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Am I Right To Be Very Cautious?

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Cardiff, United...
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Am I Right To Be Very Cautious?

I am about to set out for not only my first visit to Vietnam but my first visit to Asia, leaving in early Feb, with 2 days in Hong Kong, 2 HCMC, 3 Hanoi and 7 in Danang. I am really looking forward to it but frankly getting concerned about 'others' stories of the dangers in HCMC. We are staying in district 1, and have been warned of:

Cheating taxi drivers

Pickpockets

Assault and robbery

Advised never to wear a camera round my neck

Advised for my wife not to wear a handbag

Never carry any more money than you actually need

Etc, Etc, Etc..............................................

I suspect this type of comment comes from an absolute minority, but would be grateful of any advice especially with regards to the camera, would my best option really be a pocket camera?

I visit London regularly are the risks in HCMC any greater?

Thanks

Edited: 28 December 2013, 11:22
UK
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1. Re: Am I Right To Be Very Cautious?

Central Saigon is probably safer than some parts of London and I have never felt threatened or unsafe or lost anything to theft in the 300 and something days I have spent in Vietnam.

However, that said, average incomes in Vietnam are very low and there are many millions of people getting by on less than $10 a day. A $1000 camera is going to look very tempting to the few who are, um, tempted. If one of them grabs the strap from a motorbike, there is a risk of somebody being dragged along the street. This has happened. People have died from head injuries this way. So the risk is not just losing goods/cash, but injury or death. Worth avoiding in my book. There are plenty of people about with $1000 cameras, quite a few of them Vietnamese, who never have a problem. Be one of them if you can and do what you can to lower the risk. Losing your camera spoils your day. Dragged along the street and cracking your head spoils your holiday.

What you won't get is mugged, stabbed or robbed with violence. Snatch and grab, pickpocketed yes. So don't have things which can be snatched (cameras, bags, ...) or grabbed (don't leave valuables on sidewalk cafe tables) or pickpocketed (cash in easy access pocket).

The Vietnamese are overwhelmingly friendly and honest. Yes, they all want to turn a $ when they can, but that's the same everywhere. Very very few would think of robbing you.

Taxis: There are rogue taxis and cyclos about. Stick with genuine Vinasun or Mai Linh taxis and you will be fine. Plenty of places in town with taxi marshals where you are guaranteed an honest taxi. Use them. There's no reason to use cyclos these days.

Common sense and treat it like a part of London you don't know well and you'll be absolutely fine.

Cologne, Germany
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2. Re: Am I Right To Be Very Cautious?

Don't worry too much, Vietnam is a pretty safe place compared to many other countries. Just take the same precautions you do in big cities in Europe.

Of course don't walk around with lots of money and leave the needless stuff like jewelery and newest smartphone at home. Be careful when crossing streets and always be wary about your surroundings. Assaults are rare but bag snatching is an issue if you are careless. In my eyes the biggest danger in VN is the traffic.

I walked around HCMC many times day and night with two or three cameras and a tripod. Last time I did a lot of videos while driving around on a motorbike, never had any problems. Be extra careful in the tourist places in district 1, like Dong Khoi, Ben Tanh market and PNL quarter. Most problems happen there.

Leigh-on Sea...
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3. Re: Am I Right To Be Very Cautious?

manatdollar sums up the situation very well.

we are retired, my husband is disabled and walks with a stick. Everywhere we were met with charm and helpfulness. We spent a month in Vietnam and encountered no problems other than the famous taxi rogues.We avoided them by having our pickups arranged by our hotels, more expensive but saves the inevitable haggling and rows over cost .There are reports of jewelry snatching etc, but just leave it at home, no one dresses up in Vietnam anyway.

On most beaches I wouldn't think anything of asking a nearby person to keep an eye on my belongings whilst swimming, but I wouldn't risk doing this in Vietnam.

Hanoi, Vietnam
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4. Re: Am I Right To Be Very Cautious?

It's real easy to be in your state of mind - the net creates all kinds of images in the human brain, but as long as you know about these things, you'll be fine. I agree with the others that Vietnam is quite a safe country - more so than your own or mine (USA). All poor countries have the same problems, and my advise is to act like you belong there. Don't wear your cashmere or gold - rather your patched jeans! Engage the locals in conversation - many will help you out and they are very outgoing and wonderful people. Hope you've reserved your tours with Hanoikids and Saigonhotpot - these inquisitive kids will show you a wonderful time.

(hint - stay off the highways!)

Edited: 28 December 2013, 18:21
Ho Chi Minh City...
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5. Re: Am I Right To Be Very Cautious?

Please don't let the scare stories put you off (although I know that can be difficult at times!) I've lived in HCMC for the past 2 years and before moving out here, I'd never even visited Asia! I can safely say that I have never been victim to any of the above crimes. Obviously, this doesn't mean you shouldn't still be cautious. But honestly, HCMC is no different to any other big city, London, New York, Tokyo etc all carry the same risks. Just be sensible with your belongings, especially at night. It is a very poor country, so obviously, if you flaunt your brand new camera/smart phone, opportunist will take advantage. Taxi scams are common, but so long as you stick to the legit taxi companies (Mailinh or VinaSun), you will be fine. Just use your common sense and you will have an amazing time! I'm sure you will fall in love with HCMC, just as I have!

Los Angeles...
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6. Re: Am I Right To Be Very Cautious?

1. If you don’t have a cheap, unlocked, quad band, GSM phone, get one. Buy a local sim card as soon as you arrive for about $5. I carry a really cheap Motorola clamshell that I picked up online years ago. I think it will work anywhere in the world. I purchase enough time and visit the country often enough to keep my number active all year long. No big deal if you have to get a new sim everytime you visit.

tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g293925-i8433-k556…

The sim comes with a telephone number and usually a fair bit of talk time. It will work in all the cities you plan to visit in Vietnam.

tripadvisor.com/Travel-g293921-s605/Vietnam:…

2. Vinasun Taxi in HCM Tel: 08. 38 27 27 27 & Mai Linh Taxi in HCM Tel: 08. 38 38 38 38

3. Carry some small dong notes into Vietnam if you can (perhaps 300,000 dong in 50,000d notes), which will be more than adequate for your trip from the airport to the hotel. There are money changers at the airport but exchange rate will not be optimal. Change only what you need until you can get to a bank.

Don’t pay a taxi with a 500,000d note, only to have it returned to you as a 50,000d note that you allegedly gave the driver. Also, some notes have similar colors and they all blend in, particularly in the evening:

4. Cameras: I carry a Pacsafe Carrysafe 200 slashproof camera strap on my Olympus:

pacsafe.com/carrysafe-200-anti-theft-shoulde…

Ya, the pillion riding motorcycle thief is welcome to have a go at it or drag me and camera in tow, behind the motorbike, but I think he will lose the battle of physics. I’m 6’3” and currently weigh around 260 lbs. I also carry a Leki walking cane with a nice semi-pointed tip. Never, ever had a problem. Others may just want to just give up the camera and spare your life or serious injury.

Unless you’re a professional photographer, you might want to consider a compact, but decent quality point-and-shoot camera. There are many good compact, fixed lens cameras on the market with great optical zooms, lots of megapixels and many other features. Find a size that you can stuff into a large vest pocket or suitable slashproof bag:

dpreview.com/news/2013/12/18/have-your-say-b…

5. Women carrying handbags with shoulder straps are okay but it’s best to walk against traffic with the handbag placed between you and your wife. Strap should be worn across the chest and not the shoulder above the bag.

6. I have an inexpensive clamshell, nylon wallet that I can zip. It also has a sturdy chain that clips from the wallet to the my belt. If ever confront with an armed thief, I would naturally give up the wallet and its contents, which is usually about $20 worth of dong - no more.

7. Don’t wear lots of flashy bling (rings, watches, necklaces, etc.). Keep your Rolex at home and buy a decent $15 Timex for your trip. Better yet, use the clock on you cheap GSM phone. Don’t flash money.

8. Stay away from cyclo drivers. They’re wolves in sheep’s clothing.

9. Agree with Daawgon, for a short stay in Sai Gon, maximize your time and visit by using the free services of Saigon Hotpot:

http://saigonhotpot.vn/

If you have deep pockets, you may want to sample a daytime or evening tour with XO Tours here:

http://xotours.vn/

They are very highly rated here:

tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g293925-d2…

10. Don't attempt to rent a motorbike (assuming all liability) without a proper Vietnamese driver's license and insurance.

Assult and robbery are rare but happens, probably more in tourist areas than anywhere else. IMO, Vietnam is quite a bit safer than many western countries.

Vietnam will have seen over 7 million visitors by the end of this year. While we hear of very few major incidents of personal attack, the percentage has to be very low compared to most of the world. I love every city in Vietnam but especially Sai Gon. Like any other big city in the world, one needs to be aware of their surroundings. Good luck and Happy travels!

Richard

Manchester, United...
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7. Re: Am I Right To Be Very Cautious?

We have travelled extensivley throughout south east asia over the past 15 years, the last 9 years we have inclused our 3 children with us (from the age of 11 weeks) on holidays. We have been robbed twice in hotel rooms in Sri lanka (Held at knife point, whist pregnet in cuba- not SE asia, but in context) In June we came to HCMC. As we had 3 small chidren with us we had a ruck sack( for spair clothes, baby wipes etc) Hence I did not have a hand bag, however most people have some kind of bag. We did not carry our (big) expencive camera round HCMC or a mobile phone, just a simple compact camera. We did not "flaunt"any western welth and only carried limited funds. We used Mai ling taxi's. Vietnam is a wonderful, amazing and safe place, the locals will treat you with respect, just be aware of your surroundings like you would in your local big town. We carried what we needed for the day, which was enough money for the 5 of us, 1 cash card and the childrens essentials. When you take photos just put your camera away (which is difficult as I was snapping away at the local traffic and scooter activity!). have fun, you wll love it.

Cardiff, United...
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8. Re: Am I Right To Be Very Cautious?

Thanks all for your replies, I've decided to leave the nice camera safely locked away in the hotel room whilst exploring the city and have bought a 'bum bag' to wear from my waist for my compact camera and the small amount of cash I will be carrying. Thanks also for the recommendations, I cant wait now !!

Vancouver, B.C.
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9. Re: Am I Right To Be Very Cautious?

You don't need to leave the nice camera in the hotel. Just put it away in a bag after you're done taking pictures.

Nha Trang, Vietnam
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10. Re: Am I Right To Be Very Cautious?

What's the point of bringing a good/nice camera and leave it in the hotel room? Very few hotel rooms are that photogenic. Just wear the thing across your body and shoulder and don't wave it holding it in the "I have a silly looking live view monitor" position.