Located on the well-trodden backpacker’s trail around South East Asia, solo female travel in Vietnam is common, and the country is rated time and again as being one of the best destinations for solo travellers.
As a result, Vietnam is a good country for a relatively inexperienced traveller to visit for the sheer fact that there are so many other travellers doing the same route so there is plenty of opportunity to meet people and make new friends. If you are nervous about going it alone for the first time then Vietnam is a good call.
Though I generally felt safe in Vietnam as a solo female, there are certainly some additional considerations that you must take into account for your trip, and Vietnam can present a unique range of concerns and issues that you have not experienced elsewhere. This article will discuss concerns and considerations for travelling in Vietnam as a solo female.
Where to Go
Vietnam is an exotic, culturally rich country that offers a lot of variety. From the stunning beach towns along the coast, to the natural beauty of Ha Long bay and the undisturbed nature of Sapa. The country is small enough and easy enough to navigate that you can easily travel the length of it in just 10-14 days during your vacation time from work.
I flew into Ho Chi Minh City, visiting the Mekong Delta and travelled up the coast through the ancient port town of Hoi An, Da Nang, and on to Hanoi, Ha Long Bay and Sapa.
When to Go
Spring (February to April) and Autumn (August to October) are the best times to visit Vietnam as temperatures are warm but not too hot, and rainfall is at its lowest. I visited in June, one of the hottest months and really suffered as a result!
I knew that it was going to be hot, however it was SO hot that my skin felt constantly damp and even though I was constantly applying sunscreen, it seemed to sweat right off me. You know when you’re in the bath for too long and your hands start to go all prune like with the moisture? Well that is honestly how my skin was in Vietnam, only instead of
water making my hands pruney it was my own sweat… yeah (too much info, sorry!)
I spent most of my time in Vietnam with sunburn that made me look as though I was wearing long red gloves and socks. As you can imagine, it was all very sexy.
What to Wear
Vietnam is a relatively conservative country, and as such you won’t see an awful lot of women walking around in shorts and tank tops (regardless of how hot it gets!). In tourist areas and at the beaches you are okay to dress in this manner, however you should cover up a little more in small towns and rural areas and at least wear trousers and a t-shirt. There are plenty of markets around the major cities that sell local clothing at low prices. At temples and pagodas, you are generally expected to cover your legs and arms.
There are good and bad people everywhere that you go and for the most part, I felt pretty comfortable in Vietnam, however the country is rife with scams and incidents of petty crime. Though South East Asia is a well trodden backpacker route, people tend to take this as an assurance that the region is completely safe, but that shouldn’t mean that you should not use your common sense or exert general safety precautions.
As a solo female, I felt that I was attracting an awful lot of attention at times. In Ho Chi Minh City, I was followed by groups of men on several occasions who were following me around taking my photograph or shouting lewd things. The best way to handle this is to walk with determination and not even acknowledge their presence. If someone is really harassing you though, head to a public area or into a local store and make someone aware of what is happening.
My visit to Vietnam was trouble free, as are the experiences of many travellers every year, however sadly there is a lot of petty crime in Vietnam, particularly in Ho Chi Minh City. There are also reports of false or corrupt police that may approach you to make a bold accusation, request to see your identification, and then refuse to return it unless you pay a fee.
The best advice that I can give you for handling all of this is simply to utilise common sense. When exploring, keep both arms strapped into your backpack and consider carrying it across your front, or switching it for a fanny pack when walking through busy markets or less than desirable neighbourhoods. Don’t flash your cash or electronic, and don’t walk alone at night. It is very rare that violent crime is reported in Vietnam. More often than not, crime is restricted to an opportunist swiping of a bag from a guy speeding along on his moped so always be aware of your surroundings.
Feeling like I was constantly being tricked or ripped off certainly put something of a dampener on my Vietnam experience. There is a distinct disparity of wealth between the exotic western traveller and the local Vietnamese villages and I completely get that, but it it does become frustrating when it feels as though every establishment you enter sees you as an opportunity to make a quick buck.
As an example, I often found myself entering coffee shops or restaurants and ordering something, only to be given a significantly smaller portion than that which the locals around me were eating/drinking, or they would charge me a completely different price to that which was on the menu. When I questioned such instances, the servers would often make out as though I had ordered something different. It’s a shame as this certainly doesn’t happen in
Taxis are notorious for scamming travellers in Vietnam. Fake taxis exist, and there are many cab drivers using dodgy meters or taking passengers on roundabout routes to accrue higher fares. (More advice on avoiding taxi scams here)
Many people travelling the length of Vietnam choose to do so by scooter or motorbike, which is completely fine if you are an experienced rider; as the majority of the population get around in this manner, there are repair and service centres scattered around the country to help should you get in a mess. However it is important to note that if you are not licensed for this, then your insurance will not cover you. Not only are the road safety standards virtually non existent in Vietnam, the rental bikes are often not the highest quality and are therefore prone to issues. Not being licensed and having an accident is not only possible and foolish, it’s also very expensive.
By Sleeper Train:
Despite what you might think, Vietnamese sleeper trains are actually relatively comfortable and plenty of solo female travellers use them. You can rent a bunk bed in a communal carriage and each one has a charging point for your electricals, along with a little night light. You should expect to book the tickets in advance, especially if travelling at peak times or during public holidays, and ensure that you use a well known operator when making a purchase to avoid one of the many Vietnamese scams.
Perfect if you are short on time and only interested in stopping off at major cities and attractions, you can actually fly between Ho Chi Minh, Da Nang and Hanoi. Several Vietnamese and Asian airlines service these routes and the prices are pretty affordable. Expect disorganised chaos upon arrival at the airport so allow more time than you typically would on a domestic flight.
Crossing the Road Without Dying
Before I flew out to Vietnam, I saw another Travel Blogger’s guide to crossing the road in Ho Chi Minh City and sat perplexed thinking about how dull he must be to write such a guide. After experiencing it for myself? Ay Papi!
To cross the road in Vietnam, you need to be either:
A. Completely fearless with a deranged twinkle in your eye
B. In possession of a death wish
C. A cheeky blend of all of the above.
I’ve seen some crazy road ‘safety’ on my travels but nothing has been quite like Vietnam. I would hazard a guess that there are approximately 4,3445,65657,767 trillion scooters on the road at any given time (may be a slight exaggeration, but only slight!), families of 3 or 4 crammed onto one bike, and people balancing their wares and groceries on their heads.
The roads are multiple lanes of traffic, the traffic lights never give pedestrians the opportunity to cross as when one direction of traffic stops, that’s cue for the other to start. If you stand and wait for someone to let you go, you’ll be there until the Apocalypse.
You have to pick your moment and commit to it. I would wait for a gap in the closest lane to me, dash to a middle point and dodge the scooters. If something with a greater potential for a squishy death was on the approach – like a car or a van, I’d wait. The scooters will do their damnest to avoid you and weave around you.
If in doubt, follow the locals – I thought I was getting good at this Vietnamese road navigation business until I ventured out for Dinner in Ho Chi Minh City with my host. She hooked my arm in hers, and stepped right into the centre of the road. She turned and faced the cars, her palm outstretched to halt any that were on the approach and vehicles were stopping and swerving around us. It was like Moses parting the tides.. well, sort of.
To this day, there is somewhat of a division between the north and south of Vietnam – the north is more aligned with China and Russia, the south is more liberal.
I was in Ho Chi Minh City during Obama’s 2016 presidential visit and found the people to be so warm and full of admiration for the US and the western world, all preparing their flags and banners to welcome the American president.
It is important to remember that Vietnam is a Communist country which isn’t exactly going to impact your travels, but is something to be aware of. During my visit, there was an issue with companies dumping hazardous waste in the sea and thousands of dead fish being washed up on shore. Environmental activists were organising events via social media and to stop this “annoyance”, the government blocked all social media sites for a few weeks.
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Do you have any questions about solo female travel in Vietnam? Feel free to drop me a comment below!
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