First and foremost, make sure that you have travel insurance for your trip. You should also consult your doctor or local travel clinic for the latest information and advice on travelling to Vietnam before departure. In major cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh, there are a number of state-owned and private hospitals with English speaking staff should you find yourself in a life-threatening situation. Rural areas may not have pharmacies and hospitals so make sure you travel with a full supply of any prescribed medicine you take.
Before travelling, please ensure you have adequate protection against disease. Contact your doctor for the latest medical advice on the vaccinations you need, no less than two months before your departure. Be aware that in rural parts of Vietnam there is a higher risk of malaria.
If you have a medical condition or allergy of which requires particular attention, carry a doctor’s letter with you that describes the nature of the condition and treatment needed. We also recommend you pack a medical kit, with items such as:
Air pollutants may aggravate asthma and allergy symptoms. Symptoms include scratchy throat and nasal drip. For anyone with respiratory ailments, invest in a small mask while travelling around metropolitan areas.
The risk of contracting malaria is heightened in the rural highlands. Consider taking anti-malarial medication before traveling to said region. Dengue fever has become increasingly problematic in Southeast Asia and occurs mostly in the Mekong Delta, including Ho Chi Minh City. With no vaccines available, the best preventive measure is to wear bug spray at all times as dengue carriers are most active during the hours of sunrise and sunset.
Vietnam tends to be hot and humid year round. Don’t underestimate the strength of the sun: sunburns occur rapidly and therefore, it is advised to wear sunscreen throughout the day. Be vigilant with reapplication, especially at beachside destinations. Dehydration is common and leads to heat exhaustion, which includes headaches and irritability, so drink plenty of water. Heatstroke is a more serious consequence of overexposure to sun and may require hospital treatment. If you are feeling weak, dizzy, nauseous, and have a temperature of over 41°C, consult medical attention immediately.
Traveller’s Diarrhoea is the most common illness affecting travelers. Stick to bottled water and avoid ice in rural areas. Eating at restaurants poses the greatest risk of contracting bacteria so chances are if the restaurant has a high turnover of customers and prepares only freshly cooked food, you should be good to go. In the event of diarrhoea, resorting to loperamide is not a permanent solution. Take rehydration salts and stay hydrated. If problems persist, seek medical attention.
Critter Bites - when staying in hostels and other shared dormitories, carry out regular body inspections for fleas, bed bugs, and/or lice. In the presence of animals, both wild and domesticated, rabies is a legitimate concern. Avoid the monkeys on Cat Ba Island when touring Ha Long Bay. Leeches are a common agitation. For those jungle trekking, be wary of ticks and poisonous snakes lurking in the undergrowth. Seek medical assistance immediately if bitten.
Vietnam is a relatively safe country, save for the prevalence of petty theft and scams. Refrain from pulling out cameras and cellphones on busy streets as most robberies are drive-by snatchings. In the instance you find yourself the victim of theft, unfortunately little can be done by law enforcement to recover stolen belongings. Taxi scams are the most rampant and come in the form of rigged meters, overcharging, confusing currency and fixed prices. The trusted companies are Mai Linh (green taxis) and Vinasun (white taxis.) Use vetted travel agents (see ‘Our Partners’ for a list of official providers) as opposed to hole-in-the-wall establishments to avoid being scammed.
For Female Travellers, Vietnam is still quite conservative, meaning solo female travelers tend to bewilder locals. Females journeying alone should be prepared to be approached and questioned as to why they are traveling alone but the inquiries are mostly harmless. There is also an issue of pocketbook theft so keep all belongings close.
In urban areas, sanitary products including tampons and oral contraceptives are readily available. However, it is advised to bring birth control options prescribed from home.
Pregnant women should consult their doctors for specialised advice. All effective antimalarial drugs and many diarrhoea treatments are not completely safe during pregnancy.