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Travel Guide > Asia > Vietnam

Vietnam Health & Safety

  
 
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Health

Vietnam claims Health tourism is on the rise. Hygiene, infection control and proper sterilization is very important, as drug resistant 'bugs' are always a concern, anywhere.

Tropical diseases such as malaria, dengue fever and Japanese encephalitis are endemic in rural Vietnam. Malaria isn't as much a concern in the bigger cities such as Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi, but always remember to take mosquito liquid repellent with you. It may be very useful, especially in the countryside and crowded neighborhoods.

Thanks to much improved hygiene conditions in recent years, cooked food sold by street vendors and in restaurants, including blended ice drinks, are mostly safe. Just use your common sense and follow the tips under the Traveller's diarrhea article and you'll most likely be fine.

Safety

Crime

While many safety warnings in travel guide book are no more than scaremongering, touristy areas in Vietnam are really a place worth more precaution. Violent crime towards foreigners remains low, pickpockets and motorbike snatching has found their home especially in Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi and Nha Trang. Thieves on motorbikes are ready to snatch bags, mobile phone, camera, jewelery of pedestrians and other motorbike drivers.

Also infamously common are thefts on popular beaches. Never leave your bag unattended on beaches.

In hotel rooms, including five star ones, reports that belongings are stolen have been heard occasionally. There is no need to be overly paranoid because most tourists do not get hurt, though basic precautions are definitely needed.

Corruption

Corruption is a big problem in Vietnam and locals are convinced that the police are not to be trusted. For motorcycle driver, police officer may stop you for any reasons including missing insurance papers or driving license, fine you around $20 for each offense (the average traffic fine should only be about $1-$5). Remember to stand your ground and all officers are required to write all traffic violations in their notebook and give your a receipt and pay to the station (not the officer). If you have a cell phone, threaten to call your embassy and he may back down. You might though just find it easier to pay the fine and get on your way.

Immigration officers are known to take bribes. During the early Doi Moi (the reform in 90s), bribes could be a few US dollar, a few packs of 555 cigarette. Today although officers still seem to feel okay at taking it, it is absolutely risk-free and acceptable if you don't bribe.

The international monitoring group Transparency International has rated Vietnam as one of the most corrupt nations in Asia.

Prostitution

Prostitution is illegal in Vietnam and the age of consent is 18. Vietnam has laws on the books with penalties up to 20-40 years in prison for sexually exploiting women and children, and several other countries have laws that allow them to prosecute their own citizens who travel abroad to engage in sex with children.

Scam

Most scams in Vietnam are in transportation, hotel prices and two-menus system practiced by some restaurants.

Hotel owners may tell you that the room price is VND200,000. However, when checking out, they may insist that the price is US$20, charging you almost a double. Another trick is to tell customers that a "room" is a few dollars, but following day they'll say that price was for a fan room only and it's another price for an air-con room. These days, legitimate hotel owners seem to be aware of these scams and are usually willing to help by writing down how much the room is per persons per day (in US or VND), if it has air con or not. Staff of legitimate hotels also never ask for payment from a guest when they check in. Watch out if they insist that you should pay when you check out but refuse to write down the price on paper.

Some restaurants are known to have two menus, one for local people and another one for foreigners. The only way to deal with it is to learn a few Vietnamese phrases and insist that you should be shown only the Vietnamese menu. If they hesitate to show you the local menu, you better walk away.

Many taxi drivers in Saigon and Hanoi install rigged meters, charging up to 2 to 5 times more. The best way to avoid this is by just taking a taxi from reputable companies such as Mai Linh, Vinasun, and Saigon Tourist in Sai Gon and Mai Linh and Ha Noi Tourist for Ha Noi. Having a clear agreement on price with the driver before getting into his taxi is also recommended.

When you meet an over-friendly cyclo driver who says, "never mind how much you would pay" or "you can pay whatever you like at the end of the trip". He even tries to show you his book of comments from international tourists. This kind of driver has to be a scammer. If you still want to use his service you should make it clear about the agreed price and don't pay more than that.

Traffic

The first discovery for many tourists who just arrive in Vietnam is that they need to learn how to cross a road all over again. You may see a tourist standing on the road for 5 minutes without knowing how to cross it. Traffic in Vietnam is a nightmare. Back home, you may never witness the moment of crash, seeing injured victims lying on the road, or hearing the BANG sound. Staying in Vietnam for more than a month, you will have fair chance of experiencing all these.

Roads are packed. Some intersections in main cities (Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City) have traffic lights patrolled by police, most are either non-functional or ignored.

To cross the road, don't try to avoid the cars, let them avoid you. Step a little forward, a little more, and you will see motorcycle drivers to slow down a bit, or go to another way. Make your pace and path predictable to other drivers. Don't turn your speed or direction suddenly. Then move forward until you hit your destination.

The simplest way, if available, is to follow a local, stand next to them in the opposite side of the traffic (if you get hit, he will get it first) and he will give you the best chance of crossing a road.

If you are injured, don't expect that local people are willing to help for even calling an ambulance because it is not free. Make sure you tell local clearly that you will pay the ambulance fee. Hospitals will also not accept your admission unless you prove that you can pay the bill.

Nightlife

Petty crime in night clubs can happen. Avoid quarreling with local people because drunken Vietnamese can be violent to foreigners, especially when there are girls around him. Don't leave your belongings unattended. Clubs are full of prostitutes looking for their admirers but be aware that they may also take your wallet and mobile phones away. Walking very late by yourself on the streets in the tourist area is safe, but you shouldn't let any local girls getting into conversation with you. Otherwise, they will touch you, sweet talk you, and then steal something from you without you knowing it at that moment.

Avoid asking the cab drivers for recommended nightspot. Most cab drivers are paid by KTVs and lounges to bring in foreign tourist. Usually when you walked in they will tell you a set of pricing which seems reasonable. But when you check out on the bill, they will includes a number of extravagant charges. Do you homework beforehand and tell the cab drivers where you want to go. Insist on going to where you want to go despite their persuasion. There are a number of reputable pubs and disco around. Try going to those which have more foreigners.

Wildlife

Much of Vietnam's ecology has been severely damaged and very little wildlife remains, let alone anything dangerous to humans. Venomous snakes (such as Cobras) may still be common in rural areas but virtually everything else has either gone extinct or exist in such small numbers that the chances of even seeing them are remote. Tigers may exist in very small numbers in remote areas, but this is yet to be proven. Saltwater crocodiles once thrived in southern Vietnam but have been locally extinct for at least 20 years.





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