you take basic commonsense measures, you're unlikely to
have health problems in Vietnam. Malaria is now a problem
in only a few remote areas, and mass immunisation programmes
have minimised the incidence of infectious diseases. In
all cases, wise travellers will check with their local medical
specialist, even if only to confirm that recommended vaccinations
are up to date.
It is best to assume that tap water is risky throughout Vietnam.
Bottled water, soft drinks and beer are freely available and
cheap. Ice is generally made from boiled water, and should
be OK, but it might be wise to avoid it if you have a sensitive
stomach. It isn’t a major inconvenience – large refrigerators
are commonplace, so chilled drinks are easily obtained.
Vietnamese food is usually cooked from fresh ingredients,
so getting an upset stomach is probably less likely in a street
side café than in an international restaurant that re-heats
sunstroke and dehydration
The major health dangers are the effect of the sun and tropical
heat. European skin will begin to burn very quickly on a hot
day even if the sky is overcast: reputable high UV protection
barrier lotions and cream are essential. Sunstroke is also
a high risk: a wide brimmed hat that will shade the back of
the neck as well as the eyes is better than a baseball cap.
Heavy sweating caused by high humidity drains the body's water
supply rapidly. Drink plenty of water to replenish it and
thus avoid unpleasant dehydration – several litres per day
is generally recommended.
Like most countries in Asia, Vietnam has a drug problem. This,
and a culture where discussing sexual matters is taboo, has
led to risky sexual behaviour and a growing incidence of HIV/AIDS
and other sexually transmitted diseases.
encourages the sexual exploitation of women - many young girls
from poor rural areas flood into the big cities to supplement
their family's income. Prostitution is commonplace and often
associated with drugs and crime. It’s obviously wise to avoid
casual sexual encounters in Vietnam, not only for for health
reasons, but also because many prostitutes and their pimps
are adept pickpockets.
All countries, developed and undeveloped, suffer from epidemics
from time to time. Unfortunately, governments in developed
countries often issue travel warnings about health and other
threats when the risk to travellers is miniscule.
another epidemic or similar health risk occurs when you are
considering a visit to Vietnam, we recommend that you check
the Vietnam section of the World Health Organisation’s web
site, and, if necessary contact the local representative in
the Hanoi office direct on add telephone number to get a reliable
For many years, developed countries have been issuing
travel warnings when they consider their nationals are at
risk abroad. Although these provide important information
for travellers, in recent years their numbers have greatly
increased accompanied by a marked change of tone from advice
countries rely heavily upon tourism to bolster weak economies.
A blanket travel warning where the perceived risk is minimal
can have a devastating effect on poor communities.
the terrorist bombing in Bali in Indonesia in 2002 triggered
immediate travel warnings from the governments of nearly all
the world’s developed countries, decimating the local economy.
However, when an atrocity on an almost identical scale occurred
in Madrid in March 2004, the world’s developed countries considered
travel warnings unnecessary!
Pharmacies are easy to find in the major cities in Vietnam
and the rest of Indochina. Purchasing medicines and drugs
over the counter without a prescription is straightforward.
you should be aware that many of the items sold in pharmacies
are likely to be counterfeit or expired. Many of the antibiotics
available here are obsolete and their over-use has led to
drug-resistance. If you are likely to need medication in Vietnam,
it’s advisable to take it with you, or visit a pharmacy in
one of the international hospitals or clinics
Health facilities are good in the big cities, limited in other
urban areas and almost nonexistent elsewhere. For this reason,
we require our customers to have comprehensive medical insurance
cover that includes immediate transfer to a reputable health
facility and evacuation abroad if necessary.