Backpacking in Vietnam: Keeping Your Outdoor Excursions Safe

Vietnam has been attracting a lot of young Western backpackers in recent years. Visitors are mostly attracted to the country’s more than 3,000 miles of coastline lined with pristine beaches, and to the abundance of forests in mountain ranges. Once bitten by the Asian adventure bug, backpacking nature lovers cannot resist the urge to go back to explore more of what this previously war-torn country has to offer.

However, the issue of safe travel in the country must be given careful attention by those venturing to explore Vietnam’s countryside. In 2016, tragedy struck 3 British adventurers who died after being sucked into a deadly whirlpool in Datania Waterfalls. Although a local acted as guide, reports have it that the fellow was not a registered professional guide.

The official report of the tourist company in charge of managing the Datania Waterfalls, said the three whirlpool victims did not buy official tickets required for canyoning activities. Otherwise, they would have been issued with proper safety equipment and a registered tour guide. In addition, those who intend to explore the area are required to sign a written guarantee that they are in good health condition,

Take Advice from a Seasoned Vietnam Traveler

Simon Calder, a travel correspondent of The Independent, who knows the region, as well as the risks faced when exploring the country’s nature destinations, gives advice on hor to keep their Vietnam outdoor excursions safe.

First off, he says it best to sign up for organized trips with registered adventure tour operators, right in your own country. Mainly because your country requires operators to offer tours that have been risk-assessed in accordance with the regulations of the destination country. Regulations include every aspect of the adventure travel, including proper maintenance of road vehicles, expertise of local guides, appropriate emergency plans and insurance.

Calder explains that If you intend to look for a guide when you arrive at the Ho Chi Minh City airport, you will be bombarded with local tour offers that you will not be able to discern as legit or not; or that their display of license is genuine or not.

Still, Calder quotes the warning of the U.S. State Department, informing travelers that

”While many tour companies advertise endorsements coming from regional and local authorities, it is currently not clear, if reliable inspection mechanisms are in place.”

Based on his own travel experience, Calder offers some other guidelines to consider:

  • Be wary of lower price offers, because it only suggests that some costs involved in their tour operation may have been eliminated.
  • Do not take every offer at face value. Do some research by looking up recommendations from other travelers from both online and ground sources.
  • Ask the operator questions about safety precautions and equipment. Vagueness and hesitancy in discussing these aspects means the tour operator has not taken such matters seriously.
  • Prior to signing up and when you are actually taking the adventure tour, make an inventory of what are included as safety gears for the trip. Activities involving water adventures, naturally require life jackets. On excursions like the ones taken by the three young British explorers who died tragically, safety equipment like reliable rope and harness systems must be included.

Exploring Vietnam is indeed an adventure of a lifetime; but then again, you only have one life to live so don’t ever think it is wise to cut on costs and on corners.