Saigon is an incredible city with plenty to offer, but as with any big city, it has it’s own fair share of dangers. Truth be told, Saigon (and Vietnam in general) is a pretty safe place, especially when you compare it to other places with similar sized populations. However, it is always best to err on the side of caution, be vigilant, and take some basic precautions in order to avoid frustration, anger, and panic. Given some recent events, as well as past situations that have affected females in Vietnam), I wanted to share here a few safety tips for women new to Vietnam, from a Female Expat who has been here for a while.
READ here for an Open Letter about Female Safety in VietnamFemale Safety In Vietnam – written by a female expat in HCMC
As mentioned above, Vietnam is a very safe country, and Saigon is generally relatively trouble-free. It’s a great place to visit, stay or live! With that said, it’s also a developing country and you’ll have to contend with the usual problems that come with that. You’ve got regular annoyances that affects everyone. Things like insane traffic, infrastructure issues, power outages, water shortages and flooding during the rainy season. And of course, there is always the possibility of crime (something that happens, no matter where you are in the world).
I’ve been living in Asia for more than a few years, and have seen many safety concerns from single travelers, and newbie expats – almost always from other ladies. Thankfully, the type of crime that usually happens here is non-violent. You will hear a lot of warnings about pick-pockets, bag snatchers, and people on bikes grabbing valuables right off your hands. Ok, maybe that last one can still leave you a bit traumatized, but this list will focus on these types of security issues and give you some tips on how to better prevent them.
Safety Tips for Women To Keep in Mind
- Be Aware – As a woman travelling or living alone in Saigon, it’s important to be aware of your surroundings at all times. This means being aware of not only your physical surroundings, but also the people around you. If you feel like something isn’t right, or someone is making you feel uncomfortable, it’s best to trust your instincts and remove yourself from the situation. This could be at a bar, a restaurant, but most particularly, outside (where it’s best to just leave the situation as quickly as possible).
- When Walking – Look over your shoulder often to put off thieves, and have your bag zipped up/closed and in front of you. I also recommend avoiding quiet side streets or deserted areas, if possible. Sometimes, just looking behind is enough to deter a potential bag snatcher. Do not assume safety in pedestrian areas, they will walk up slow, snatch and run then jump on a getaway bike. Good pickpockets will be able to blend in and look like any other person on the street before you even know your wallet has gone missing.
- Bag Tips – Avoid carrying clutch bags and purses. If possible, use a bag with a strong strap. And if you do carry a shoulder bag, make sure it’s not hanging down loose. It has to be noted, however, that a lot of women have been dragged and hurt because of this. Another way to protect yourself would be to make sure bag is on the shoulder away from the road, the strap should be short and tight against your body, and then hold the bag under your arm with both hands. No matter how much you love that dress or top, try to wear a light cardigan over it, as it makes grabbing the bag or the strap a lot more difficult.
- When Riding a Bike – Unfortunately, bag snatching is also common when you’re on a bike. This just happened to a friend of mine. Her bag was snatched right off her lap while she was stopped at a traffic light. Always hold it firmly, especially when stopped. Again, try to wear a light jacket over your strap/bag. If taking a Grab, share your grab link with a friend. ALWAYS check to make sure the plates match. NEVER take our wallet out to pay while you’re standing in the middle of the road. It will be very easy to snatch away your wallet when in the open. When driving, put your bag inside the boot of your bike.
- When Standing – NEVER use your phone next to the street. We’ll never know just how many phones have been taken out of people’s hands, but it seems like a regular occurrence. Even if you’re on a curb or sidewalk, people on motorbikes can easily reach over and grab your phone right out of your hand. The same goes for standing next to a bike. If you absolutely have to use your phone, step onto the sidewalk and hold your phone away from traffic.
- After 9PM – Safety isn’t just for theft, and snatching. Safety will also mean avoiding traffic accidents. Drunk driving is unfortunately quite common in Vietnam. 9PM seems to be the magic moment when people come home from happy hour. Tipsy drivers don’t make for safe drivers. Please just do not drive after drinking. Even if you think “it’s just Thao Dien”, or, “it’s just Tay Ho“, you can never really tell what state other people will be in.
- If You’re Grabbed – Try not to panic. It won’t be easy but try to remain as calm as possible. If someone does manage to grab your bag or phone, do not try to fight back. Just let go. Your safety is more important than any material item. Besides this, thieves often don’t work alone. Even if you did manage to stop the initial snatch, there’s a good chance you’ll be outnumbered and could get seriously hurt in the process.
At the End of the Day – If you do happen to fall victim to theft and/or assault, go to a police station and report it. Traffic cameras and neighborhood CCTV systems are also often available, and it’s good to report these things. Even if you personally don’t get your stuff back, as soon as reports start piling up, the police will start to crack down and make your area safer. It worked in Thao Dien where women (usually foreign, but locals as well) were getting harassed. It happened in Hanoi, where teenagers were going around groping women. So please, report any and all incidents to the police.
Let me repeat this – Vietnam is still a very safe country, for it’s size and level of economic development. I wouldn’t have lived here this long if I didn’t feel safe here. We all just need to be bit more aware of our surroundings and find ways to minimize risks, especially as women.
So those are some basic safety tips for women new to Saigon. I hope you found them helpful. Do you have any other tips to add? Feel free to share in the comments! Stay safe out there!