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Travel Security Advice for Vietnam

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vietnam_mapVietnam_Overview


COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:

Vietnam is a developing, mainly agrarian country in the process of moving from a centrally planned to a market economy. Political control rests in the Communist Party. Tourist facilities can be basic in rural areas, but are increasingly well established in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and some beach and mountain resorts. Read the Department of State Background Notes on Vietnam for additional information.



REGISTRATION:

U.S. citizens living or traveling in Vietnam are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate at the Department of State’s travel registration page in order to obtain updated information on local travel and security. U.S. citizens without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. Registration is important; it allows the State Department to assist U.S. citizens in an emergency.



ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS:

A valid passport and Vietnamese visa or visa exemption document are required. A visa or visa exemption document must be obtained from a Vietnamese Embassy or Consulate prior to traveling to Vietnam; entry visas are not available upon arrival. Americans arriving without an appropriate Vietnamese visa or exemption document will not be permitted to enter, and will be subject to immediate deportation. Vietnamese visas are usually valid for only one entry. Persons planning to leave Vietnam and re-enter from another country should be sure to obtain a visa allowing multiple entries. U.S. citizens wishing to travel to Laos by a land route should obtain the type of Vietnamese visa that adheres to the passport. Detachable visas are removed by Vietnamese immigration authorities upon departure, thereby eliminating any documentation of leaving Vietnam, which is required by Laos immigration for entry. This situation can result in the traveler being returned to Vietnam.

Even while in possession of a valid visa, some travelers have been refused entry to Vietnam. U.S. citizens are cautioned that Vietnamese immigration regulations require foreigners entering Vietnam to undertake only the activity for which their visas were issued. A change in the purpose of your visit requires permission in advance from the appropriate Vietnamese authority. An American whose U.S. passport is lost or stolen in Vietnam must obtain both a replacement passport and a replacement Vietnamese visa. The U.S. Embassy and Consulate General can issue limited validity emergency replacement passports in as little as one day, but the Vietnamese government requires three to five working days, not to include the day of application, to issue a replacement visa. Neither the U.S. Embassy nor the Consulate General can expedite replacement Vietnamese visas.

Current information on visa and entry requirements may be obtained from the Vietnamese Embassy in Washington DC, 1233 20th Street NW, Suite 400, Washington, DC 20036, tel: 202-861-0737, fax: 202-861-0917, the Vietnamese Consulate General, 1700 California Street - Suite 430, San Francisco, CA 94109, tel: (415) 922-1707, fax: 415-922-1848, or from the nearest Vietnamese embassy or consulate overseas.
The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Vietnam.

Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our website. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information page.



THREATS TO SAFETY AND SECURITY:

Official U.S. personnel and tourists are sometimes not authorized to travel to certain areas of Vietnam deemed sensitive by the Government of Vietnam. These travel limitations may hinder the ability of the U.S. Government to provide assistance to private U.S. citizens in those areas.

U.S. citizens have been detained after traveling in areas close to the Vietnamese borders with China, Cambodia and Laos. These areas are not always marked, and there are no warnings about prohibited travel. Travelers should avoid such areas unless written permission is obtained in advance from local authorities.

Large gatherings, such as those forming at the scene of traffic accidents, can become violent and should be avoided.
For the latest security information, U.S. citizens traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State's
Bureau of Consular Affairs' website,

Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free within the U.S. and Canada, or by calling a regular toll line, 1-202-501-4444, from other countries. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas. For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s extensive tips and advice on traveling safely abroad.



CRIME:

Cities in Vietnam have the crime problems typical of many other large cities throughout the world. Pick-pocketing and other petty crimes occur regularly. Although violent crimes such as armed robbery are still relatively rare in Vietnam, perpetrators have grown increasingly bold, and the U.S. Consulate General has received recent reports of knives and razors being used in attempted robberies in Ho Chi Minh City. Thieves congregate around hotels frequented by foreign tourists and business people, and assaults have been reported in outlying areas. The evolving nature of incidents warrants caution on the part of the U.S. traveler. Travelers are advised not to resist theft attempts, and to report them both to police and to the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi or the U.S. Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City.

Motorcyclists are known to snatch bags, cameras and other valuables from pedestrians or passengers riding in "cyclos" (pedicabs) or riding on the back of rented motorcycles. Serious injuries have resulted when thieves snatched purses or bags that were strapped across their victims' bodies, resulting in the victim being dragged along the ground by the thief's motorcycle.

Passengers riding in cyclos (pedicabs) may be especially prone to thefts of personal possessions by snatch-and-grab thieves, because they ride in a semi-reclining position that readily exposes their belongings and does not allow good visibility or movement. As some cyclo drivers have reportedly kidnapped passengers and extorted money, it may be risky to hire cyclos not associated with reputable hotels or restaurants.

Travelers are strongly advised to keep passports and other important valuables in hotel safes or other secure locations. Travelers are advised to carry a photocopy of their passport with them when going out. The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the U.S. Embassy or the U.S. Consulate General. U.S. citizens must obtain a police report from the local police office in order to apply for a replacement passport and a Vietnamese exit visa.

Travelers should take precautions in choosing ground transportation upon arrival at the airports in Hanoi and HCMC. Some travelers have reported being robbed by drivers who had greeted them upon arrival with a placard showing the traveler’s name. If one is expecting to be picked up, ensure that the driver truly knows who they are picking up and where they are taking them. It is best to stick with only airport taxis or vehicles provided by hotels. Several times in the past year in Hanoi, people have been extorted by taxi drivers who took them from the airport to flophouses masquerading as hotels. Travelers should be familiar with the hotel they have chosen.

There have been occasional reports of incidents in which an unknown substance was used to taint drinks, leaving the victim susceptible to further criminal acts. Travelers are advised to avoid leaving drinks or food unattended and to avoid going to unfamiliar venues alone. Travelers should also avoid purchasing liquor from street vendors as the quality of the contents cannot be assured.

Recreational drugs available in Vietnam can be extremely potent, and more than one American has died of an accidental overdose of drugs. Penalties for possession of drugs of any kind are severe (please refer to the Criminal Penalties section below).

Some U.S. citizens have reported threats of death or physical injury related to personal business disputes. The U.S. Embassy and the U.S. Consulate General do not provide personal protection services. U.S. citizens who do not have confidence in the ability of the local police to protect them may wish to depart the country expeditiously.

In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available. Transactions involving such products may be illegal under local law. In addition, bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines. The Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Division in the U.S. Department of Justice has more information on this serious problem.



VICTIMS OF CRIME:

If you are the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate (see end of this sheet or see the Department of State’s list of embassies and consulates). This includes the loss or theft of a U.S. passport. The embassy/consulate staff can, for example, help you find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds may be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime are solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

In Vietnam, the local equivalents to the “911” line are 113 for police, 114 for Fire, and 115 for Ambulance.

Please see our information on victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.



CRIMINAL PENALTIES:

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.



SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:

Hotels: Hotels in Vietnam require that foreigners present their passports (and visas, if issued separately) upon check-in so that their stay can be registered with local police. Therefore, U.S. citizens should be sure to carry these documents with them when changing lodging. Every guest in a hotel room must be registered and foreigners are generally not allowed to share accommodations with Vietnamese nationals.

Currency: Foreign currency (including cash and travelers’ checks) in excess of US$7,000, cash exceeding Vietnamese Dong (VND) 15,000,000, and gold exceeding 300 grams must be declared at customs upon arrival and departure. There is no limitation on either the export or import of U.S. dollars or other foreign currency by U.S. citizens, provided that all currency in excess of US$7,000 (or its equivalent in other foreign currencies) or in excess of VND 15,000,000 in cash is declared upon arrival and departure, and is supported by appropriate documentation. If excess cash is not declared, it can be confiscated at the port of entry/exit and the passenger may be arrested and/or fined.

Exports: Vietnamese law prohibits the export of antiques, but the laws on the subject are vague and unevenly enforced. Antique objects are subject to inspection and seizure by customs authorities with no compensation made to owners/travelers. The determination of what is an "antique" can be arbitrary. Purchasers of non-antique items of value should retain receipts and confirmation from shop owners and/or the Ministry of Culture and the Customs Department to prevent seizure upon departure.

Imports: Vietnamese government authorities have seized documents, audio and video tapes, compact discs, literature, and personal letters they deem to be pornographic or political in nature, or intended for religious or political proselytizing. Individuals arriving at airports with videotapes or materials considered to be pornographic have been detained and heavily fined (up to U.S. $2,000 for one videotape). It is illegal to import weapons, ammunition, explosives, military equipment and tools, narcotics, drugs, toxic chemicals, pornographic and subversive materials, firecrackers, children's toys that have "negative effects on personality development, social order and security," or cigarettes in excess of the stipulated allowance.

Speech: The Government of Vietnam maintains strict control over all forms of political speech, particularly dissent. Persons -- both Vietnamese and visiting foreigners -- engaging in public actions that the Government of Vietnam determines to be political in nature can be subject to arrest and detention. Even private conversations can lead to legal actions. U.S. citizens have been detained and arrested for political activities (including criticizing the government or its domestic/foreign policies, or advocating alternatives to Communist Party rule), possession of political material, or non-sanctioned religious activities (including proselytizing). U.S. citizens whose stated purpose of travel was tourism, but who engaged in religious proselytizing have had religious materials confiscated and have been expelled from Vietnam. Sponsors of small, informal religious gatherings such as Bible-study groups in hotel rooms, have been detained, fined and expelled, although this has become much less common due to significant improvements in religious freedom.

Association with Groups: Persons whom the Government of Vietnam perceives to be associated with dissident political groups may be denied entry to Vietnam or prevented from departing Vietnam after a visit. In a number of cases, the plane tickets and personal property of such individuals have been confiscated and the individuals forced to spend extended periods in Vietnam at their own expense while undergoing extensive police interrogation. In addition, Vietnamese security personnel may place foreign visitors under surveillance. Hotel rooms, telephone conversations, fax transmissions, and e-mail communications may be monitored, and personal possessions in hotel rooms may be searched.

Local security officials have called in some U.S. citizens of Vietnamese origin for "discussions" not related to any suspected or alleged violation of law. Occasionally these “discussions” have resulted in the traveler being detained for several days before being allowed to depart Vietnam.

Photography: Taking photographs of anything that could be perceived as being of military or security interest may result in problems such as questioning by authorities, being assessed a fine, and several days delay in travel. Tourists should be cautious when traveling near military bases and avoid photographing in these areas.

Property: Foreigners are generally not allowed to purchase real property in Vietnam. Because Vietnamese laws governing real estate differ substantially from those in the United States, U.S. citizens may wish to consult with competent legal counsel before entering into any transaction. U.S. citizens should exercise extreme caution if entering into any transaction through a third-party.

Disputes: The Vietnamese government has occasionally seized the passports and blocked the departure of foreigners involved in commercial disputes. The U.S. Embassy or Consulate General may issue a new passport to a U.S. citizen in such a situation, but the Vietnamese exit ban could remain in effect, preventing departure.

Notification and Access: A 1994 agreement between the United States and Vietnam provides for immediate notification of and reciprocal access within 96 hours to each other's detained citizens. Bearers of U.S. passports, who enter Vietnam with a Vietnamese visa, including those of Vietnamese origin, are regarded as U.S. citizens by the U.S. Government for purposes of notification and access. Therefore, U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry photocopies of passport data and photo pages with them at all times so that, if questioned by Vietnamese officials, proof of U.S. citizenship is readily available.

Despite the 1994 agreement, U.S. consular officers in Vietnam are rarely notified in a timely manner when a U.S. citizen is arrested or detained. There have also generally been very significant delays in U.S. consular officers obtaining access to incarcerated U.S. citizens. This has been particularly true when the U.S. citizen is being held during the investigatory stage that Vietnamese officials do not consider as covered by the bilateral agreement. The investigatory stage can last up to one year, and often proceeds without the formal filing of any charges. Americans should note that the problem of access has been particularly evident when the U.S. citizen is considered by the Vietnamese government to be a citizen of Vietnam, irrespective of proof of U.S. citizenship. According to the 1994 agreement, U.S. citizens, even dual citizens, have the right to consular access if they were admitted into Vietnam as a U.S. citizen with their U.S. passport, and should insist upon contact with the U.S. Embassy or the U.S. Consulate General.

Civil Procedures: Civil procedures in Vietnam, such as marriage, divorce, documenting the birth of a child, and issuance of death certificates, are highly bureaucratic, painstakingly slow, and often require chain authentication. Please contact the Vietnamese Embassy in Washington, DC or the Vietnamese Consulate General in San Francisco concerning documentary requirements for these services.



MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:

Medical facilities in Vietnam do not meet international standards and frequently lack medicines and supplies. Medical personnel in Vietnam, particularly outside Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, may speak little or no English. Doctors and hospitals expect immediate cash payment for health services. International health clinics in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City can provide acceptable care for minor illnesses and injuries, but more serious problems will often require medical evacuation to Bangkok or Singapore. Although many medications can be purchased at pharmacies without having a prescription, some common U.S. medications are not available in Vietnam. Travelers should bring adequate supplies of medications for the duration of their stay in Vietnam. Travelers may obtain lists of local English-speaking physicians from the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi or the United States Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City. Travelers are reminded that neither office may recommend specific medical practitioners or hospitals. Emergency medical response services are generally unresponsive, unreliable, or completely unavailable.

Travelers should be cautious about drinking non-bottled water and about using ice cubes in drinks. Travelers may wish to drink only bottled or canned beverages, or beverages that have been boiled (such as hot tea and coffee).

Since December of 2007, Hanoi and provinces in northern Vietnam have seen an episodic resurgence of severe acute diarrhea known to be cholera. For more information on cholera, please visit CDC’s website.

Travelers to Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries affected by avian influenza are cautioned to avoid poultry farms, contact with animals in live food markets, and any surfaces that appear to be contaminated with feces from poultry or other animals. Read more information about Avian Flu .

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC website.

Tuberculosis is an increasingly serious health concern in Vietnam. For further information, please consult the CDC's information on TB.



MEDICAL INSURANCE:

The Department of State strongly urges U.S. citizens to consult their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to determine whether the policy applies overseas and whether it covers emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. For more information, please see our medical insurance overseas page.



TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS:

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Vietnam is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Traffic in Vietnam is chaotic. Traffic accidents occur frequently and the most common victims are motorbike riders and pedestrians. At least 30 people die each day from transportation-related injuries and many more are injured, often with traumatic head injuries. Traffic accident injuries are the leading cause of death, severe injury, and emergency evacuation of foreigners in Vietnam. Traffic accidents, including those involving a pedestrian and a motorized vehicle, are the single greatest health and safety risk U.S. citizens will face in Vietnam.

Traffic moves on the right, although drivers frequently cross to the left to pass or turn, and motorcycles and bicycles often travel (illegally) against the flow of traffic. Horns are used constantly, often for no apparent reason. Streets in major cities are choked with motorcycles, cars, buses, trucks, bicycles, pedestrians and cyclos. Outside the cities, livestock compete with vehicles for road space. Sudden stops by motorcycles and bicycles make driving a particular hazard. Nationwide, drivers do not follow basic traffic principles, vehicles do not yield right of way, and there is little adherence to traffic laws or enforcement by traffic police.

The number of traffic lights in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City is increasing, but red lights are often not obeyed. Most Vietnamese ride motorcycles; often an entire family rides on one

Road conditions are poor nationwide. Numerous tragic accidents have occurred due to poor road conditions that resulted in landslides, and U.S. citizen travelers have lost their lives in this way. Travelers should exercise extra caution in the countryside, as road conditions are particularly poor in rural areas.

Driving at night is especially dangerous and drivers should exercise extreme caution. Roads are poorly lit, and there are few road signs. Buses and trucks often travel at high speed with bright lights that are rarely dimmed. Some motor vehicles may not use lights at all, vehicles of all types often stop in the road without any illumination, and livestock are likely to be encountered.

Motorcyclists and bicyclists are strongly urged to wear helmets. Passengers in cars or taxis should use seatbelts when available, but should be aware that Vietnamese vehicles often are not equipped with working seatbelts. A law mandating the use of motorcycle helmets on all roads went into effect on December 15, 2007, and is strictly enforced Child car seats are not available in Vietnam.

Penalties for driving under the influence of alcohol or causing an accident resulting in injury or death can include fines, confiscation of driving permits or imprisonment. U.S. citizens involved in traffic accidents have been barred from leaving Vietnam before paying compensation (often determined arbitrarily) for property damage or injuries.

Emergency roadside help is theoretically available nationwide by dialing 113 for police, 114 for fire brigade and 115 for an ambulance. Efficiency of these services is well below U.S. standards, however, and locating a public telephone is often difficult or impossible. Trauma care is not widely available.

The urban speed limit ranges from 30 to 40 km/h. The rural speed limit ranges from 40 to 60 km/h. Both speed limits are routinely ignored. Pedestrians should be careful, as sidewalks are extremely congested and uneven, and drivers of bicycles, motorcycles and other vehicles routinely ignore traffic signals and traffic flows, and even drive on sidewalks. For safety, pedestrians should look carefully in both directions before crossing streets, even when using a marked crosswalk with a green "walk" light illuminated.

International driving permits and U.S. drivers' licenses are not valid in Vietnam. Foreigners renting vehicles risk prosecution and/or imprisonment for driving without a Vietnamese license endorsed for the appropriate vehicle. U.S. citizens who wish to drive in Vietnam should contact any office of the Provincial Public Transportation Service of the Vietnamese Department of Communications and Transport to obtain a Vietnamese driver's license. The U.S. Embassy in Hanoi and Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City cannot assist U.S. citizens in obtaining Vietnamese driver's permits or notarize U.S. drivers' licenses for use in Vietnam.

Most Vietnamese travel within Vietnam by long-distance bus or train. Both are slow, and safety conditions do not approach U.S. standards. Local buses and taxis are available in some areas, particularly in the larger cities. Safety standards vary widely depending on the individual company operating the service, but are generally much lower than what would be found in the U.S.

Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.



AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:

As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Vietnam the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the government of Vietnam’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page.



CHILDREN'S ISSUES:

Please see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.



EMBASSY AND CONSULATE LOCATION:

Local embassy information is available below and at the Department of State’s list of embassies and consulates.

The Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi is located at 170 Ngoc Khanh, Ba Dinh District, Hanoi, Socialist Republic of Vietnam, 24 hour telephone number: (84-4) 3850-5000; after hours emergency telephone number: (84-4) 3850-5000; fax: (84-4) 3850-5010.
The
U.S. Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City is located at 4 Le Duan, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Socialist Republic of Vietnam, 24 hour telephone number: (84-8) 3520-4200; fax: (84-8) 3520-4244.

This replaces the Country Specific Information for Vietnam dated November 10, 2008, to update the sections on Information for Victims of Crime and Registration/Embassy Location.


The UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office also has information regarding travel to Vietnam HERE....

Looking for an Embassy ?, You can also check out our World Wide Embassies Listings Section HERE (For US Citizens) or HERE (For UK Citizens).........

There is also a Malaria Warning from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for Vietnam....

Regards

The SW Team..........

 

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