Travel safe in Saigon

14 Aug

Some useful tips for safe traveling in Saigon from VOLATYLE

It’s likely that Brad and Angel haven’t read this post.

photo: internet

Last night, we were walking back home from work, we passed a group of five tourists, probably out for a rambling walk in the city after dark. The usual characteristic chaos of Saigon had wound up for the day. Shutters had been downed, and gates fastened. There was little activity on the streets.. a couple of motorbikes, security guards playing traditional Vietnamese board games in preparation of a long night ahead.

It was 9.45 p.m. Pratik and I were on Ton That Tung Street, going towards Pham Ngu Lao; the tourists, probably in their early twenties, smiled as they walked past in the opposite direction.

Seconds later, there was a shout, and we heard someone flying past us. One of the boys was running frantically after a speeding motorbike.

Having lived in Saigon long enough, I knew the motorbike thieves were on the prowl.

While the athletic of the five ran after the thieves, we turned around to see the rest of the group looking absolutely stunned.

The thieves had snatched a shoulder bag off one of the girls. Thankfully, she had emptied the purse of everything but her iPhone. She was too shocked to say much, but said she was so glad she had taken her passport out of the bag before leaving the guesthouse.

Every few days, we hear of stories of tourists getting mugged in the city, mostly in District 1 in the backpacker’s area. While most people I know in Saigon have been robbed at some point of time – of phones, money, pendants, MP3 players, you-name-it, it’s so easy to stay safe here too.

1. Wear a small backpack. Put everything in it. I’ve been using a raggedy backpack (bought for $4 on Bui Vien Street) for a year and half now. It holds everything, is light, and keeps my hands free for Taekwondo moves if need be. Wearing bags cross-shoulder isn’t good enough. A friend got dragged face-down, 200 meters before the thieves let go. She kept her bag, but was bruised all over. It’s not worth it.

2. Put your jewellery away. The motorbike thieves would do anything for a quick buck. Even if it is a funky pendant bought in a dollar store, the thieves are gonna take a chance and snatch it off your neck. In a city of people becoming increasingly careful with their bags, this seems to be the latest craze among motorbike thieves. My TA had a $3 pendant snatched off her, and a colleague’s student lost a solitaire.

While I’ve never heard of earrings being snatched, I just don’t take a chance. The thought of bleeding earlobes is enough to deter me.

Turn your ring inwards on your finger, so the lovely solitaire doesn’t attract unwanted attention. A friend’s wedding band went missing after a prostitute grabbed his hand on the streets. The friend noticed only when he returned home.

3. Wear a money belt. All along Bui Vien and Pham, one can buy these for as little as $3-4. Wearing them under your t-shirt is the best way to keep your money, phone and passport away from lurking thieves’ eyes.

4. Don’t flash your flashy gadgets. Not on the streets of Vietnam. If you get a call while you’re on a bike, or walking on the sidewalk (what little there is), stop, get as far away from the street as you can, and then answer the call. Hold the phone in the ear away from the motorbikes.

5. Get a taxi after dark. Once the streets start emptying, its that much easier for motorbike thieves to spot their prey and get away without being noticed. Mai Linh and Vinasun taxis in Ho Chi Minh City are the safest ones. They’re less likely to rip you off and cheaper than most others. Be careful of fake Mai Linhs and Vinasuns… there are plenty of illegals M-Linhs, VSuns, Vinataxis on the streets. Xeoms go for about VND 10-15,000 for every two kilometers.

6. Wallets in front pockets. Keep your back pockets empty, especially in the backpacker’s area – Pham Ngu Lao. If your trousers/jeans/shorts are loose, there’s a good chance you’ll never feel your wallet or phone getting picked. Best to keep things in a backpack.


Saigonstay – All the best a local friend can give you!

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Posted by on August 14, 2011 in Living in Saigon


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