Healthcare service in Vietnam is improving, but it is still lagging far behind developed countries. Availability of healthcare is not evenly distributed throughout the country. Malnutrition is still common in the rural parts of Vietnam.
As a foreigner visiting Vietnam, you do not need to worry, as in major cities such as Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City you will have good access to international-standard healthcare services. You do need to be aware, however, that in the rural areas decent healthcare services may be difficult to find.
What to Do Before Your Trip
Before travelling, you should take out comprehensive travel insurance, as well as taking the necessary vaccinations to prevent certain diseases. Commonly recommended vaccinations are: cholera, hepatitis A and B, diphtheria, polio, tetanus, Japanese encephalitis, rabies, tuberculosis, and typhoid. If in doubt, consult your doctor.
Bring enough prescribed medicines for the duration of your travel, as well as basic medical supplies. It is not difficult to buy medication over the counter in Vietnam, but sometimes medicines may have expired or may not be genuine, so you do need to be careful.
What to Do During Your Trip
During your travels, there are several things you can do to reduce the risk of getting sick, such as:
- Stay hydrated by drinking enough fluid, especially during the hot season, when it is easy to become dehydrated.
- Do not drink tap water, but always drink bottled water.
- Be careful what you consume, as unsanitary food can cause diarrhea. Street food usually looks appetizing, but is not always hygienic. When going to restaurants, it is best to go to places with a high turnover, where the food is more likely to be fresh.
- Use insect repellent to avoid insect-borne diseases. Diseases such as dengue fever and malaria are particularly common, as there are many mosquitoes.
- Be cautious with animals such as cats, dogs, or monkeys, as they might carry disease.
Not only do you need to be mindful of your health, but also please be careful on the roads. While many travelers worry about contracting a serious disease, in fact most of the life-threatening problems are from road accidents.
In Vietnam, there are motorbikes everywhere, and you can easily find city tours by motorbike. Exciting as it is, do be careful, and always wear a helmet when on a motorbike.
What to Do If You Get Sick
Be cautious when buying medication over the counter, as fake medication and poorly stored or out-of-date medicines are common. If possible, bring basic medicine with you from your own country.
If you think you may have contracted a serious disease, do not delay in finding the nearest reliable healthcare, as it is better to be assessed by a doctor than to rely on self-treatment.
Diarrhea is the most common problem a traveler faces. Treatments consist of staying well-hydrated, drinking hydrating solutions, and taking antibiotics.
If possible, try to avoid public hospitals, as their sanitary standards may not be the best. It is better to find a private clinic with services in English. Reliable medical healthcare can be found in large cities such as Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, but otherwise it may be difficult to find.
If you find yourself unwell at a more rural location, it is best to ask your hotel for recommendations of nearby clinics or doctors experienced in treating foreigners.
In the case of emergency, the emergency service number in Vietnam is 115. The service, however, has been known to be slow and the personnel do not always speak English, so it may be better to use a taxi to get to the nearest private hospital for emergency treatment.
If the case is serious and you need hospitalization, it may be better to get to a hospital in Bangkok or Singapore for better medical services. Make sure that such an eventuality is covered when buying your insurance.
For a list of recommended clinics, hospitals, and doctors in Vietnam, read here.
While you do need to be careful and keep your body healthy during your trip, do not let such concerns deter you from setting off on your adventure.
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