The question is Hanoi safe is one that’s asked by many a traveler making for this enticing city on the edge of Indochina. One of the bucket-list draws of Vietnam, it’s a town of ramshackle bazaars, intriguing temples, and fizzing nightlife. You’ll come here to taste street-food pho and delve into the rich history of North Vietnam, all with the isles of Ha Long Bay and the mountains of Sa Pa on the doorstep.
But safety in Hanoi can be a concern. The risk of thieves, scammers, and traffic incidents can present a real danger, just as they do in many cities across the globe. Cue this guide. It’s the article you’ve been searching for if you’ve been planning a jaunt to the Vietnamese capital and have found yourself wondering…is Hanoi safe?
Whether you’re a solo female traveler concerned about going it alone in the scooter-clogged metropolis or a family thinking about a Vietnamese expedition, we’ll take a look at what you can expect on the ground. We’ve got info on how to cross the road. There’s details about dodging the scammers. Oh, and we’ll talk about the importance of travel insurance when visiting far-flung corners of the globe such as this.
Is Hanoi safe? (Our Take)
Hanoi is very safe. The city hosts a whopping 28 million visitors each year. Most manage to have a fun-filled trip to the Buddhist temples and the brutalist monuments without a single hiccup. That’s great news because this is one darn bucket-list town. We simply love its immersive feel and mix of centuries-old and 20th-century landmarks.
That’s not to say there aren’t dangers. Hanoi is generally considered one of the sam capitals of Southeast Asia (more on those later). On top of that, there are incidents of petty crime such as pickpocketing, bag-theft, and cell phone robbery. Serious crimes do occur, but they are very rare, especially against tourists. However, exercising normal common sense and precautions is always a good idea.
Scams in Hanoi
Hanoi has a bit of a rep when it comes to scams. They range from the downright sinister to the lighthearted and harmless. Most are related to transportation, so you’ll need to have your wits about you whenever it comes to hopping around the Old Quarter or whizzing from temple to temple. Here are just a few of the Hanoi scams worth having on the radar…
- The mysterious added ‘0’ – There have been reports of hawkers and rickshaw drivers attempting to add an extra zero to the end of their bill. They’ll play dumb and claim that’s the price that you agreed. Don’t give in. Keep pushing and they will usually back down. If not, call for the tourist police. To prevent this one, you can always insist on getting a price in writing.
- Fake receptionist – If you don’t recognize the person at your hotel or hostel reception desk and they ask you for some sort of cash payment, don’t oblige. There have been reports of scammers walking into establishments and posing as workers. Don’t be shy of asking for ID in these situations. A real hotelier will always be ready to prove who they are.
- The unfriendly “friend” – This is a scam that typcially happens in the Hoan Kiem Lake and Old Quarter (the main tourist areas). You’ll be approached by an overly friendly local who suggests you have a drink and food together for that real travel experience. Fast forward a few hours and you’ll have a bill for thousands of dollars to pay. These guys are in cahoots with bars in the city and
These are just a few of the scams that have some people questioning “is Hanoi safe?”. There are more but most can be avoided with a little common sense and confidence.
Traffic scams in Hanoi
Traffic scams are unquestionably the most common type of scam in Hanoi.
There are occasions where taxi drivers will purposely take a longer route, or deliberately go to the wrong hotel. We’ve even heard of cases where taxi meters have been tampered with, leading to increasingly faster rates than they usually should. One way to avoid this is to agree a fixed price before your journey. Also keep an eye on that meter as you go and be ready to stop the trip if you think something’s amiss.
You should also watch out for fake taxi drivers and motorbike taxi drivers. Oh, and be uber-careful around the airport. Getting to and from the terminals is when most travelers get ripped off. Always agree a price before getting in!
The traffic in Hanoi
We’re going to go out on a limb and say that the traffic in Hanoi isn’t quite as bad as the traffic in Ho Chi Minh City. Still, that’s not saying much, because erstwhile Saigon is the capital of crazy scooter jams! There’s even a chance that traffic accidents are the number one worry in the Vietnamese capital…
Simply getting from one side of the road to the other is a bit of an art in these parts. We’d recommend taking a very cautious approach to crossing on your first time. Watch how the locals do it. Be alert. Step out slowly and then sort of go with the flow. Oh yea, and we’d say NEVER drive a scooter here. It’s a whole different challenge to driving in rural Southeast Asia where traffic is minimal.
Natural disasters in Hanoi
Some of the most significant risks in Hanoi, yet still highly unlikely, are destructive storms and flooding. In 2017, a mega 386 people died following a natural disaster. Tropical storms and floods are the most widespread and disastrous of them. In fact, Vietnam faces roughly six to eight typhoons each year.
A natural disaster can certainly disrupt travel to Hanoi, but nothing has so far stopped tourists from visiting to any significant level. Tens of thousands of people still head to Hanoi each day, and the country is well-equipped for when incidents do occur. You can mitigate your risk of getting caught up in a typhoon by traveling outside of the storm season. That typically starts in April and ends in September.
Tropical diseases in Hanoi
One of the main things people think about when asking “is Hanoi safe?” is the risk of tropical disease. This is something you’ll need to consider all across Southeast Asia. However, Hanoi – and the rest of Vietnam to boot – has been getting better in recent years. The major risks are:
- Dengue – More than 100,000 cases of dengue fever occur in Vietnam each year. It’s a hugely debilitating condition that will ruin your trip! Symptoms include muscle pain, nausea, vomiting, and exhaustion. We even had a friend who was partly paralysed for a few days when he came down with this! Prevention is all about dodging the mozzies. Cover up at dawn and dusk. Wear DEET!
- Malaria – The days when malaria was a huge risk in Vietnam are finally passing. There are some rural areas where you’ll need to be careful. Hanoi isn’t one of them. That’s not to say there aren’t some risks. The same goes as for Dengue: Cover up at dawn and dusk, and use a strong DEET spray.
- Foodborne diseases – You should have already been vaccinated against a number of foodborne illnesses that are prevalent in Vietnam, although that’s not 100% protection. The worst of them are things like Cholera and Typhoid, but there are also many cases of the dreaded traveler belly in these parts. Cut your risk of catching them by ensuring you only drink bottled water and that all your food (especially street food) is piping hot.
Dangerous animals in Hanoi
It’s no secret that there are some pretty dangerous snakes in Vietnam. However, the chances you’ll encounter one of them in the electrifying capital of the country are slim to none. Snakes are recluse creatures by nature and always prefer to stick to the wild jungles and wetlands further out of town. Stray dogs are probably more of a worry, but they’re also not as common as in Vietnam’s rural villages and hamlets.
Hanoi travel insurance
If you’ve been tempted to hit Hanoi’s scooter-whizzing streets and incense-scented shrines, it’s a good idea to get travel insurance for the trip. Medical cover is the obvious reason for doing that. However, some policies also benefit from theft coverage, unexpected cancellation, serious incidents like assault and terrorism – the list goes on. Be sure to double check what you get in your policy before taking it out.
Top Safety Tips for Traveling to Hanoi
Although Hanoi is reasonably safe, it’s still essential to have a few smart travel tips in mind for keeping out of trouble in Hanoi.
- Do not drink the tap water – the tap water in Hanoi (or anywhere in Vietnam) is not safe to drink. Only drink bottled water or boiled water!
- Use ‘Grab’ taxi service – Grab is similar to Uber and is the most common way to travel in Hanoi. You can download the app for free via their website.
- Avoid riding a motorbike – avoid riding a motorcycle in Hanoi and other cities at all costs. Traffic accidents are a severe threat here as the traffic laws are widely ignored.
- Invest in a money belt – since the rate for petty crimes is so high, we would recommend investing in a money belt which you can wear underneath your clothing.
- Avoid suspicious money exchange stalls – when exchanging currencies, only use services from reputable companies such as a bank or other trusted providers.
- Take caution when crossing the road – make sure to look left and right before crossing the streets in Hanoi. It’s not uncommon for bikes to ride on the pavements if the traffic is heavy, so be alert at all times.
- Bargain at market stalls – most of the stall prices in Vietnam are not fixed. Don’t be afraid to bargain for a more desirable price. As a rule of thumb, we usually ask for half of the original asking price.
- Make sure your food is well cooked – this is especially true for street food. Although Vietnam is known for its delicious cuisine, sometimes the hygiene standards fall short.