports, The Healthy Way, Traveling with Medication, Shaken: The Don’ts of Alcohol Abroad, Health 101: How to Prepare for Travel, and Fire Safety Abroad.


OSAC Country Council Information


The Ho Chi Minh City Country Council covers southern and central Vietnam. The HCMC Country Council meets semi-annually, typically in May and December, and holds an annual daylong regional conference in March. For inquiries and membership information, email hcmcrsoosac@state.gov. For security consultations, contact OSAC’s East Asia-Pacific Team.


U.S. Consulate Contact Information


4 Le Duan, Ben Thanh Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City

0800 – 1700, closed Saturday, Sunday, and U.S. and Vietnamese holidays


Embassy Operator: 84 (0)28 3520-4200

MSG Post 1: 84 (0)28 3520-4280

Website: https://vn.usembassy.gov/


Other Diplomatic Posts in Vietnam:


U.S. Embassy Hanoi: 7 Lang Ha Street

Phone: +84-24-3850-5000

Emergency: (028) 3520-4200


Helpful Information


·         Vietnam Country Information Sheet

·         OSAC Risk Matrix

·         OSAC Travelers Toolkit

·         State Department Traveler’s Checklist

·         Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)


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