an annual report produced in conjunction with the Regional Security Office at
the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi. 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.
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
The U.S. Department of State has
assessed Hanoi as being a HIGH threat
location for crime directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.
Although most travelers feel relatively safe, non-violent crimes do occur in
Vietnam with some frequency. Petty
theft, purse snatching, and pickpocketing are the most common crimes, and occur
most frequently around hotels,
tourist sites, airports, public parks, and other crowded areas popular among
Drive-by snatching is one of the
biggest crime threats. Two criminals riding a motorcycle will ride up to a
target; the motorcycle passenger will then snatch the victim’s camera, cell
phone, or purse. This tactic can be especially dangerous to the victim if the
strap of the bag is wrapped over their shoulder or around their neck, as the
victim can be pulled down and injured.
Pickpocketing is another frequent
crime, with one variation involving criminals using a knife to cut a hole in
the bag and take valuables. If you are
threatened with violence over money or belongings, comply with demands and
attempt to end the confrontation as quickly and as safely as possible.
rare, but have occurred in the Tay Ho and Ciputra residential areas, both of
which are neighborhoods popular with the expatriate and diplomatic communities.
Single-family houses tend to be the most frequent targets of residential
break-ins. These break-ins have not resulted in injuries to residents, but in
2019 a taser-type device used in a break-in appeared to have injured a pet. If a
burglar confronts you, do not react using force, as that may lead to an
escalation of violence.
Many employ domestic help. The Regional Security Office is aware
of occasional instances in which domestic help are suspected of stealing
valuables from their employers. Only give your keys to a trusted person; do not
leave them in possession with others. Do not leave valuables or large amounts
of cash in your house. Keep these items locked in a secure area.
Keep doors and windows locked, especially at night. In general,
high-rise apartment complexes with 24-hour guards and access-control systems
have lower burglary rates. In general, the safety and security of guest rooms
in quality hotels is adequate. Review OSAC’s reports, Hotels: The Inns and Outs and Considerations for Hotel Security.
The vast majority of crimes targeting
foriengers is petty theft, and the most common target is cell phones: one
street selling used cell phones and tables is colloquially known as “Stolen
Phone Stree.” Pickpocketing also occurs,
but reports are infrequent.
Violent crime (e.g. armed robbery, kidnapping,
or sexual abuse) against foreigners is uncommon, but does occur. In the last year, there have been several
instances of Westerners being offered cigarettes that turned out to be laced
with drugs; the victims passed out; at least one was robbed (with no
recollection of events). There have also been reports of drink
doctoring in order to incapacitate victims in bars and restaurants expatriates
frequent. In one case, a British man lost a computer after taking a woman he
met in a bar back to his rented house.
amount of cash you carry, and leave valuables (e.g. passports, jewelry, and
airline tickets) in a hotel safe or other secure place. Keep wallets and other
valuables where they will be less susceptible to pickpockets. Exchange foreign
currency only in authorized banks, hotels, and other legally authorized outlets,
and obtain proper receipts for transactions. Change direction or depart the area if you
notice suspicious people, groups, or activity. Review
OSAC’s reports, All That You Should
Criminals have copied credit and debit cards to make illegal
purchases and withdraw funds without the account holder’s knowledge or consent.
The Hanoi Metropolitan Police has reported discovery and seizure of devices
designed to duplicate debit card information and ATM cards. Review OSAC’s
reports, The Overseas Traveler’s
Guide to ATM Skimmers & Fraud and Taking Credit.
Cybercrime has become more sophisticated in Vietnam. Vietnam has
one of the highest levels of infected personal computers and malware
penetration. This is due in part to the prevalence of unlicensed and expired
software, which may not receive necessary security patches and updates. Not
only do malicious cyber actors target individuals for personal information, but
they also conduct attacks against businesses and foreign government agencies
for economic and political information. According to reports, foreign cybercriminals
have remotely attacked bank accounts and taken large amounts of money from
account holders. 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?
The Government of Vietnam
maintains strict control over all forms of political speech, particularly
dissent or speech it deems as critical of the government and/or party. U.S.
citizens have been detained, tried, and convicted for political activities
(including criticizing the government or its domestic/foreign policies or
advocating alternatives to Communist Party rule), possession of political
material, and non-sanctioned religious activities (including proselytizing).
Authorities have also detained U.S. citizens for posting messages on blogs or
online chatrooms that are political or critical of the government. U.S.
citizens of Vietnamese descent should be especially careful with their online
postings. Review OSAC’s report, Lèse Majesté: Watching what you say (and type) abroad.
Road Safety and Road
The two most dangerous activities
in Vietnam are crossing the street and driving / riding in traffic. Traffic is
dangerous, chaotic, and undisciplined. Traffic accidents are the leading cause
of death, severe injury, and emergency evacuation of foreigners in Vietnam.
The road system is underdeveloped,
and drivers widely ignore traffic rules. The lack of open sidewalks and
adequate traffic controls creates a precarious situation for pedestrians and
motorists alike. It is not uncommon for visitors or residents to be involved in
some type of road incident while attempting to cross one of the many
motorcycle-clogged streets of Hanoi. It is also common for visitors or
residents to be involved in some type of incident on a sidewalk or in a park,
as local drivers use these as thoroughfares when road traffic is stopped.
Motorcycle accidents are
particularly common and serious, since motorcyclists typically have less
training than car or truck drivers do. In accordance with local law, all
motorcycle riders must wear a helmet. While the number of traffic accidents and
casualties in Vietnam has decreased sharply over the years, it remains very
high. During a six-month period of 2019, 9,820 accidents killed 4,467 people
and injured 7,470 others. Review OSAC’s reports, Road Safety Abroad
and Driving Overseas: Best
Only use metered/marked taxis,
preferably from the larger taxi companies. In Hanoi, these include Hanoi Taxi,
CP Taxi, and Mai Linh Taxi. Less-reputable taxi drivers have painted their
vehicles to resemble legitimate companies. Do not take a taxi that looks
suspicious (e.g., no meter, no signage) and be mindful of the prevelance of
drunk drivers at night. If you smell alcohol on the breath of a driver or in a
vehicle, get out and find a new ride. Ride-share services such as Grab are
generally safe and reliable.
Visitors generally cannot rent
cars; therefore, those needing to travel outside of major cities must use
trains, buses, or private cars with hired drivers. Trains are old, slow, and
are typically not up to Western standards; accidents and other safety issues,
however, seldom occur. The quality and safety standards of buses and private
car choices vary greatly depending on the amount of money individuals are
willing to pay. Hotels and travel agencies are the preferred way to arrange
private transportation options; they will normally provide details on the
quality and condition of available vehicles. Review OSAC’s report, Security In Transit:
Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.
The U.S. Department of State has
assessed Hanoi as being a LOW threat
location for terrorism directed at or affecting official U.S. government
interests. However, U.S. citizens overseas always maintain a high level of
vigilance and take appropriate steps to increase security awareness while
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
Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
The U.S. Department of State has
assessed Hanoi as being a LOW threat
location for political violence directed at or affecting official U.S.
government interests. The government places heavy controls on political protests
and public demonstrations, making civil unrest relatively uncommon. Peaceful
demonstrations have occurred, often as a result of territorial disputes between
Vietnam and China. Avoid large gatherings, as they can become violent with
little or no warning.
In 2018, demonstrations took place
in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and some other provinces; thousands of people
protested against a draft law for new economic zones. The legislation would
have allowed Chinese companies to lease land in Phu Quoc island, Van Don
island, and Van Phong gulf for up to 99 years.
In 2017 and 2018, anti-Chinese
protests in Hanoi marked the anniversary of China's occupation of the Paracel
Islands (Hoang Sa) in the South China Sea (a terroritory that China still
holds). The protest followed a peaceful commemoration for soldiers killed in
1974 when China seized the Paracel islands. Review OSAC’s report, Surviving a Protest.
government restricts travel and photography in some areas. Taking photographs
of anything that could be perceived as being of military or security interest
may result in questioning by authorities, fines, or delayed travel. You should
be cautious when traveling near military bases and avoid photography in sensitive
border areas. Be alert for signs warning of
zones where photography is restricted. Review
OSAC’s report, Picture This: Dos and
Don’ts for Photography.
Vietnam’s long coastline leaves it
susceptible to frequent storms. The the most frequent and devastating natural
disasters include flooding, tropical storms (including typhoons), landslides,
droughts, and tornadoes. Other environmental hazards that occasionally affect
parts of the country include forest fires and saltwater intrusion. Major
earthquakes are less common.
Vietnam is expected to be one of
the countries most severely impacted by climate change. The frequency and
severity of storms hitting Vietnam have worsened over the past two decades;
researchers warn that this trend is likely to continue.
Some of the important actions for mitigating
the impact of natural disasters include developing scenario-based contingency
plans; staff accountability and relocation plans; asset movement and protection
plans; client and supplier plans; communication trees and crisis communication
plans; emergency equipment (e.g. fuel and batteries) plans; and storm/flood
Private-sector organizations that have been able to resume
operations rapidly after a natural disaster have often found that suppliers and
clients have greater difficulty resuming operations, which can prolong
recovery. Before and during an impending storm, security managers should closely
monitor information from the Central Committee from Flood and Storm Control,
the National Centre for Hydrometeorological Forecasting, and local people's
committees for information on evolving conditions and the possible need for
Worker safety remains a concern. Many
fatal accidents have resulted from a lack of training and experience for employees,
as well as a lack of first-responder capabilities. In order to save money,
employers and contracted companies may force employees to exceed their
abilities and experience to accomplish a job.
Safety standards in Vietnam are
not at the same level as those in the U.S., and vary greatly by company and
province; this is especially true in regards to fire codes. Many buildings,
including hotels, shops, and restaurants have limited or no safety equipment or
emergency exits. Ground and water transportation also lack safety regulations.
Local first responders may lack
the training and equipment required to provide emergency assistance. For instance,
local fire departments may not have a truck with a ladder that goes past the
tenth floor. People trapped above the tenth floor may have to wait for a
helicopter or alternative means of rescue.
A large accident may overwhelm local first responders.
espionage is a concern for most businesses and manufacturers in Vietnam. Many
of the items that infringe on patents, copyrights, and trademarks come from China.
However, there is a vast network of Vietnamese organized crime groups believed
to engage in similar activity. Consult with the local American Chamber of
Commerce or the U.S. Embassy if you feel your product is subject to pirating or
Authorities may monitor hotel
rooms, telephones, and correspondence over the internet. They may search personal
possessions, media, and documents in hotel rooms, apartments, or at the
workplace without the owner’s knowledge or consent. Similarly, all movements
and activities are subject to surveillance. Exercise caution when discussing
sensitive or proprietary information.
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.
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
Drug use, particularly the use of methamphetamine,
is an increasing problem and contributes significantly to the crime rate. While
Vietnam is primarily a transshipment point, drugs are readily available – even
though selling drugs is punishable by death. Vietnamese organized crime groups work in
conjunction with other criminals to bring drugs into the country or to
distribute drugs manufactured locally. Violence associated with the drug trade is
typically pre-meditated and limited to rival gangs, but local authorities note
a rise in violent crimes that can affect the broader public.
Police are often lack proper
funding and training. Local police will issue a report of a crime, but
generally will only initiate investigations for crimes they determine serious;
the definition of serious does not always equate with U.S. standards.
Investigations can take several months to complete. While the overall situation
is improving, some police have been openly solicitous of compensation,
ostensibly to support local police efforts or to facilitate investigation of a
crime. If you are involved in a situation where a police officer is soliciting
money, contact American Citizen Services at the U.S. Embassy.
If arrested for a crime, authorities
will transport you to a jail and bring you before a judge. Insist on contacting
American Citizen Services.
The emergency line in Vietnam is 113. If
you are involved in a traffic accident, altercation, or other situation that
draws a crowd, leave the immediate area and contact the police. Download the
State Department’s Crime Victims Assistance brochure.
The Ministry of Public Security is
responsible for policing. Police entities that travelers are most likely to meet
are the traffic police (cảnh sát giao
thong) and public security (công an).
The traffic police wear khaki uniforms and are similar to highway patrol units
or police officers whose primary job is the enforcement of traffic laws. Public
security, who also wear khaki uniforms, are in charge of general security and
enforcing local laws.
The availability and quality of
medical care in major cities is limited; medical care in rural/provincial areas
can be non-existent. Even when adequate medical care is available at
private clinics, it is often expensive.
Find contact information for
available medical services and available air ambulance services on the U.S.
The U.S. Department of State
strongly recommends purchasing international health insurance before traveling
internationally. Review the State Departments webpage on insurance
Doctors and hospitals expect
immediate payment for health services, and may require cash payment. International health clinics in Hanoi and Ho
Chi Minh City can treat minor illnesses and injuries, but problems that are
more serious often require medical evacuation to Bangkok or Singapore. Strongly
consider purchasing medevac insurance before travel.
Vaccination and Health Guidance
pollution is a significant problem in Vietnam’s major cities; consult a doctor
prior to travel and consider the impact that seasonal smog and heavy
particulate pollution may have on you. Information on air quality in Hanoi or
Ho Chi Minh City is available at Air Now.
to Vietnam are at risk of tuberculosis, dengue fever, malaria, and HIV. Avian influenza (H5N1) and Zika have occurred
in Vietnam, but there are no current outbreaks. The CDC offers additional
information on vaccines and health guidance for Vietnam.
Review OSAC’s reports, The Healthy Way,
Medication, I’m Drinking What in My
Water?, Shaken: The Don’ts of
Alcohol Abroad, Health 101: How to Prepare for Travel, and Fire Safety Abroad
OSAC Country Council Information
There are active OSAC Country
Councils in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Interested private-sector security
managers should contact OSAC’s East
Asia and the Pacific team with any questions.
U.S. Embassy Contact Information
7 Lang Ha Street, Hanoi
Hours of Operation: Mon-Fri, 8:00
a.m. – 5:00 p.m. (except U.S. and Vietnamese holidays)
Embassy operator: 024-3850-5000
Emergency after-hour contact
Posts in Vietnam
U.S. Consulate Ho Chi Minh City,
4 Le Duan, Ben Thanh Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, 84 (0)28 3520-4200.
Vietnam Country Information Sheet
OSAC Risk Matrix
OSAC Travelers Toolkit
State Department Traveler’s
Smart Traveler Enrollment Program