BeFreeMySheeple Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam

I Almost Had My iPhone Stolen My First Night in Ho Chi Minh City


After spending an incredible 6 months in Thailand with my dogs, I wanted to spend some time in Vietnam before heading back to USA (where I will start my real estate empire). My original flight itinerary was Bangkok to Ho Chi Minh City (3 hour layover) to Phu Quoc, a Vietnamese island that lies between Vietnam and Cambodia. But once my plane landed in Ho Chi Minh City, I made the spontaneous decision to leave the airport and skip the second leg. Ho Chi Minh City…here I come!

I’ve been to Ho Chi Minh City several times before and I’ve always had a good time which is why I wanted to spend time here before returning to the beach life of Phu Quoc. This decision almost proved to be a bad decision when my iPhone almost got stolen my first night here. I say “almost” twice because this story was an inch away of ending very badly for me. What’s a blogger without his phone? 

I’ve always heard that pick-pocketers are something to look out for in Vietnam but I personally never experienced it any of my previous visits here over the past 3 years. 

I had time to reflect on what almost happened last night and it’s kind of my fault to have put myself in that situation. It was late at night, I came from the bars so if they had been watching me they knew I had a few drinks so I was an easier target, there weren’t a lot of lights on the street, it was an empty street, I was distracted on my phone, and I was walking 2 dogs. So if you look at all the things to do to not get pick-pocketed, I was doing none of them. When you make a mistake, the first step is to admit you were wrong so I’ll admit that I was doing everything wrong and I made myself look like an easy target.

But the two things that I did do right, was when I saw 2 suspicious-looking guys on a motorbike heading towards me on the sidewalk, I instinctively applied more strength to my grip, and I moved the phone closer into my body (which caused him to miss getting a clean grab). I vlogged within seconds after this happened and then reflected on the incident today.

After he drove away empty-handed, I stared at him like “really bro?” and he stared at me like “you’re lucky.” I really hope that his life takes a turn for the better. 

So after almost getting my iPhone pick-pocketed in Ho Chi Minh City, I thought I would turn this almost negative experience into a learning lesson for myself and a word of caution for my fellow travelers. This is my quick guide on what NOT to do if you don’t want to get pick-pocketed. 

How To Not Get Pick-Pocketed Guide

Don’t Look Flashy

If you typically wear things like jewelry or a nice watch, keep it at home. If you look rich, then you become a target. Not only do they want what you have, but they won’t feel guilty because you look like you can buy it again. 

BeFreeMySheeple Rich Guy

Don’t Walk on Empty Streets

Never walk on an empty street, especially at night. When a street is empty that means that there are no witnesses to any potential crimes and there is nobody nearby that is able to help you so you’re on your own. And pick-pocketers know this.

Don’t Walk Home at Night

If you’re walking home at night, that means that you probably had a few drinks which makes you an easier target. When you’re drinking, you have slower reaction time. Take a taxi or cab home, especially when you’re in a country like Vietnam. It’s worth spending the extra dollar. Seriously – my cabs all day today were 16,000 dong which is the equivalent of $.60 USD.

Don’t Walk While Looking At Your Phone

In places like America that are relatively safe, we can walk down the street with our faces buried in our phones and almost always nothing happens to us. This is such a bad habit that it’s easy to forget that this behavior is not acceptable in other parts of the world. Always keep your head up and be aware of your surroundings. If you’re staring at your phone while you’re walking, not only are you distracted but your phone looks like bait to a fish.

Walking while staring at phone
Don’t be like this cool kid abroad.

Be Aware Of Your Surroundings

One of our most important senses is hearing. If it wasn’t for my dolphin-like hearing and spider-like reflexes, I wouldn’t have seen the pick-pocketers coming because they were coming full speed at me on a motorbike. Instead of relying on one sense, it’s better to apply all of your senses on your surroundings. Try to keep distance between you and anyone else on the street. The only way for a pick-pocketer to steal from you is if they’re close to you.

BeFreeMySheeple Dolphin Hearing
My sense of hearing resembles that of a dolphin.

Turn on Find My Phone

If you have an iPhone, please use the “Find My Phone” feature. If your phone does get stolen, this feature enables you to remotely wipe your iPhone and render it useless. You can also send the thief messages that will appear on the home screen  such as “If you are looking for ransom, I can tell you I don’t have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills, skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you.”

Turn on iCloud Backup

One of the worst feelings in the world is to lose all of your memories because you never got around to turning on your iCloud backup. Always turn iCloud backup on! And also make sure you connect to your hotel WiFi so that everything gets backed up to the cloud.

And I am extremely fortunate that I can end this blog post with the following words…

Sent from my iPhone

Bonus Food Vlog!

And if you’re in Ho Chi Minh City and looking for a delicious place to get poke, check out Poke Saigon.


Do you have additional tips to stay safe in a foreign country? Leave a comment or you can e-mail me If you enjoyed reading/watching this, you can follow me on Instagram, @adamfrancisco & @befreemysheeple.

Be Free My Sheeple!


9 thoughts on “I Almost Had My iPhone Stolen My First Night in Ho Chi Minh City

  1. Omg you are full of it. Nothing here prooves it and already you gut proven wrong in the chatgeoups you tried to get click bait. Stop being an attention seeker.

    1. I’m not sure why anyone would think I am making up an incident that is extremely common in the Bui Vien Walking Street area lol. This is the major area where pickpockets and snatch/grab robberies are common. I also was foolishly walking around with my phone out in the open.

  2. I have lived in HCMC for a total of 20+ years and all the advice is very sound and should be appreciated. For me, the comments regarding being aware of surroundings is the most important. After a while, it becomes second nature to spot the anomalies even in a crowded street. I would add one more “precaution” … never let anyone touch you. I have learned thatthe most casual of touches can easily be a prelude to a pickpocketing “event”… especially, I am so sorry to say, involving children. I know this makes me look a bit strange int he street sometimes, as I jump away from people but that’s a small price to pay. Somehow through all the years I have escaped theft but with some close calls. Thanks for the posting

    1. Hi Les! Yes – totally agree that it’s very important to keep a safe distance on the street. In order for a pickpocket to steal from you, he has to be close to you, so it’s best to maximize distance. I’m in Phu Quoc now and it has a much safer feel than HCMC.

  3. Another spoiled little American kid getting scared after leaving their living room.

    Wake up kid. People here live a hard life.

    1. As confirmed by many expats and locals, the Bui Vien area is one of the most dangerous areas in terms of pickpockets and snatch/grab robberies. I should have been more careful. My iPhone was like bait to a fish. I changed hotels the next day and the areas I stayed in were clean, pleasant and safe. And I am not saying their life isn’t hard – I understand why they’d try to steal an iPhone. Nowhere do I qualify or judge them for what happened. I am just saying what did happen and how to prevent it. Thanks for reading!

  4. I just read on Facebook that a friend of mine just had her iPhone stolen in this exact manor. She tried to track it with “Find My Phone,” but they had wiped the phone shortly after stealing it. It seems to me that Vietnam Tourism should lobby the government to crack down on this shit.

    1. Yup! The 2 guys on 1 motorbike attack is very effective. These guys are experts in swiping things very quickly. While I do wish the government would crack down on it, unfortunately the responsibility lies on us as tourists. We need to protect our belongings. Desperate people see us as rich and that we can “afford it.”

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