Do not be a Victim of petty theft!

Raining in the Mekong

Three times this week I have had to deal with emergencies and I am getting tired!! This blog will be dedicated to informing you about what and not to do when enjoying a holiday in Vietnam. The last thing I want is for you to become a victim of some kind of crime. A person must always keep in mind that Vietnam, Cambodia, and other countries are filled with people that cast an envious eye to us because of the wealth we have. Mostly they are good people and would never think of stealing from you, however, there are many very poor people that are always looking to make money by any means. They have no scruples or second thoughts about the consequences of their actions. It is a simple logic of survival and that is all. If a person can bring income into the family and help, regardless of how, it is help to the whole. Sometimes parents will suspect that a child is up to no good, but is overlooked because of the importance of generating the extra income. OK…. Now on with the security lecture!

Vietnam is a very safe country to travel in. The government wants the money that a tourist brings into the country and they have made it very clear to the people that a foreigner travelling in Vietnam is to be protected. I know this it true. The foreigner’s welfare is almost a non issue here. No one will kidnap you, or physically mug you, or physically abuse you. In fact, they will go out of their way to look after you. I cannot tell you the number of times I have been in extremely remote locations and the primary concern of the locals was to try to direct me to what they assumed I was looking for. Again…. Vietnam is a very safe country to travel!!  It is not as bad as you will read in a travel guide. Guides have to cover their buts, so will always write about the worst case scenario. Believe me it is not that bad. There are rare occasions that a pro might get a persons wallet but not often.

Petty theft is what it is all about here. If a person can make a dollar by exploiting an opportunity here, it will happen. A classic example is the drive by snatch. A person wearing a fanny pack (sorry but that is what it is called in my world), long strapped purses, or single strapped shoulder bags, are instant identifiable victims. How could you look more like a tourist by clutching some travel accessory that is obvious? I have witnessed first hand a motorcycle exiting an ally with two passengers adept with a slicing blade to relieve a person of their belongings. It is rare for this to happen, but the more obvious you are the more the chance that you will become a target. Here are a few basic rules that if you follow…… you will not become a victim.

  1. Always keep in mind that wherever the tour books advise you to go is also where almost all of the criminal element will be. Girls, pick pockets, scammers…. They will all be there. I would love t tell all of my customers to avoid those places, but because of the advice of the guides….. The fun and people they may want to have is there. So please people!! If you leave these places late at night, be smart and just walk straight from the door to a taxi to go home. If you decide to just walk, there is a chance you will become a victim. Do not let the beautiful girls outside touch you, or buy drugs from the motorcycle cowboy, or accept invitations to card games etc.
  2. If you are going for a swim on the beach, DO NOT!! Leave your bags or even clothing unattended. Remember that people here are poor and snatch and grabs are an easy way to make a buck. The majority of thefts on the beech is done by young boys. Only last night I had a group of guests at 2:00 am enjoying a late night swim. When they returned to gather their clothing…… it was gone. There may be a tale or two told around here abut 4 foreigners running across the road in their underwear.
  3. There are some very trustworthy people here. If you are going for a swim and have to leave something on the beach,,,, Find an adult, preferably one of the motorcycle cowboys who look so mean….. and then point at your bag and your eyes. They will understand and the protection of your bag will become a face issue,,,,,, security assured. Wander off without this acceptance even with a family beside your positions will do you no good. Looking the other way is a normal part of life here.
  4. Do not look like a victim. Do not use obvious money carrying devices such as fanny packs or even purses. Leave your passports with the hotel and just carry some cash……. Nothing else…. Let the hotel look after everything. Believe me that it is in their best interest for you to be secure… after all… they also want to be secure.
  5. In the main tourist areas if you are sitting on a bench reading your travel guide about where to visit next, keep your belongings on your lap or attached to you. DO NOT!! Just put them down on the bench next to you. It is a common mistake that ends with a young person walking up from behind, grabbing the purse, and off on the back of a motorcycle he goes. It happens in mere seconds.


Some more random Mekong photos.

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Tour designer and Guide specializing in off the beaten track tours of Vietnam

28 thoughts on “Do not be a Victim of petty theft!

  1. Your blog is the best! I am really enjoying the reading. I will be visiting and touring VN for 7 weeks in January and February. What is the best way to handle money safely? That is be able to pay for everything but not be carrying large sums of cash. I am hoping to travel buses, trains taxis bike and walking. Some of the time I will be with in-laws.

    1. Bring what you need to pay for booked tours/expenses and then simply use your ATM card. unfortunately with drawls are limited to 2 or 3 million a transaction but even with the bank charges, It is still the easiest way to get money. If you want to carry cash…… no problem. A little common sense goes a long way. It is not nearly as bad here as you might read on the internet. Most of that is written from a tourists perception.

  2. great article, i can vouch for Vietnam being a very safe place to visit for all ages, you just need to take care,, just as you would in your home town.

  3. Hi,

    you seem to know Nha Trang very well.
    Do you happen to know an apartment to rent from January 28,2013 to March 26, 2013.

    No luxury, about 450-600 USD per month. Welan is needed!

    thanks in advance

    Jorma Tallgren, Finland

    1. 400-600 dollars a month is Luxury here. No Problem, simply book a hotel for a few nights and have one of the many local expats give you suggestions, and if you want away from the tourist area, come and pay me a visit.

  4. Owee,

    All good recommendations to consider from time to time, as some of us tend to become complacent with our surroundings. Thanks for your information.


  5. @Maurizio etc. what you say is true about Asia except in Thailand. A recent high-profile bag snatching attempt just went wrong in Phuket when an Australian woman was stabbed and killed by two local men that wanted to steal her handbag in order to pay for a $9 restaurant meal.

    Of course, such things can happen anywhere, but Vietnam is a communist country and thus the government is more concerned with security and it’s image than freer countries like Thailand are. Thus, despite poor infrastructure and widespread poverty, Vietnam does feel safer than Thailand, at least from a personal security standpoint.

  6. Hello I am travelling to Vietnam and will be arriving in Nha Trang 4th July can you please recommend some nice reasonable priced restaurants near Sunrise Resort, I will be there for 3 nights also would love to hear about some local tours ? thanks

  7. Whoopsie, just got my stolen at the market in Meo Vac (2 days ago). Normally i keep my wallet in my frontpocket, but it was very early (6:00) and clearly i wasn’t awake yet. I lost some 300K VND, 10 USD and my driverslicence. I left my creditcards and important stuff in the hotel, so the loss was small.

    Two boys (10yrs) in traditional black clothing pushed me from behind. I immediatly knew what was happening, yet the boys were too fast. I hope they buy some decent supplies for their family, rather then spend it on candy.

    As for me, i’ve learned a lesson at a small fee and travelled happy and carefull further down south.

  8. Hi Owee,
    Your blogs are so useful! Three of us are coming in two weeks from Australia and were wondering if we should bring cash and visa debit cards, or just lump sums of cash? We’d probably bring about 1000 each if we were to not bring cards…

    1. Thanks for that
      I would bring both. Many ATM’s only dispense 2000000 ( 100 dollars) at a time and Australian banks seem to have such high bank fees. Perhaps bring what you think your basic holiday would cost and top it up with ATM witdrawels if you run short. Do not keep both in the same place. If you lose one, you will still have the other. Bring Aussi large clean untorn bills. do not bother converting to US

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