How Vietnam's laws affect travellers: Please Read

By , Travel Insights Editor Home > travel-safety > vietnam > travel-legal

While travelling in Vietnam, harsh as they seem, local laws apply to all. The penalties for actions which you might find over the top are taken very seriously by locals.

Try to remember this is a conservative, communist country where the excesses of western culture are not tolerated.

Mind your p's and q's and you'll have a trouble-free enjoyable visit.

Strict Drug Laws, Strong Drugs

Penalties for drug offences are severe. Under the Vietnamese penal code, a person caught in possession of even a small amount of heroin can be sentenced to death.

There are over two dozen foreigners currently serving life sentences or facing the death penalty for drug trafficking offences. Vietnamese authorities have announced increased security and investigative measures to combat drug trafficking.

When good advice is ignored, travellers should be aware that recreational drugs available in Vietnam can be extremely potent. Party with caution, and always make sure someone knows where you are and what you have taken.

Sensitive Photography

Photography of border crossings and military installations is prohibited and may result in arrest. You should also avoid taking photographs during demonstrations. Leave the military shots to the journo‘s, as the glare of a Vietnamese soldier is incredibly intimidating.

Sensitive Borders

You could be detained if you venture too close to the border with China, Cambodia or Laos without prior written permission from the local authorities.


It is against the law to export antiques from Vietnam without a permit. The Ministry of Culture can provide further advice and any necessary permit.


Gambling, except in government licensed casinos, is illegal in Vietnam. Anyone found to be in violation of this law is subject to steep fines and/or a severe prison sentence. Access to licensed casinos is restricted to holders of foreign passports.

No Politics

Anyone, Vietnamese or visiting foreigners, engaging in public actions that the Government determines to be political in nature could be arrested and detained. Even your private conversations can lead to legal actions.

No Religion

U.S. citizens who sat they've come to be tourists, but then engage 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 these outcomes have become less common because of improvements to religious freedom.

No Blogging

Blogging about the Vietnamese government and discussions in on-line chat rooms have also incurred scrutiny from authorities. The distribution of anti-Vietnamese propaganda is considered to be a terrorist offense by Vietnamese authorities. In most cases individuals are detained, questioned, and then released. In the past year, at least ten U.S. citizens were arrested, prevented from leaving Vietnam, and/or deported.

Vietnamese law - respect it.


  • said

    I live in Nam, none of this is true except the drugs and politics thing. no you dont get shot for dating someone or breaking a promise (wtf?). Its a pretty chiled country tbh religious and political freedom exists so you can say what you long as its not about the Vietnamese government then your finE!!

  • Jeff said

    Been to Vietnam 3 times - specifically Da Nang. Beautiful country, awesome people. Going back in December for work. Since I was last there, I quit smoking, but I'm using a "vape" pen. Any advice on the reaction I'll get if I vape up walking down the street?

  • Ruth said

    "You could be detained if you venture too close to the border with China, Cambodia or Laos without prior written permission from the local authorities."
    My son is travelling from Thailand through Laos,Vietnam and Cambodia in Oct/Nov. How does he go about getting this written permission ?

  • Mr Gonzo said

    Been living in Vietnam for six months now and I find this place pretty safe and nice, especially the people are usually nice and friendly.

    And you can use vaporizer here, ppl do it on the streets ans restaurants.

    But ofc you should be careful in a country you don't know, learn, respect the ppl and the habits. But anyways I see Vietnam nice and pretty relaxed coutry (I'm from Europe).

  • Mr steve said

    Saigon rocks! jump on a bike and explore HCMC. I found it safe and a really nice place. I was there in 2013 and will definitely be going back!

    cheers guys and gals

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Author: Phil Sylvester

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