Last week, Viet Nam News asked readers, especially foreign tourists, to share their feelings about leaflets warning about crime distributed by HCM City police late last month. Some readers thought that it was a good idea; others said that they did not feel any safer. Here are some comments:
John Haywood, British, Ha Noi
I do not think leaflets make you feel safer, but they do serve as a useful (and necessary) reminder that big cities anywhere in the world have their fair share of criminals and scammers who target tourists.
Leaflets should not be seen as a substitute for more policemen, but it's better than nothing. Maybe they could hand them out at airports.
Peter Borchers, Canadian Canada
Most tourists have done some research regarding crimes against tourists. As a frequent visitor to Viet Nam, I must tell you I have never felt scared in this beautiful country.
I find local people truly polite and helpful. Yet there is one menace out there trying hard to rip off tourists and travellers in general.
This menace is called the taxi driver. I must qualify this. The largest three companies have honest drivers. Secondary companies and drivers seem to lurk and have one intention only, to get as much money from you as possible – be it from drivers who drive you around in circles or rigged meters. These drivers also act intimidating when challenged. Avoid them.
Aly Shearer, tourist
I think the leaflets are an excellent idea. Taxi and cyclo (xich lo) scams are a stain on Vietnamese hospitality. The more visitors are warned about these crimes, the greater the chance that local and national government will be pressured into doing something about it.
Turkey faced similar issues some years ago. Tourists were regarded as prey' by some parts of society. The country cleaned up its act and this has helped tourist arrivals grow from two million to 20 million per annum.
Andrew Burden, Canadian, Ha Noi
I did not know about the flyer. I would like one as a souvenir. I will show it off to my friends (if I make it) back home. Look! I survived another Asian scam!
Of the 17 countries I have travelled to, I can unequivocally state that Viet Nam is very safe on the one hand, but dangerous on the other. We all see the dangers of crossing the street or riding motorbikes.
Tourists should always be wary of strangers, especially extra friendly ones with special offers.
Do not trust the first travel agent you meet. If the price is extra cheap, you can expect your transport to break down. If you travel alone, are out at night, drink alcohol or are displaying a big camera and gold jewellery you will be an attractive target - anywhere.
I think countries should welcome tourists in a low key and calm manner. Maintain a website and when tourists arrive at the customs desk, stamp the website address onto the passport/visa. Most international travellers are aware of dangers, but cannot possibly know the latest crime statistics.
I would have appreciated it if Thailand had warned me about taximeter scams and Cambodia warned me about drive-by bag grabbers. I would respect Viet Nam (more) if I was warned about its crime specialties.
My best friend, now an expat in America, keeps telling me to return home where it is safer. Yeah, I know, but I do not want to die of boredom either. Welcome to the dangers of getting out of bed.
Ngoc Van, Vietnamese, HCM City
I like this idea. I know some other major cities around the world also hand out crime warning leaflets to foreign tourists because major cities tend to have more crime.
Raising the awareness of international travellers might be one way to combat pickpocketing, rip-offs and taxi scams. Hand out the flyers when tourists get off the air plane!
Do not worry that tourist will be scared by being warned. Tourists only get upset when they have not been warned. Letting tourists be robbed, ripped off or cheated is worse than warning them about it first.
However, I think the local police should do something stronger to deter pickpockets, or taxi drivers who want to overcharged or cheat customers. Police should conduct more patrols.
Just last Friday, the police in the city's Pham Ngu Lao Ward (these are the same police who provided the crime warning leaflets to foreign tourists, but were ordered by the police department to stop after just one week) arrested a 24-year-old man for stealing an iPhone 5 from a British woman.
There are many similar robberies occurring in the ward recently, therefore, police should provide reprint the leaflets.
Pham Thanh Hoa, Vietnamese, Ha Noi
This is a ‘must do' policy. Tourists and travellers deserve to be warned about these crimes, which seem to be increasing.
It is better to tell foreign tourists the truth than let them be taken advantage of, which still happens in this city. The truth may be bitter, but we need to honestly look at the facts to improve the situation. — VNS