How to Solo Travel Vietnam: Staying Safe and Reasons to Go
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Vietnam is chaotic, rough around the edges, and sometimes challenging to travel. But that shouldn’t scare you away from tackling it solo. This Vietnam solo travel guide will have you confidently navigating the country. In return, you’ll be rewarded with some of southeast Asia’s most stunning views, exciting stories to tell, and deliciously cheap eats.
Why you should solo travel Vietnam
Google Translate is commonly used
I was surprised at how willingly locals used Google Translate in Vietnam. Everywhere else I’ve traveled, locals would never take out their phone and use the app to overcome the language barrier. I was used to pointing and gesturing as a way to communicate when I didn’t know the language.
Even when locals knew a bit of English, they would use Google Translate for more complex communication. When I was in Cat Ba with a stomach bug, I used the app to describe what was wrong to the pharmacist. Although it took some time to type things in and the translations don’t always make perfect sense, we were able to understand each other and I got the medicine I needed.
With how widespread Google Translate is, you don’t need to worry about communication.
Well-traveled backpacker route
Vietnam attracts a lot of backpackers and solo travelers because of how easy it is to travel, its cheap prices, and its gorgeous landscapes. Because of that, there’s an established route to follow. Everyone travels the country from north to south or south to north. There are also clear tourist hotspots, like Hanoi, Ha Giang, Halong Bay, Hoi An, and Ho Chi Minh, that’ll take you through the highlights of Vietnam. Whether you travel during high or low season, you’ll meet plenty of other travelers along the way.
Easy to travel around the country
There are many transportation options in Vietnam, and places along the tourist route are well connected. You can quickly hop between major cities in north, central, and south Vietnam by plane. There’s also day and night buses, trains, and boats. Within cities, motorbike taxis (mototaxis) are popular, and you can easily order one with the Grab app. Or rent your own motorbike.
Solid infrastructure for tourism
Vietnam feels like it’s been developed the right amount for tourism. It’s not as touristy as Thailand, but not as much of a wild adventure as Laos. No matter what your travel style is, you’ll be able to find it in Vietnam.
There’s fancy hotels, affordable Airbnbs, and cheap hostels. Splash out for elevated meals or eat for a few dollars on the streets. When traveling by bus or train, upgrade to a comfier seat or stick with the cheapest, most basic option.
In popular tourist destinations, many signs and menus are translated in English. And if not, you can always pull out Google Translate for help.
Wifi is offered everywhere, including most cafés. If you’ll be in Vietnam for an extended amount of time, it’s better to buy a SIM card. They’re cheap and easy to buy, with good data coverage throughout the country.
Incredibly cheap to travel
Vietnam is a very cheap place where your budget’s going to last longer compared to other places in southeast Asia, like Thailand and Indonesia. You can eat for $2 or $3 USD, and a hostel dorm bed runs as little as $1 USD per night. You might think you get what you pay for, but that isn’t always true in Vietnam. Despite such low prices, you’re gonna eat well and live pretty comfortably.
If you’re not familiar with a homestay, it’s a type of accommodation where you live with a local family. In Vietnam, homestays take all shapes and sizes. The most authentic ones truly feel like you’re living with a family. They’ll show you around and you’ll join them for meals. Other homestays are more like guesthouses and hostels, hosting multiple travelers and offering dorms and private rooms. Even though these are larger, more commercial operations, your money goes directly to supporting the family that runs the homestay.
Homestays also offer a more personal experience. When I stayed at Tam Coc Rice Fields Homestay, I chatted with the owner every day and he made us breakfast. I even got to drink with him and try his homemade happy water.
Has two of the safest cities in southeast Asia
Vietnam has two of the safest cities in southeast Asia, according to Numbeo, the world’s largest cost of living database. Within the top 20, Hanoi comes in at number five and Ho Chi Minh at number 14.
I solo traveled Vietnam for nearly two months and always felt safe, even when I was walking the streets of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh alone at night. In touristy areas, like the Old Quarter in Hanoi, there are usually people around – no matter what time it is. It feels safer when you know there are people around if something does happen. However, you should still be aware of your surroundings and avoid any dodgy-looking areas.
How to stay safe as a solo traveler in Vietnam
Is Vietnam safe for solo travelers?
Yes, Vietnam is a very safe place to visit for solo travelers. Violent crime is rare, although petty crime sometimes happens. Be aware of pickpocketing, common scams, and your surroundings. Lots of solo travelers have a great time in Vietnam without running into any problems, and you can too.
- Leave your valuables in your accommodation or carry them in a secure place on you, like in a zippered pocket on the inside of your jacket or in a crossbody bag or sling. When taking a train or bus where you’ll stow your luggage out of sight, keep your valuables in a smaller bag that stays with you for the entire ride.
- Don’t carry a lot of cash. You’ll want to take out large amounts at the ATM to minimize transaction fees, but don’t carry all that cash on you. Take a little more than what you think you’ll need and leave the rest locked up in your luggage or room. If you get pickpocketed or misplace your wallet, you won’t lose all your money.
- Always wear a helmet when riding a motorbike. Whether you’re driving or riding on the back, you should always wear a helmet. Although locals are experts at navigating on motorbikes, accidents do happen.
- Use common sense and stay away from places that give you a bad feeling. If you ever feel uncomfortable, listen to your instincts.
- Don’t wander the streets alone at night when you’re drunk. You’re the perfect target for theft. Instead, get a mototaxi to take you home. Grab is widely available throughout Vietnam, so there’s no excuse for not choosing the safer option.
- Be careful when crossing the street. Traffic in Vietnam can be crazy, especially in large cities. Some streets don’t even have crosswalks or traffic lights. Whenever you cross the street, scan the road as you cross and keep an even pace. It’s best to go with the flow. When you suddenly stop or speed up, you’ll throw off drivers and that’s when accidents happen.
How to avoid getting ripped off or scammed
- Shop around when buying things. Go to multiple vendors and see how low they’ll go. Haggling is a common practice in Vietnam and vendors expect you to haggle, so don’t worry about being rude. It’s okay to haggle with multiple vendors and then return to one when you’ve made a decision.
- Never take incense when it’s offered at a temple. When visiting a temple, you might run into a woman who offers you incense sticks. Many tourists take the sticks and are then asked for money. It’s usually a few dollars. Even though it’s not much, politely say no unless you want to pay.
- When taking a mototaxi, order it via Grab. It’s the best way to avoid getting ripped off, since the app calculates a fair price that both you and the driver can see.
- Always agree on a price before you hop into a taxi or on a mototaxi. In Vietnam, you don’t pay the driver until you’ve arrived at your destination. If you don’t agree to a price upfront, the driver can make up any amount at the end and insist that you pay it. This is why it’s important to negotiate a price upfront. And if you can’t reach an agreed price, you can simply walk away and find another driver.
- Do your research before going to a tourist attraction or taking a tour. Official tourist attractions are either free or require a ticket. Avoid paying for something that’s free or a higher ticket price by looking it up ahead of time. Also, some vendors or locals will say whatever it takes for you to buy something. For example, saying your cabin on the boat has air conditioning when it doesn’t. Know exactly what you get by looking up reviews before buying.
- When renting a motorbike, inspect it and take photos before leaving the shop. Note whether the bike has scratches, dents, or any other issues before taking off. You want to catch serious problems early, like if a brake doesn’t work, and prevent being charged for damages that you weren’t responsible for.
My experience solo traveling Vietnam as a female
I’m going to preface this by saying I’m an Asian-American female. I’m able to blend in in Vietnam and did have a few instances where locals thought I was Vietnamese.
Going into Vietnam, my biggest concern was the language barrier. There were only a few times where I had to pull out Google Translate in order to communicate. Ultimately, we were able to understand each other, so this ended up being a minor inconvenience.
During the one and a half months I was in Vietnam, I was never concerned about safety. Of course I didn’t leave my luggage unattended, kept my valuables on me at all times, always wore a helmet when riding a motorbike, and used common sense. But outside of those typical precautions, I wasn’t worried or afraid.
Petty theft does happen occasionally, but it’s not as rampant compared to places like Barcelona. Many Vietnamese people believe in karma, which is maybe why stealing isn’t a big problem. As you go around Vietnam, you’ll notice locals even keep their gates and doors open during the day.
I felt comfortable walking alone at night. In large cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh, there’s usually locals and other tourists out late at night. If you don’t want to go out alone, I recommend staying at hostels where you can find other people to join you.
Overall, Vietnam felt like a very safe place wherever I went. If you’re a female solo traveler, take your typical precautions and you should be fine. The worst that happens to most people is getting scammed or ripped off. You can prevent this by doing your research beforehand and asking your accommodation or other travelers.
More resources for solo traveling Vietnam
- 5 Best Hostels and Homestays I Stayed at in Vietnam
- 5 Complete Itineraries for Seeing North Vietnam in 7 Days
- Three-Day Ha Giang Loop Tour With Cheers Hostel: Tour Review & Recap
- Two-Day Halong Bay Cruise With Cat Ba Ventures: Tour Review & Recap