Health Matters!

Providing 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.

Drinking Water
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 pre-prepared food.

Sunburn, 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.

Sexually transmitted diseases
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.

Poverty 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.

If 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 risk assessment.

Travel warnings
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 to direction.

Many developing 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.

Interestingly, 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!

Local Pharmacies:
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.

However, 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

Hospitals and 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.

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