Ho Chi Minh City (formerly called Saigon) was the capital of South Vietnam until 1975. Although Hanoi has been Vietnam’s capital since then, Ho Chi Minh remains an important financial and educational hub.
If you’re interested in including Ho Chi Minh in your travel plans, you’re understandably wondering—Is Ho Chi Minh City safe?
Ho Chi Minh is an exceptionally safe city, minus the potential for scooter accidents and petty theft like pickpockets in crowded areas. It has a low crime rate, and the U.S. Department of State (DOS) doesn’t recommend any restrictions for tourists visiting there.
First Things First: A Disclaimer
I spent two weeks in Ho Chi Minh and had a positive experience safety-wise.
But the information I share here, with the exception of statistics from linked sources, is my personal opinion based on my encounters.
Everyone has unique experiences that shape their perception of any given destination.
So, take what you want from this article and leave the rest. And above all, never let your guard down just because I or anyone else tells you that a destination is safe.
Trusting your gut and following basic safety practices are vital to improving your security in any destination.
Safety in Ho Chi Minh City: What the U.S. Department of State Says
When asking, “Is Saigon safe?” my first point of reference is always the Department of State.
According to the DOS, there’s little to worry about safety-wise for people wanting to travel to Ho Chi Minh City. The DOS labels Saigon with a Level 1 for safety, meaning you should exercise normal precautions.
This Level 1 category is consistent throughout Vietnam, should you plan on visiting other destinations.
Vietnam is the first country I’ve encountered where the DOS gives a Level 1 label without any caveats. It’s impressive and should help give even the most nervous travelers some peace of mind.
For reference, below are the four categories that the DOS uses to classify a country’s safety and destinations within it.
|1||Exercise normal precautions|
|2||Exercise increased caution|
|4||Do not travel|
As long as there aren’t changes to the DOS’ travel advisory for Vietnam leading up to your trip, crime-related safety shouldn’t be an issue as long as you take standard safety precautions.
Hang tight because I’ll cover some safety precaution recommendations at the end of this post.
Safety in Saigon: What the Statistics Say
Although the DOS is one of the most official and up-to-date resources for determining Ho Chi Minh City’s current safety status, Numbeo is also a worthwhile reference.
Numbeo compiles information from people’s personal experiences and from other more official resources they find online to rank a city’s safety and crime levels.
Interestingly, Numbeo paints a slightly less safety-perfect picture than the DOS.
Most crime in Ho Chi Minh City is classified as “Moderate,” according to Numbeo. Examples of crime that fall under the moderate category include worries about being:
- Mugged or robbed
Numbeo also ranks Ho Chi Minh City as “High” for “Crime increasing in the past 3 years.”
The silver lining, despite these grim-sounding safety concerns?
Numbeo states that safety walking alone during daylight hours is “High.”
Admittedly, after spending two weeks in Ho Chi Minh wandering around day and night, I was surprised that Numbo gave it a relatively poor safety rating.
While anything can happen, from my experience, the DOS is more accurate in its recommendation to exercise normal precautions versus the more crime-ridden state that Numbo portrays.
Visiting Ho Chi Minh as a Solo Female Traveler
If you’re a woman planning a solo trip to Saigon, you’re likely wondering—Is Ho Chi Minh safe for solo female travelers?
Based on my experience, Ho Chi Minh is very safe for solo travel. I explored the city day and night by myself and never had issues with men catcalling me on the street or making me feel uncomfortable.
That includes Grab drivers, which is seemingly an ideal opportunity for inappropriate gestures if you ride on the back of a scooter. But I soon learned I didn’t have to think twice about it; Vietnamese culture gravitates towards shyness around strangers, including men and women pursuing each other.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you should throw all caution to the wind.
But the only safety thoughts that ran through my mind as I explored Ho Chi Minh City were about how safe I felt.
Safest Districts in Ho Chi Minh City
Because Ho Chi Minh is such a safe city, there aren’t district-wide dangerous areas. Sure, there are spots where things can get a bit sketchy in the wee hours of the morning, such as Bui Vien Street, where drunk tourists make easy targets to be taken advantage of if they wander into poorly lit side streets.
And if you’re in crowded areas, whether it be at markets like Ben Thanh or around the Independence Palace when people come out in droves during the evening, it’s important to keep a hand on your belongings to prevent pickpocketing.
But overall, you can expect any district in Ho Chi Minh to be sufficiently safe as long as you take standard precautions.
Below are some popular districts in Ho Chi Minh City for tourists and long-term visitors:
- District 1 (in the heart of tourist attractions)
- District 3 (a quieter area ideal for long-term stays)
- District 2 (lots of modern high rises)
I stayed on the outskirts of District 1 and often walked several miles per day around the area without worrying about running into a dangerous part of town.
Crossing the Street in Ho Chi Minh
Many people I spoke with said the traffic is worse and more dangerous in Hanoi than in Ho Chi Minh.
Traffic jams are abundant in both cities. But of the two, I felt like I was taking a bigger risk by crossing the streets in Ho Chi Minh City than in Hanoi.
Perhaps a part of this had to do with many streets in Ho Chi Minh having multiple lanes, whereas in Hanoi’s old quarter, you only have to worry about crossing one or two lanes.
Furthermore, the sidewalk isn’t a safe place to avoid traffic in Ho Chi Minh (or Hanoi, for that matter).
Many scooters turn Ho Chi Minh’s sidewalks into their personal road, weaving in between the road and sidewalks to get around cars blocking their way.
Needless to say, being a pedestrian in Ho Chi Minh comes with risk. And crossing the street can feel like an impossible task; streetlights are more of a suggestion than a hard-and-fast rule in Vietnam.
But if you choose to visit Ho Chi Minh, then pedestrian safety is a risk you’ll need to be willing to take.
Although it sounds scary, the best way to cross the street in Vietnam is by locking eyes with the dozens of people on motorbikes that barrel toward you and stepping out in front of them.
Don’t hesitate, and don’t stop walking. The scooters will part around you as if you were in a scene in the Crossing of the Red Sea.
If you hesitate, speed up, or slow down your walking, you’ll make it hard for the scooters to judge your trajectory, increasing the chances of an accident.
Scams in Ho Chi Minh
Scams aren’t a safety-related issue per se. But they’re rampant in Ho Chi Minh, and Numbeo rates Saigon as “Very High” under the category of corruption and bribery.
One of the most common scams in Ho Chi Minh City is taxi drivers overcharging. They know that most foreigners don’t know their way around and how much taxi fares should cost.
So, they may either set their taxi meters exorbitantly high or take a long way around to charge you more.
For this reason, I prefer using Grab to find a taxi driver. Grab operates like Uber, but you can choose between a car (for one or more passengers) or riding on the back of a scooter (for single passengers).
Like Uber, Grab will let you know the price in advance and charge your credit card so that you don’t have to worry about having enough Vietnamese dong on hand for your driver.
Taxi scams aside, the police also tend to take advantage of tourists.
You must have an international license to drive in Vietnam. Since many tourists don’t have this license, it’s common to get pulled over by police officers if you’re driving; they then typically demand a bribe to let you off the hook.
Tour guides and agencies are also skilled at ripping off tourists in Ho Chi Minh.
For this reason, I booked all of my tours online. Since I made my tour reservations through the international agency GetYourGuide, I had peace of mind knowing I could contact them and get a refund if there were any issues with my tours.
In contrast, had I booked in person with a tour agency, I may have been subject to additional charges to the agreed price during the tour, not seen all the sights promised, or had a guide with poor quality English.
Is Saigon Safe at Night?
Saigon is very safe at night as long as you stick to well-lit areas during hours when shops and restaurants are still open. Because of how hot Ho Chi Minh gets, the city comes to life in the evenings.
So, you’ll encounter many night markets and people wandering on the streets come nighttime.
I always felt safe wandering around Saigon alone at night. I even had my laptop with me many times when returning from working at a cafe.
That said, since the streets and markets tend to get extra crowded at night, take care of your belongings to prevent pickpockets.
Is There a Drug Problem in Ho Chi Minh City?
Drug dealers and users exist in Ho Chi Minh City. It’s especially apparent if you stroll down Bui Vien Street in the evening (also called “backpacker’s street.”
Numbeo lists Ho Chi Minh City as having “moderate” problems with people using or dealing drugs.
So, is Ho Chi Minh safe from drug problems?
No, it isn’t. But it doesn’t have highly organized drug cartels like certain other parts of the world.
As long as you don’t participate in buying or selling drugs in Ho Chi Minh, you can expect to enjoy a safe experience in that respect.
Transportation Safety in Ho Chi Minh City
You now know that being a pedestrian can be dangerous in Ho Chi Minh. Riding in a vehicle as a passenger can be dangerous, too, in terms of the potential for physical harm from an accident.
So, this section covers transportation safety from both an accident and crime perspective.
Is it safe to take a Grab in Ho Chi Minh?
Grab is one of the safest ways to get around Ho Chi Minh City. You won’t have to worry about getting scammed by a taxi company, and Grab has similar safety measures in place as Uber on the off chance a driver makes you feel uncomfortable.
Is it safe to take a street taxi in Ho Chi Minh City?
It’s quite safe to take a taxi off the street in Ho Chi Minh City. Violent crime is uncommon, giving many passengers peace of mind. That said, it’s always best practice to use an app like Grab or call a taxi rather than flagging one off the street on the off chance you encounter a pirate taxi.
You can also call a reputable taxi company to arrange your transportation. Mai Linh and Vinasun are taxi companies with good reputations.
Is it safe to drive in Ho Chi Minh?
It’s not considered very safe for the everyday tourist to drive in Ho Chi Minh City. There’s little respect for driving laws, and you have to be an aggressive driver to stand a chance of arriving at your destination.
Is it safe to take a bus in Ho Chi Minh City?
It’s very safe to take a bus in Ho Chi Minh. However, if you don’t have much time in the city, it’s often best to get around on foot or the back of a scooter (if you’re a single traveler). Otherwise, if you take a car, you’ll spend a lot of time waiting in traffic.
Air Quality in Ho Chi Minh City
As with so many cities in Southeast Asia, the air quality is very poor in Ho Chi Minh.
You can check IQAir for an up-to-date look at the current air quality and the projected quality for the upcoming days.
At the time I wrote this article, IQAir stated that the PM2.5 concentration in Ho Chi Minh City was 11 times the World Health Organization’s annual air quality guideline value. PM2.5 refers to fine particles, with any particles being two and one-half microns or less in width classifying as such.
Earthquake Safety in Ho Chi Minh
Is Ho Chi Minh City safe from earthquakes?
For the most part, yes.
There’s a low chance of earthquakes happening in Ho Chi Minh. According to Volcano Discovery, the city hasn’t had any earthquakes in the past 365 days.
Typhoons in Ho Chi Minh City
Typhoons are a near-yearly occurrence in Ho Chi Minh and Vietnam as a whole. Most typhoons happen from June 1st to November 30th.
Tropical cyclones are another natural disaster that can bring storms strong enough to shut down airports temporarily. Cyclones typically occur in Ho Chi Minh from November 1st to April 30th.
What does that mean for your trip?
A significant potential to encounter rainy weather or a flood. For this reason, it’s wise to purchase travel insurance so that you’re protected if a natural disaster interrupts your itinerary.
The good news?
Ho Chi Minh has a dry season. It lasts from around December 1st to March or April.
Is the Water Safe to Drink in Ho Chi Minh City?
Tap water isn’t safe to drink for foreign visitors to Ho Chi Minh. Even many locals don’t drink the water.
Luckily, tracking down safe drinking water in Saigon is a breeze. Street vendors sell small bottles of water. If you’d like multi-liter water jugs that will last you for days or longer, you can buy them at convenience stores or supermarkets.
How To Stay Safe in Ho Chi Minh
Below are some basic safety precautions to take in Ho Chi Minh City. As you’ll see, there’s nothing unique about them—it’s wise to practice these tips regardless of where you travel.
- Take a taxi at night
- Don’t walk around showcasing expensive electronics
- Only take out money from ATMs inside a bank
- Never carry around all your credit cards and cash
- Use a money belt
- Don’t wear flashy jewelry
- Ask locals for advice
- Leave your passport at your accommodation
- Don’t leave an unopened drink unattended
- If you’re going to get inebriated, do so with a trustworthy sober companion
Finally, trust your instinct. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.
The Bottom Line: Is Ho Chi Minh City Safe?
Ho Chi Minh is a very safe city as long as you practice basic safety precautions. Of course, there’s always some risk wherever you travel. But in the case of Ho Chi Minh, violent crime rates are low.
So, I encourage you to explore and enjoy Ho Chi Minh to the fullest. Be sure to try classic street food like pho and banh mi. A trip to the War Remnants Museum, which educates about the Vietnam War, and to the post office to mail your loved ones a letter home are both must-dos in Ho Chi Minh.
P.S.—Are you contemplating where to base yourself in Vietnam? If so, check out my comparison of Hanoi vs Ho Chi Minh City.