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Vietnam Health & Safety Advice

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There are some good hospitals and international health clinics in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City but in general medical facilities in Vietnam are below European or North American standards and frequently lack medicines and supplies. Doctors and other medical personnel, especially outside Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, may speak little or no English. More serious health problems will often require medical evacuation to Bangkok or Singapore. Immediate cash payment is expected for health services.

Some medications commonly available in other countries may not be available in Vietnam so travelers should bring adequate supplies of medications with them.

Comprehensive travel health insurance, including enough coverage for emergency evacuation by air, is strongly recommended.

Food and Water

Water used for drinking, making ice or brushing teeth should be boiled or otherwise sterilized. Meat and seafood should be cooked and served hot. Vegetables should be cooked and fruit peeled before eating. Pasteurized milk is available but dairy products that might have been made with unpasteurized milk should be avoided.


Although violent crimes against foreigners are uncommon in Vietnam, pick-pocketing, purse snatching and other petty crimes occur regularly. Travelers should always remain cautious about their belongings and possible scams. Using common sense precautions is the necessary minimum. There are plenty of ways con artists and thieves try to get tourists' money, some of the most common scams in Vietnam include:

  • motorcyclists snatching bags, cameras and other valuables from pedestrians or passengers riding in cyclos or riding on the back of rented motorcycles,
  • motorbike rental owner supplies the lock to the bike but then arranges for someone else to steel the bike at first opportunity using a second key; per the signed contract, the tourist has to pay for the motorbike,
  • taxi drivers with rigged meters; to avoid it, agree on the fare or take a taxi with reputable companies,
  • taxi or cyclo drivers claiming they have no change
  • two menus in restaurants - one in Vietnamese for locals and one in English for foreigners (with much higher prices),
  • hotel staff attempting to charge more at the checkout than the initial price.

It is strongly advised to keep passports and other important valuables in hotel safes or other secure locations. It's also recommended to carry a photocopy of the passport when going out.

Travelers should be aware that some areas close to the Vietnamese borders with China, Cambodia and Laos are prohibited for travel. Those areas are sometimes not marked and being caught there can result in detention. Taking photographs of military or security-related objects is also prohibited and may cause a fine and several days delay in travel.

Traffic Safety

One of the dangers that visitors may face is related to the road traffic that is quite chaotic. The most common victims of traffic accidents are motorbike riders and pedestrians. Such accidents are the leading cause of death, severe injury, and emergency evacuation of foreigners in Vietnam. Local drivers do not follow basic traffic principles, vehicles do not yield right of way, not respecting traffic lights is quite common and there is little adherence to traffic laws or enforcement by traffic police.

Road conditions are also very poor, with few road signs and poor lighting during night. For unmotorized travelers the most dangerous is crossing a busy street in big city.

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