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Vietnam Crime

The information below has been excerpted from the following: 1) the US Department of State's "International Travel" website (travel.state.gov/travel/), 2) the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade's "Smartraveller" website (www.smartraveller.gov.au), and 3) the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office's "Foreign Travel Advice" website (www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/). Additional information is available from these sources. World Trade Press annually assesses the information presented on this page.

United States: Department of State International Travel Information

Pick-pocketing and other petty crimes occur regularly. Although violent crimes such as armed robbery are still relatively rare in Vietnam, perpetrators have grown increasingly bold, and both the U.S. Consulate General and the U.S. Embassy have recently received reports of pipes, knives and razors being used in attempted robberies in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. Thieves congregate around hotels frequented by foreign tourists and business people and areas such as Hanoi’s Old Quarter and Ho Chi Minh City’s Ben Thanh Market, and assaults have been reported in outlying areas at night. Do not resist theft attempts and report them immediately to local police and to the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi or the U.S. Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City.

Motorcyclists are known to snatch bags, cameras, and other valuables from pedestrians or passengers riding in "cyclos" (pedicabs) or on the back of motorcycles. Serious injuries resulted when thieves snatched purses or bags that were strapped across the victim's body, resulting in the victim being dragged along the ground by the thief's motorcycle.

Passengers riding in cyclos (pedicabs) may be especially prone to theft of personal possessions by snatch-and-grab thieves, because they ride in a semi-reclining position that readily exposes their belongings and does not allow good visibility or movement. Some cyclo drivers have reportedly kidnapped passengers and extorted money; it may be risky to hire cyclos not associated with reputable hotels or restaurants.

The use of motorcycle taxis (known as “xe oms”) is strongly discouraged. Motorcycle taxis are unregulated and unsafe, and the helmets provided to riders offer little to no protection against injury in the case of an accident. In one instance, a U.S. citizen was sexually assaulted after hiring what was believed to be a legitimate motorcycle taxi near Ho Chi Minh City. Keep your passport and other important valuables in your hotel in a safe or another secured location at all times. You should carry at least two photocopies of your U.S. passport. Hotels are required to obtain a copy of your passport (please refer to "Special Circumstances" below), and you should carry a photocopy of your passport with you. You should immediately report the loss or theft of your U.S. passport to the local police and the U.S. Embassy or the U.S. Consulate General. You must obtain a police report from the local police office in order to apply for a replacement passport and a Vietnamese exit visa.

You should take precautions in choosing ground transportation when you arrive at the airport in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City. Some travelers reported being robbed by drivers who greeted them upon arrival with a placard showing the traveler's name. If you are expecting to be picked up, ask the company for the drivers name, phone number, and license plate number before you travel. You should use only airport taxis (currently Noi Bai taxi in Hanoi and Mai Linh or Vinasun in HCMC) or vehicles provided by hotels. Several times in the past year in Hanoi, taxi drivers detoured travelers en route from the airport to flophouses masquerading as hotels. You should be familiar with the basics of the hotel you have chosen, such as address and neighboring landmarks. This information can be found on the Internet. We have received complaints of taxi drivers overcharging fares by using rigged meters. In one case a driver locked the passenger in the cab to extort a higher fare. You should try to write down the name of the taxi company, plate number and any other identifying information in any incident so that it can be reported to the local authorities.

Some scams target tourists. Specifically, tourists have been victims of gambling scams in the Pham Ngu Lao neighborhood of Ho Chi Minh City. This scam usually starts with a friendly invitation to someone's home to meet a relative interested in visiting or studying in the U.S. While waiting for this individual, a casual game of cards will start. Victims have reported starting the game with only a small wager but losing thousands of dollars over the course of an evening. Be aware that gambling outside of licensed casinos is illegal in Vietnam.

The U.S. Embassy has also received occasional reports of incidents in which an unknown substance was used to taint drinks, leaving the victim unconscious or in a state similar to inebriation and unable to make appropriate decisions. To date, reports have included theft, but sexual assaults are also possible. Do not leave drinks or food unattended, and don't go to unfamiliar venues alone. You should also avoid purchasing liquor from street vendors, as the authenticity of the contents cannot be assured.

Recreational drugs available in Vietnam can be extremely potent. Three U.S. citizens died in 2010 from accidental overdoses of drugs. Drug suppliers will often misrepresent the substances they are selling, such as heroin for cocaine and vice versa. Penalties for possession or use of drugs of any kind are severe (please refer to the Criminal Penalties section below).

Some U.S. citizens have reported threats of death or physical injury related to personal business disputes. The U.S. Embassy and the U.S. Consulate General cannot provide personal protection services. If you do not have confidence in the ability of the local police to protect you, you may wish to depart the country as soon as possible.

Do not buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are the bootlegs illegal in the United States, if you purchase them you may also be breaking local law. 

VICTIMS OF CRIME

The local equivalents to the "911" line in Vietnam are 113 for police, 114 for fire, and 115 for ambulance.

If you or someone you know becomes the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate (see the Department of State's list of embassies and consulates ). If your passport is stolen we can help you replace it. For violent crimes such as assault and rape, we can help you find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends, and help them send you money if you need it. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime are solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if necessary.

Several U.S. citizens have reported difficulties filing police reports. The most common complaint is the length of time it takes to file. Handwritten reports must be written in English, translated into Vietnamese and, often, written again on a formal report.

Please see our information on victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.

Australia: Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Travel Advice

We advise you to exercise normal safety precautions in Vietnam. Exercise common sense and look out for suspicious behaviour as you would in Australia.

Street crime and harassment occur, especially in larger cities. Aggravated theft and assault occur, particularly in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang, Nha Trang, Sapa (particularly on the train to/from Lao Cai) and Cat Ba Island (near Ha Long Bay).

Petty theft, including bag-slashing, is also common in tourist areas, markets, on crowded trains, buses and at supermarkets. The incidence of petty theft increases in the lead up to Vietnamese and Western holiday periods.

Snatch-and-grab crimes against pedestrians by thieves on motorcycles are frequent and have sometimes resulted in injury to victims. These types of crimes can occur when crossing the street or walking along footpaths. Be aware that jewellery, handbags, phones and cameras are popular targets for criminals. Pay close attention to your personal security at all times and where possible, minimise the amount of valuables you carry.

Foreigners have been robbed and sexually assaulted after accepting spiked food and drinks, particularly at late-night establishments in major cities.

There have been reports of break-ins to hotels and private residences, even while guests are in their rooms. You should take care to ensure your valuables are secure at all times and report any theft promptly to the local police and hotel management.

Due to the prevalence of HIV/AIDS, hepatitis and other sexually transmitted diseases and infections, victims of violent crime, especially rape, are strongly encouraged to seek immediate medical assistance.

There have been reported cases of tourists becoming victims of gambling scams. Be aware of people who are overly friendly towards you and invite you back to their home. These approaches may lead to gambling scams, in which some Australians have lost thousands of dollars. Gambling may contravene local laws, which also apply to tourists. See the ‘Laws’ section for further information.

There have been reports of taxi scams involving foreigners. At airports, travellers are advised to use airport taxis, prearranged hotel transfer services or taxis from clearly marked taxi ranks with minders. Check that any person holding a placard with your name on it knows your destination. You should ensure that, if you are catching a taxi late at night, you choose a reputable and reliable company and that the taxi driver knows your destination before entering the taxi.

United Kingdom: Foreign and Commonwealth Office Foreign Travel Advice

Most visits to Vietnam are trouble free but you should take sensible precautions to protect yourself and your belongings. Petty crime occurs among crowds and in the main tourist and shopping areas.

Safeguard your belongings against pickpockets and bag-snatchers. Thieves have used razors to cut the straps or bottoms of bags. Carry a photocopy of the pages from your passport with your personal details and visa for ID and leave the original document in a safe place.

Violent attacks against tourists have been reported in towns, as well as popular tourist areas. Some tourists have been attacked while on a motorcycle taxi (xe om). Sexual assaults are rare, but you should travel with friends and take normal precautions.

There have been reports of arguments over hotel, restaurant or taxi bills turning violent or abusive. It is well worth researching places to stay before you arrive. To avoid potential disputes, make sure you are clear about the level of service you can expect to receive and any associated charges.

There have been reports of scams targeting tourists, involving fake charities, gambling and taxis.

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