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. The last few weeks the police have actually been roaming the streets in the nightlife district in Nha Trang and the pickpocket girls have been laying low and I havent seen them for a few weeks. Looks like police are stepping up their game, before you couldn’t see a single cop out after 10pm. Just last night there where 4 of them driving back and forth like crazy…

    1. Are you sure they were not just furniture shopping 😉 It would be great if they clamped down on all the girlies chasing wallets.

  2. Before renting a house in Vietnam I stayed for months in a 4-star hotel. one day I opened my safe in the room…. everything gone.
    Always give your cash and jewelry to the GM of the hotel! Better though, leave your jewelry home.
    Maurizio has a point; in Asia you will not get killed like it happens in Africa or South America, you just get robbed.

    Have great days, enjoy them all!


  3. yes it is true if you look for truble you can find it in most cases them cowboy bikers are a pain in the butt avoid them. if you ride set price first. as well them pedlle bikes may shure you know the price of ride or trip you are taken.

  4. Love reading your article coz traveling hanoi soon. You said, don’t show to look like a tourists. I was thinking, I am an amateur photography, I will hang my DSLR camera with me during travel… meaning this not safe ? Please advise!

  5. I learn a lot from your site but got scarred . I order train tickets to Sapa I asked 2 train tickets for deluxe cabin 2 berth/ cabin on Fanxipan express train I got the tickets and it written # of carriage (14) No of Berth 9-12 How can I be sure I got what I ordered?

  6. I am a Vietnamese and feel ashamed after reading your article. I wish our government could do something about this. I will try to talk to some high ranking people to see if they can do anything about this. Ha Le

  7. Well, in all south and central america they first kill you and after rob you….
    very sad, very beautiful countries, easy language (for me) but not safe.
    From your description it seems that Thailand is still the best place for safety, never ever had a problem or met a person robbed.
    Of course after 2AM outside some hot places anything can happen, but during the day no problem.
    So what do i have to do with my camera, not a VERY big one but not a pocketable one either?

    1. I have never had anything stolen. You will probably not have problems also… It is mostly those that are careless in the tourist areas.

  8. I loved your stories. I especially liked the part on how to be careful and not lose you things.

    Can you tell me the name of a good guide. We are a small group coming to NhaTrang on a cruise ship and the only name we can find is Mr. Dung Pham and he wants a lot of money each.

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