How Not to Get Robbed in Vietnam – What I Wish I Knew

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Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon, is the largest city in Vietnam. I was robbed in Vietnam the most common way and it was the best thing to happen to me.

I write chronologically because it is how I have always written.

But there is a problem with a chronological format. I have never written one of my best stories because it happened 5 years ago in 2007.

Getting robbed was the best thing to happen to me.

Let me explain.

I was on a three week holiday with The Ex through Thailand, Cambodia to see the Temples of Angkor and finally backpacking in Vietnam.

I was a comparatively experienced traveler and had already traveled in France, New Zealand and lived in the Philippines so I felt comfortable in South East Asia.

But I made a ridiculous mistake.

Coming overland from Phenom Penh to travel to Vietnam we were asked to show our passports so many times I had thrown my money belt in my messenger bag.

After we checked into our hotel I forgot to remove it.


And then it happened.

Less than an hour in Saigon we went for a stroll. A scooter came up on the sidewalk to drive in between us. 

The Ex let go of my hand to make space and they slashed my bag off my body with a knife and I stood there completely stunned.

I was in shock. So was everyone around me.

DSLR Camera

Credit Cards

Debit Cards



You would think this type of devastating situation would leave me despising Vietnam but this story is not over.

Locals on the street signaled for us to stay as they went to get help.

They returned with several more people on scooters who spoke English and told us to get on the back so they could take us to the police station.

They stayed with us for two hours as I wrote the incident in English, they translated to Vietnamese then waited to ensure the police stamped the report.

Complete strangers.

I was so grateful but knew the real task was to get a replacement passport. As I was only on holiday I needed to fly home to Canada in five days and could not do so without it.

At the Canadian consulate I met sympathetic staff who did not want me to miss out on traveling up through the country to Hanoi.

ALSO READ: 23 Dishes to Eat for Tet – Vietnamese New Year

I completed a new application and they told me they would process it and send it to Hanoi so I could pick it up when I arrived five days later.

They encouraged me to go and see the rest of their country and emailed me every day with a status update, reassuring me I would be fine.

tuk tuk
cao dai

I arrived in Hanoi and picked up my passport. I did learn practical tips that I now employ when I travel but the biggest takeaway was the generosity of the Vietnamese.

They were kind to me when I needed it the most and went far beyond what was expected. I am grateful for getting robbed in Saigon.


Since then I have been robbed in Nicaragua and my sister was robbed in Ecuador, her first day visiting me.

I’m still so thankful that I was robbed in Vietnam because I am no longer afraid.

More Saigon Resources

The Gay Guide to Saigon


Join the Conversation

  1. Casey @ A Cruising Couple says:

    I’m so glad that the generosity of the rest of the people you encountered turned an otherwise horrible event into a memorable experience. I’ve been robbed in Prague and Ecuador. While I wouldn’t say I was grateful, I would also say the kindness of strangers was the biggest takeaway.

  2. That experience could have been so much worse. When I was robbed in Cali in Colombia, it was the biggest pain trying to find a police station that would actually file a report. But on the plus side, a Canadian guy who I’d only just met spent the whole day with me, keeping me from going insane and helping translate my report into Spanish. His kindness meant so much to me, so I guess I came away with a similar feeling 🙂

  3. I was robbed in Buenos Aires, and no one was helpful! I’m still bitter about it. 🙂

  4. These Saigon scooter robberies sound quite common. Sorry to hear about it, but at least good came from it. I guess I’ve been more aware and less afraid since I got robbed in Nicaragua.

  5. Jaryd Krause @ Aus Globtrotter says:

    With a random act of unscrupulousness can come generosity by others in sympathy, which can be truly comforting. It just goes one bad experience doesn’t mean the whole country is bad. This happened to me in India about 1 week ago as proof – “Today I uncouthly begged my cab driver to drive faster caught up in stress of missing my bus in India. Negligently leaving my camera bag behind also holding my passport, wallet and phone (my life) I sprinted back to the street after a few minutes of not realizing, as he patiently waited for my return despite my rudeness. Not all Indians take advantage”

    1. Saul Pinto says:

      I hope you tipped him well. Something similar happened to me in Ukraine, I gave the taxi driver 100 bucks as he had saved me at least that plus a massive headache. A replacement passport would have cost me north of 120 as i don’t know what the fee. Plus I had 500 in cash in the pack I left behind. Many people write great stories of how someone helped them but forget to reward these people who struggle to make ends meet. For the record, my taxi ride would have cost me less than 20 bucks so needless to say the cab driver was surprised but i was even more surprised to find that he had not driven off with the stuff that i had negligently left behind when i got out of the taxi

  6. Stories like this really help restore my faith in humanity.

  7. Great experience! Thanks for sharing this. I love how it turned out to be a positive learning experience, rather than something dark and negative that loomed over the rest of your trip. It’s true what you say about the generosity, friendliness and caring of other humans that open your eyes to the beauty of human nature. That’s what I love about travel, finding the goodness in others. I had to laugh at the way you ended it by recounting how many other robbing incidents you and your loved ones have had to endure!

  8. Joe @ Cosmic Smudge says:

    Thanks for sharing! Getting mugged anywhere is horrible, and having it happen on a trip can make it even more nightmarish. But it’s always heartening to hear stories about random acts of kindness. The photos are terrific, by the way.

  9. I was scammed in Saigon a couple years ago, but even still I enjoyed my time in Vietnam and wouldn’t hesitate to go back thanks to the kind people I met on my trip there and in Hanoi. Can’t let a couple bad eggs ruin a whole country!

    1. Impressive with sentence “can’t let a couple bad eggs ruin a whole country”.

  10. The Hairy Chef says:

    You know, a similar thing happened to me in Colombia, 3 weeks after arriving here to work. A Colombian couple moved into our building, and on the night of my birthday while we were out, they broke into 5 rooms in the house and took everything we had. 8 grand in total.

    It is infinitely refreshing to hear a story of forgiveness like this because it is something I have struggled with deeply since this happened.

  11. I guess if you have to be robbed in a foreign country, it’s good to do it when there are people like that around! Losing my passport is the thing I’m most paranoid about when traveling. It’s awesome that the consulate staff were sympathetic enough to make sure the rest of your trip wasn’t ruined while you waited.

  12. Elaine Schoch says:

    I love the looking on the bright side of this post. It really does make for a good life lesson.

  13. Adam Pervez says:

    I have also been robbed a few times, in Guatemala, Colombia, and The Philippines. Only in The Philippines did the thieves get away with a bounty – $20.

    But yes, in Guatemala my Spanish was so bad that I didn’t know I was being robbed. It all came and went without me even feeling nervous. My friend was crying and hysterical though, as she saw the whole thing happen and the empty threats if I didn’t comply. But yes, I wasn’t afraid anymore.

    In Colombia the robbery was a bit violent, as three guys surrounded me and put me in a headlock as they looked for my wallet. Similarly, I didn’t get nervous. I didn’t resist. I just let it happen and when they found no wallet in my back pocket they left as quickly as they came.

    I’m not sure if it’s good I don’t fear these things anymore, but that absence of fear has helped me experience lots of cool stuff because I wasn’t afraid.

    Thanks for sharing your story!

  14. Richard Crest says:

    Being robbed is such a misfortune but at least something happened to make you feel grateful.
    I agree that Philippines is one of the best country in South East Asia.

  15. TammyOnTheMove says:

    I was nearly robbed in Phnom Penh once. Was walking home in the dark with my hubby and we had already reached the street we live in. That particular part of the street wasn’t well lid though and all of the sudden I felt something pushing against me. Didn’t realize what it was at first and then I saw a moto driver who almost fell off his bike. Then I noticed my handbag getting heavier. Only then I realized that he tried to snatch my bag from me, but as I held onto the bag itself with my hands whilst walking he only got the straps. When I realized what happened he looked really panicky and managed to get back on his moto to drive off before I could do anything. So I was lucky!

  16. Justin @ True Nomads says:

    I think my first time was on a bus in Peru. It was almost a good thing, because i didnt lose much and then became more vigilant

  17. Kathleen @ Our Favorite Adventure says:

    Ayngelina, I really like this post for a lot of reasons! Primarily because I agree with your last statement about no longer being afraid. I was robbed in Costa Rica and it is just something that happens, and you have to learn to see the silver lining in unfortunate situations…just like you did with the kindness of the locals that helped you. 🙂

  18. I got robbed in a bus stop in Ecuador. It was not a great feeling. Lucky for me they only took $5.

  19. What a story! If there is anything that scares me the most about travelling is losing my passport while in a foreign country. I am so glad your story had a positive ending.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I was really afraid too but now I realize it’s not such a big deal.

  20. Alex Cardo @ Traveling Myself says:

    Wow! This is a really impressive story! I always feels myself safety in Asia.

    I had some difficulties in Thailand, Sri Lanka and Maldives, but I always found solutions of these situations.

    I sympathize with the story that happened to you. I am also very glad that everything worked out and you are not disappointed in Asia.

  21. Ah lucky. My first 2 weeks in Saigon I’ve be hit by a motorbike and robbed.
    The robbers now have all my keys and they know where I live. We have to change the locks.
    The Vietnamese have not been very helpful or concerned. They said not to go to the police as they are paid off by the gangs in this area.
    They just lectured me, saying I was warned about carrying a bag.
    I didn’t lose much cash, along with my license and debit card, but it’s been an awful experience.
    First time I’ve felt unsafe and scared in South East Asia and I have to live here for another 3 months. I hate it.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I also found the police very unhelpful about writing a police report so I could claim insurance. Fortunately the Vietnamese people I was with insisted they do so – which is good because it’s pretty much mandatory if you want to get insurance money.

  22. I am singaporean male.i had never been robbed in my whole life until once i went to stupid vietnam.i was robbed in ho chi ming. Robbed more than $2600 SGD.I went to report police in ho chi minh, the stupid police there said i was lying and ask me to get lost.The stupid country got no laws, no wonder they cannot develop.Stupid and poor vietnamese only know how to rob to make a living. I will advise everyone not to go Vietnam.

  23. There are good people in Ho Chi Minh City!

    I carelessly left my new iPhone 6 (including credit cards, driver’s license & $240 USD) at the currency exchange counter upon arrival into HCMC airport. We had just disembarked a 19 hour flight from New York. By then it was 2 AM I was exhausted. On entering our pre-booked airport cab an airport employee ran up to me handing me what looked like a wallet. I looked at him and responded to say “No sir that’s not mind”

    Ironically I failed to check my bag at which point the taxi driver proceed to drive away. On reaching into my bag to hand the driver a taxi voucher I noticed my iPhone was gone. Panic set in. I instructed the driver to return to the taxi rank at which point I proceed to locate the person who had my iPhone. Thankfully a taxi dispatcher alerted his team including airport staff of the situation using “walkie-talkie”. After a nervous 15 minute wait my iPhone was returned to me which included credit cards, driver’s license, cash everything – No words to describe the feeling of getting everything back. Thank god the person(s) who found my phone were honest. Getting my belongings back surprised me in a good way. Good Karma I’ll say. Apart from this early shock HCMC vacation was amazing – thank god everything worked out.

  24. TravelMojos says:

    We are traveling to Saigon from Bangkok and have been robbed on the first wonderful day 🙂 It was disappointing at that time but at the same time it was wonderful experience and we have met a kindest local guys. We have struggled with police, but useless. By the way you can check that amazing story here

  25. My wife was also a victim of bag snatching recently feb 18 , 2018 in front of our hotel in ho chi minh city.
    We did not report the incident to the police as we are leaving in the afternoon for manila . Travellers should avoid going to this city …. it is not safe . Luckily our passports was with my bag at that time . All of my wifes cards , dollars , reading glass etc were inside the bag .

  26. Angella Copper says:

    Thanks for your sharing. Fortunately, 2 times visiting Vietnam including 1 time by La Pinta cruise in Lan Ha Bay and one in HCMC and Phu Quoc, but I’ve ever met the situation

  27. Nomadic boys says:

    Very informative post keep it up buddy best Gay travel guides

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