Overall Crime and Safety Situation
U.S. Embassy Hanoi does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The ACS Unit cannot recommend a particular individual or establishment and assumes no responsibility for the quality of services provided.
THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED HANOI AS BEING A MEDIUM-THREAT LOCATION FOR CRIME DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.
Please review OSAC’s Vietnam-specific webpage for proprietary analytical reports, Consular Messages, and contact information.
Although most travelers feel relatively safe, pickpocketing and petty crimes occur in Vietnam quite frequently. Petty theft, purse snatching, and pickpocketing are most common in crowded areas frequented by foreigners (major hotels, tourist sites, airports, public parks). Beware of street children. One common method of purse snatching employs two people on a motorcycle with the passenger snatching the victim’s bag, camera, cellular phone, etc., often while traveling at the same speed or faster than street traffic. This method can be especially dangerous to victims if the straps of the bag are over the shoulder or around the neck, as the victim can be pulled down or dragged by the strap until it breaks. This is an ongoing, often dangerous trend. In some cases, a knife or other sharp cutting instrument is used to cut the strap or to make a hole to reach in and steal valuables. Avoid carrying handbags.
In general, the safety and security of guest rooms in quality hotels is adequate.
In 2016, several burglaries were reported in the Tay Ho and Ciputra residential areas, both popular neighborhoods within the expatriate and diplomatic communities. The Regional Security Office is aware of instances of domestic help stealing valuables from employers. In one case, a housekeeper forged her employer’s signature on a check and withdrew over US$60,000 from their bank account.
Violent crimes (armed robbery, kidnappings, murder) against Westerners or tourists remain relatively rare but appear to be on the rise. 2016 has seen a sharp increase in reports of sexual assault. Although the majority of these incidents involved groping, several rapes of third-country nationals were also reported. There have been reports of drinks being altered in order to incapacitate victims in bars and restaurants frequented by expatriates. For more information, please review OSAC’s Report “Shaken: The Don’ts of Alcohol Abroad.” Due to Vietnam’s laws regarding assault, there is very little a victim can do if the assault does not cause injury or property damage.
Other Areas of Concern
While the Embassy has not declared any areas off-limits, travelers should be aware that certain areas of the Central Highlands bordering Cambodia and Laos are considered politically sensitive by the government of Vietnam; these areas, however, are accessible to tourists. Foreigners must enter/exit Vietnam through a major international land/sea port and cannot cross overland into Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, or China except at designated international checkpoints.
The government restricts travel and photography in some areas, including near military facilities and sensitive border areas. Individuals should be alert for signs warning of zones where photography is restricted. Photographing military, police, or other government facilities may result in detention and questioning by authorities, as well as the confiscation of film or photography equipment. For more information, please review OSAC’s Report “Picture This: Dos and Don’ts for Photography.”
Road Safety and Road Conditions
The combination of a chaotic road system and complete disregard for traffic laws make crossing the street and driving/riding in traffic two of the most dangerous activities in Vietnam. Police are unable to control the rapidly increasing numbers of vehicles, which include cars, trucks, and motorcycles/motor scooters. The number of traffic enforcement police is insufficient to deal with the number of vehicles on the road. Additionally, poorly maintained sidewalks, inadequate traffic controls (stoplights at intersections), and the common practice of using sidewalks as a speed lane or a parking space 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 heated arguments. Drivers of cars and motor scooters alike routinely text on their cell phones while driving, further aggravating erratic driving behaviors.
By Western standards, the comparative death toll from traffic-related accidents is staggering. Although the government of Vietnam requires that all motor scooter drivers and riders wear a helmet, there are no safety standards for helmets. As a result, the vast majority of helmets are substandard and provide minimal, if any, protection. Those planning to drive/ride motor scooters are strongly urged to 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 and will be detained by police. Furthermore, the individual’s driver’s license will be confiscated for an indefinite period of time.
Public Transportation Conditions
Visitors are prohibited from renting cars; therefore, travel outside of major cities requires the use of trains, buses, or private cars. There are a number of choices with a wide range of quality and safety standards.
Trains are old, slow, and are not up to Western standards, but accidents and other safety issues are very rarely reported.
Buses and private car choices vary depending on how much individuals are willing to pay. Hotels and travel agencies are the preferred way to book private transportation services and will generally provide details on the quality and condition of the vehicles that will be provided.
It is recommended to take only metered/marked taxis while out at night, preferably from larger taxi companies (Hanoi Taxi, CP Taxi, Mai Linh Taxi). Uber and Grab Taxi are popular and generally safe to use where available. Be aware that less reputable taxi drivers have painted their vehicles to resemble more reputable taxis companies. Do not take a taxi that looks suspicious (no meter, no signage) and be aware of the frequency 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.
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. Pedestrians should walk at a steady pace, following a predictable path toward the opposite side. Do not zig zag, stop, speed up, or slow down suddenly. Motor scooter drivers will navigate around you as long as they can predict your location in the crosswalk based on your speed and path. It is absolutely imperative that adults tightly hold the hands of children near/in a crosswalk. Buses do not slow down for pedestrians in crosswalks.
Legitimate tour guides and operators must be licensed and registered. In 2016, Vietnam experienced an unusual surge in the number of tourists who died while engaged in routine tourism activities, including one fatality and numerous severe injuries resulting from a bus crash, and multiple drownings at waterfalls and beaches. Many boat tourism operators do not have basic safety and rescue equipment on their vessels.
THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED HANOI AS BEING A LOW-THREAT LOCATION FOR TERRORIST ACTIVITY DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.
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.
Civil unrest is highly discouraged by public security officials. Demonstrations, protests, and marches are permitted with a government-issued permit only. Although public security officials will periodically allow smaller, more spontaneous demonstrations to proceed, once the size of the crowd reaches a certain level, the police will typically end the protest, using force if necessary.
In 2016, pollution of coastal waters in central Vietnam by a Taiwanese chemical company resulted in the deaths of millions of fish, negatively impacting the environment, economy, and livelihoods of those areas. Subsequently, demonstrations erupted in affected areas, eventually triggering large-scale protests in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City against the Vietnamese government. The government proceeded to ban further demonstrations, although small demonstrations in Da Nang occur periodically.
In May 2014, actions by China in the East Sea (South China Sea) caused anti-Chinese fervor that turned violent for several days, with demonstrators targeting businesses believed to be Chinese-owned. The provinces of Binh Duong and Dong Nai with their dense concentration of foreign-owned industrial parks were hit particularly hard. Businesses were looted, vandalized, and set on fire, and an unconfirmed number of foreign nationals were killed in attacks and worker-led riots. Less than 10% of businesses destroyed in Binh Duong were actually owned by Chinese owners; the vast majority belonged to Taiwanese, South Korean, Japanese, Singaporean, and Hong Kong owners. Once international media coverage raised concerns that Vietnam was no longer a safe destination for foreign investment, the central government stepped in to stop demonstrations in an effort to reassure foreign investors of a safe business environment.
Proselytizing, unsanctioned religious activities, and possession of certain religious materials are illegal. U.S. citizens whose stated purpose of travel is tourism but who engaged in proselytizing or unsanctioned religious activities, such as holding Bible study groups in hotel rooms, have had their religious materials confiscated and have been detained, fined, and/or expelled from Vietnam. Religious organizations must register with the government of Vietnam in order to be considered legal. Religious activists and practitioners have reported harassment and abuse by local authorities.
Tensions between ethnic minorities in the Central Highlands provinces on the western border of Vietnam and the central government, which considers the ethnic minorities to be a national security issue, persist. In particular, the Hmong and Montagnards report harassment and persecution by authorities. However, Vietnam does not experience widespread ethnic violence, and tensions between ethnic minorities typically do not affect tourists.
Frequent storms hit the long coastal regions, and flooding affects many regions. The most frequent, devastating natural disasters include flooding, typhoons, landslides, droughts, and tornadoes. Other causes that occasionally affect parts of the country include forest fires and salt water intrusion. Rare disaster events include major earthquakes and major industrial accidents.
Vietnam is expected to be one of the most severely impacted countries due to effects of climate change. There have been strong indications that the frequency and severity of storms hitting Vietnam have worsened over the past two decades, and researchers warn that this trend is likely to continue.
Some of the important actions that can be taken to prepare for natural disasters include preparing disaster risk plans, preparing emergency plans for staff, preparing plans for moving/protecting assets, preparing contingency plans for clients/suppliers, preparing emergency communications plans/telephone trees, arrange spare equipment/supplies (petrol, batteries) for use during an event, and purchase storm/flood insurance. International businesses that have been able to resume operations rapidly after a storm event have found that suppliers and clients often have difficulty resuming operations, which can prolong recovery. Before and during a storm event, business 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 impending conditions and on possible evacuations.
Waterfalls and other nature attractions lack safety guards and warnings that are standard in the U.S.
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.
Worker safety is a concern. There have been many fatal accidents that come with a lack of training and experience for employees and a lack of first responder capabilities. In order to save money, employees and contracted companies may force employees to go beyond of their abilities and experience to accomplish a job.
In the event of a large accident, the local first responders may be overwhelmed. The local first responders may lack training and equipment to resolve an emergency situation. For instance, the local fire departments may not have a truck with a ladder that goes past the tenth floor. In a critical incident, people trapped above the tenth floor may have to wait for a helicopter or alternative means of rescue.
Economic espionage and intellectual property theft is a concern for most businesses and manufacturing industries in Vietnam. Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) laws are deficient in certain crucial aspects. Additionally, several enforcement agencies are involved in and vested with the authority to address IPR infringement issues; however, the lines of responsibility are not clear and the lack of human resources and technical knowledge results in poor enforcement at both the market and street level.
Although many of the items manufactured that infringe on patents, copyrights, and trademarks come from China, there is a vast network of organized crime groups that manufacture goods that infringe on trademarks, copyrights, and patents. A wide variety of counterfeit consumer goods, including pirated CDs and DVDs, are readily available. Court actions are lengthy and relatively costly; as a result, administrative enforcement has been the most effective approach and is recommended as the first step in dealing with infringement cases. Please consult with the local American Chamber of Commerce or the U.S. Embassy if you feel your product has been illegally copied or distributed.
Legal currency exchange may be done by banks and authorized dealers only. Local media has reported on the influx of fake currency entering from China, although the problem does not yet appear to be widespread. Foreign currency should be exchanged in authorized banks, hotels, and other legally authorized outlets, and proper receipts should be obtained for the transactions.
There is no expectation of privacy. Public security organizations have robust monitoring and surveillance systems utilizing electronic and digital methods, as well as official watchers and civilian informers. Travelers should expect that hotel rooms, telephones, fax machines, and Internet usage are monitored.
Movements and activities may be subject to surveillance by public security and police entities. The Embassy routinely receives reports that electronic devices and personal possessions/documents are accessed and searched in hotel rooms, private residences, and workplaces when not in the possession of their owners. Visitors and residents should be cautious when discussing any sensitive or proprietary information.
Personal Identity Concerns
Although acceptance of LGBT orientation has yet to receive widespread welcome in Vietnam, foreigners do not typically experience discrimination to the extent that the Vietnamese LGBT community does since the Vietnamese generally have a more open and tolerant attitude toward the behavior of foreigners.
Female travelers should be cautious if traveling alone.
Due to the legacy of the Vietnam War, general attitudes toward those with disabilities are less harsh than in other regional environments. However, poorly constructed, deteriorating or non-existent sidewalks; frequent obstructions (parked motor bikes); and chaotic traffic present a challenge to mobility, particularly for those in wheelchairs. Additionally, there are no standards or requirements for providing access to those with disabilities, and the entrances of many buildings require traversing steps. Some office and apartment buildings lack elevators.
The government of Vietnam considers some persons born in Vietnam or born to parents holding Vietnamese citizenship to be Vietnamese citizens unless Vietnamese citizenship was formally renounced with the Vietnamese government. (NOTE: becoming a U.S. citizen does NOT automatically result in the renunciation 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 are urged to enter Vietnam using their U.S. passport.
Vietnam is a transshipment and destination point for illegal narcotics, which come across 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 (drug smuggling) and has sentenced foreigners to death in recent years. Vietnam regularly sentences foreigners to life imprisonment.
Although Vietnam tends to serve as a gateway for shipping drugs, drugs are ubiquitous. Vietnamese organized crime has worked in conjunction with other organized groups to bring drugs in to the country or to distribute drugs manufactured locally. The violence associated with the drug trade has generally been pre-meditated and limited to rival gangs, but local authorities have noted a rise in the level of violence associated with those crimes (assaults, homicides, robberies). The increase in methamphetamine and intravenous drug use is a significant contributor to the increase in crime in Vietnam.
Drugs may be laced with chemicals, making their use very dangerous for tourists. Synthetic and fake drugs may contain unknown and toxic ingredients. The Embassy has had multiple reports of individuals having psychotic episodes after smoking what they thought was marijuana. Local officials acknowledge this issue and believe criminal organizations are spraying synthetic marijuana on their plants to increase their effect.
The kidnapping of foreigners for ransom is rare. More common is taxi kidnapping, in which passengers riding in illegal taxis are taken to a remote location and threatened until they pay a “ransom” to be either released or driven to their desired destination. Travelers should use only marked and metered taxis.
Police are underfunded and lack training in a number of areas. Nevertheless, police are generally very responsive and reliable in cases involving foreigners (residents/visitors), particularly for cases involving serious/violent crime. Police in cities typically have a fast response time compared to their counterparts in remote or rural areas, where road conditions and distances may delay response.
Case closure rates for serious crimes are generally high; however, for pickpocketing and other petty property crimes, case closure rates are very low given the frequency of these types of crimes and difficulty identifying perpetrators.
By law, police have the right to demand to see identity documents and individuals must comply. Always carry a copy of your passport.
The government strictly controls all forms of political speech, particularly dissent, whether on the internet, in the media, or in public arenas. Individuals engaging in public actions deemed political or critical of the government and the Communist Party are subject to arrest and detention. This includes criticism of the government’s domestic and foreign policies, the possession of political and religious materials, any unsanctioned religious activities, and proselytizing. Private conversations can lead to legal actions, and U.S. citizens have been arrested for political activities in Vietnam.
How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment
In business disputes, local police may confiscate a U.S. citizen’s passport or visa. On a few occasions, individuals have not been allowed to leave Vietnam until the dispute is resolved.
The U.S. government considers bearers of U.S. passports who enter Vietnam with a Vietnamese visa, including those of Vietnamese origin, to be U.S. citizens for the purpose of notification and access. Upon arrest or detention, Americans should identify themselves as citizens of the U.S. and provide proof of citizenship in the form of their passport or photocopy of their passport immediately to local authorities and request that they contact the U.S. Embassy.
Despite the Vienna Convention, U.S. consular officers are rarely notified in a timely manner when a U.S. citizen is arrested or detained. There have routinely been very significant delays in U.S. Consular Officers obtaining timely access to incarcerated Americans. This has been particularly true when the U.S. citizen is being held during the investigatory stage, which Vietnamese officials do not consider as part of the bilateral agreement. The investigatory stage can last up to two years depending on the nature of the crime. Americans should note that the problem of access has been particularly evident when the U.S. citizen is considered by the Vietnamese government 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 were admitted into Vietnam as a U.S. citizen with their U.S. passport, and should insist upon contact with the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi or the Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City.
While the overall 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. U.S. citizens involved in a situation where a police officer is soliciting money are advised to contact the American Citizen Services unit at the nearest Embassy/Consulate.
Crime Victim Assistance
The police emergency number is 113; however, few operators speak English. 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 emergency situations.
If involved in an alternation, 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.
American citizens can call U.S. Embassy switchboard at (+84-24-3850-5000). When the Embassy is closed, the switchboard number provides automated information for American citizens on a variety of routine issues and emergency situations.
Vietnam has an extensive public security and law enforcement regime with many different branches. The most common police and public security personnel are: traffic police (wear tan uniforms and manage traffic and enforce traffic laws); public security police (wear dark green uniforms with red epaulets and perform routine police functions, such as responding to calls and investigating crimes); and mobile police (wear black uniforms with the letters CSCD, and carry out the functions of riot police and SWAT police). There are other uniformed groups that perform quasi-police functions -- the Civil Defense Force, volunteer traffic personnel, tourist security, and private security guards -- who do not have actual legal authority.
Policing is largely done by the Ministry of Public Security. The police entities that most citizens will come in to contact with are the traffic police (cảnh sát giao thong) and the police (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. The police are in charge of security and enforcing local laws.
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 investigations, traffic and road safety, civil defense, firefighting, and disaster and emergency preparedness.
Health care infrastructure does not meet Western standards. The quality of medical care in major metropolitan areas is limited and in rural/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/remote areas may be difficult to obtain and may lack the capacity or capability to handle more serious cases. Even when adequate medical care is available in private clinics, it is rather expensive.
The emergency number for calling an ambulance is 115. Most ambulances are rudimentary and typically do not have an English speaking driver. Furthermore, they typically transport a patient to a public hospital but 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 that can transport patients to their clinics.
Although many types of over-the-counter and prescription medications are available, they may be sold under a different name and the composition of ingredients may differ. Therefore, it is advisable for travelers to bring all necessary medications with them. For more information, please refer to OSAC’s Report, “Traveling with Medications.”
Medical education does not meet U.S. standards. The Embassy generally refers its employees to private medical clinics staffed by physicians trained in the U.S., Europe, Australia, and Japan. All serious medical cases are sent to Bangkok, Singapore, or the U.S. for further treatment. Dental education also does not meet U.S. standards; however, there are a number of private clinics that may provide quality dental care. Private clinics require immediate cash payment upon receipt of services.
Contact Information for Available Medical Services
1 Dang Thai Mai Street, Hanoi
(84-4) 934-0666; Emergency: (84-4) 934-0555
Hanoi Family Medical Clinic
298-I Kim Ma Road, Hanoi
(84-4) 843-0748 / (84) (0)90-340-1919
Hanoi French Hospital
Phuong Mai Street, #1, Hanoi
(84-4) 577-1100; Emergency (84-4) 574-1111
Available Air Ambulance Services
Please refer to the Department of State’s website on insurance providers for more information on air ambulance services.
4330 East-West Highway, Suite 1000
Besthesda, MD 20814
Telephone: (240) 330-1000
3600 Horizon Blvd., Suite 300
Trevose, PA 19053
Telephone: (800) 523-8662, (215) 942-8333
Medical Wings Siam Land Flying Co., Ltd.
222 room 3602 Donmuang Airport
Bangkok, Thailand 10210
Telephone: (66) 2247-3392, (66) 2535-4735
Website: www.medicalwings.com; www.aircharterthailand.com
Pacific Flight Services (Pacific Air Ambulance)
Bldg 499 Seletar West Camp Seletar Airport
Jalan Kaya, Singapore
Telephone: (+65) 64821727
Medical insurance with medical evacuation coverage is highly recommended for travelers to Vietnam due to the poor quality of medical care in country, particularly in rural areas. Rural and provincial areas lack the ability to transport critically injured patients by helicopter to metropolitan areas; all transportation is done by road using ambulances.
Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance
Tap water is not potable. Travelers are advised to drink bottled water only. Ice at restaurants, cafes, bars, and street vendors is generally safe to consume since ice made from purified water that is delivered from factories. For more information, please refer to OSAC’s Report, “I’m Drinking What in My Water?.”
Vegetables and fruits must be treated with a disinfecting solution prior to consumption, particularly if eaten raw. In restaurants, raw lettuce and herbs consumed as part of traditional Vietnamese dishes have usually already been treated.
All routine childhood immunizations are recommended. Most travelers should also have hepatitis A and typhoid vaccines. Some travelers should also be immunized for Japanese encephalitis, hepatitis B, and rabies depending on the length of their stay, activities, and destinations.
Malaria is typically confined to 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 (Ho Chi Minh City, Nha Trang, Da Nang, Qui Nhon). 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, sleeping in well-screened rooms with a mosquito net. Zika is endemic.
The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Vietnam.
OSAC Country Council Information
The Embassy has an OSAC Country Council. You can email the OSAC Country Council for information, or to request to join the mailing list. Please contact OSAC’s East Asia Pacific team with any questions.
U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information
Embassy Address and Hours of Operation
U.S. Embassy Hanoi
7 Lang Ha Street
Hours: Mon-Fri, 0800-1700 except U.S. and Vietnam holidays
Embassy Contact Numbers
Hanoi Telephone: (024) 3850-5000 within Vietnam or (011) (84-24) 3850-5000 internationally
Consulate Ho Chi Minh City: https://vn.usembassy.gov/embassy-consulate/ho-chi-minh-city/
If you are going to reside in or visit Vietnam, please take the time to tell our Embassy about your presence in-country. By enrolling in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), we can keep you up to date with important safety and security announcements. It will also help your friends and family get in touch with you in an emergency.
Vietnam Country Information Sheet