Today I hitchhiked northwest out of Buon Ma Thuot in Dak Lak province, getting as far as Ea Sup. I went this way because it was the route Google Maps suggested as the shortest or quickest in the direction toward Hue.

But I met a guy there when I was about to head east out of town before the storm hit and he told me I had to come with him to some office because I couldn't travel in this border area since I'm a foreigner.

It seems neither me nor Google Maps was aware of this restriction. I know I'm a bit off the tourist trail, that's kind of the point. But I'd like to be able to choose a route knowing in advance that I won't get sent back and lose a day.

Where can I find good information about this?

  • 1
    I'm not sure that wasn't a one-off. Spending about two hours looking at various sites hasn't produced anything resembling a foreigners-don't-go-here list.
    – CGCampbell
    May 12 '15 at 15:52
  • Googling is find various stories from past years about problems travelling too near the border or in certain parts of the Central Highlands, or in the highlands generally. Also some reports of restrictions being eased over the years. May 12 '15 at 16:15
  • Anecdotally a sign with a "large white C" on it means restricted area.
    – CGCampbell
    May 12 '15 at 16:46
  • Travel is restricted near military installations, and not advised anywhere near the Ho Chi Minh Trail
    – Gayot Fow
    May 12 '15 at 21:01
  • 1
    Well nobody asked for or received any money from me. May 19 '15 at 5:16

Closest I could find on the subject was a discussion on one of the forums. With best answer being:

As far as I know they are important places in terms of military and national defence; in the border regions as Ben-E said above, offshore, and islands. For instance, some districts located in Phu Tho, Son La, and Yen Bai provinces; Vinh Thuc island in Mong Cai district, Quang Ninh province; Bach Long Vi island in Hai Phong City, and some islands in Thanh Hoa and Nghe An provinces and so on. In some areas, foreigners are permitted to access to for the purpose of specific business operations and a local authority official is assigned to accompany. In some of these places, even Vietnamese people are not allowed to enter as a tourist unless permission is obtained or in cases with the company of functional local authority.

Most others are just news stories and the like:

Best generalization is from the UK:


To add a bit more info to this I'd say the best advice is to watch out for a sign saying:

Khu Vực Cấm

Normally there is an English translation below but not always. Passing a sign like this is not advised and once got me in a bit of trouble. These are generally for military areas though locals will be able to pass without a problem (when it is a region). In these cases Vietnamese are more likely to ask you to politely leave unless they suspect you are up to no good e.g. drug smuggling, wildlife hunting etc.

Some parks etc. are also restricted and require permits and in some cases some overzealous workers might say a place is restricted because it was in the past even though it no longer is. Local advice is often difficult to find and if you do hope to explore try asking in the nearest major town (Thanh Pho). Tour guides in the tourist cities may give conflicting information if it isn't on the regular 'routes' they sell to the majority.

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