While Vietnam is safe according to the government’s Smartraveller, there are still risks when travelling anywhere.
With the chaotic traffic in Vietnam, even something as basic as crossing the street is a higher risk than at home in Australia.
We give you tips on keeping safe while travelling in Vietnam, either with a friend or solo, as well as the need-to-know facts about travel insurance.
Safety considerations for Vietnam
While Vietnam may be deemed safe, there are still risks when travelling anywhere abroad. With the chaotic traffic in Vietnam, even crossing the street is a higher risk than at home in Australia.
We don’t mean to scare you, but you really should get travel insurance for those “just in case” moments.
Is Vietnam safe in 2019?
In the past, Vietnam has experienced natural disasters such as typhoons and extreme flooding, which is standard weather in Vietnam.
If travelling during the rainy season, June to December, it is best to keep an eye on weather conditions, especially in the northern and central provinces along the coast. Major flooding and typhoons are not uncommon and can cause landslides.
Typical crime for Southeast Asian countries such as petty theft, sexual assault, taxi and ATM scams are all ongoing concerns in Vietnam.
Travel insurance should cover you in the case of an emergency as a result of a natural disaster as well as if you are a victim of theft, violence or assault.
While terrorism is a threat in all countries, Vietnam has not experienced an incident to date (December 2018). However, a plot to explode incendiary devices at the Ho Chi Minh City's airport was foiled in 2017.
Is the food and drink safe in Vietnam?
Is it safe to eat street food in Vietnam?
Food-handling techniques in Vietnam are not up to Western standards and food poisoning is common. Restaurants in hotels should generally be safe to eat at, but you still need to be aware of what you are eating. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence that many restaurants use MSG, but this can be hard to avoid - so beware if you're allergic to MSG.
Street food in Vietnam is hit or miss, it can be totally safe to consume or not at all. But like restaurants in Vietnam, there is no guarantee that it’s safe. Luckily, at street food stalls, you can see how food is prepared.
A few tips on what to look out for when picking a street food vendor:
- Avoid eating raw food as a lot of it is washed with tap water
- Avoid eating meat that you can’t identify since it’s not uncommon for meat to be swapped for a cheaper alternative
- Opt to eat at stalls that have three sides since the food is better protected by glass surrounding the food
- Choose to eat where locals eat
Is the water safe to drink?
The tap water in Vietnam is not safe to drink, so stick to bottled water. Bottled water is easy to find so you won’t need to bring any purification tablets.
To keep safe drinking water in Vietnam, follow these tips:
- Only drink bottled water and check that the cap is sealed before drinking
- Brush your teeth with bottled water to avoid accidentally swallowing tap water
- It’s safe to drink boiled water for tea and coffee
Is Vietnam safe to travel alone?
Yes, it is safe to travel to Vietnam as a solo traveller. There is a beaten path through Vietnam for backpackers, and there is a large expat community, especially in the major cities such as Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh and Hoi An.
As always, take these safety precautions to keep yourself from harm while abroad:
- Be aware of your belongings and your surroundings
- Keep an eye on your drink to avoid it being spiked
- Book your accommodation before you arrive
- Dress appropriately to avoid unwanted attention
- Only take official transport
Is it safe to travel to Vietnam when pregnant?
There are risks involved if travelling to Vietnam while pregnant. These risks include the recommended vaccinations for travelling to Vietnam since some of the vaccinations are unsafe for pregnant women. Medications to treat food poisoning, which all travellers are at a high risk of getting in Vietnam, are also unsafe for pregnant women.
Private and foreign medical facilities are available in Ho Chi Minh, Hanoi, Vu Tang and Da Nang, and while they are better facilities than you can find elsewhere in the country, they may not be up to Western standards. Outside of the major cities, medical facilities are poor and evacuation costs are high.
Zika is an ongoing concern in Vietnam and pregnant women are encouraged to avoid any unnecessary travel to Vietnam.
Always consult a doctor before travelling while pregnant and check your travel insurance policy to see how far along in the pregnancy you can be and still have cover.
Do you need a vaccination before going to Vietnam?
There are a number of vaccinations that you should get before leaving for Vietnam. You should also keep up to date with routine vaccinations.
Smartraveller and a doctor can best advise you on the risks associated with various diseases that you may come into contact with in Vietnam, which can include the following:
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
- Japanese encephalitis
- Dengue fever
- Hand, foot and mouth disease
Zika is a concern throughout Vietnam, while malaria is prominent in remote mountainous areas and dengue fever is mostly in the south. All are mosquito-borne diseases so protect yourself by using mosquito repellent; wearing loose, long and light-coloured clothing; and staying in accommodation that is mosquito proof.
Travel insurance may not cover you if you choose not to take recommended medication for travel to Vietnam.
Is it safe to drive in Vietnam?
Driving conditions in Vietnam are very poor compared to Australia, and traffic accidents are four times more common.
Drivers often don’t follow road rules and traffic is very chaotic, especially in the major cities such as Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh. Drivers drive on the right-hand side of the road, which can cause some problems for Australians used to driving on the left.
Vietnamese law requires that you have a Vietnam licence to drive any vehicle, including motorcycles over 50cc. Vietnam does not recognise an Australian international licence.
While riding a motorbike or scooter in Vietnam is all the rage with travellers, your travel insurance won’t cover you if you don’t have a licence to drive that vehicle in Australia.
If you are involved in a traffic accident, seek medical attention immediately and do your best to document evidence to give to your travel insurance company for any claims. It is likely that you will be blamed for the accident regardless of whether it was your fault.
Is transport safe in Vietnam?
Taxis scams are very common in Vietnam. When hailing a taxi, only get into taxis that are a part of a reputable company, ask whether the driver knows how to get where you are going and make sure the driver uses the meter.
Grab is available in Vietnam as a cheaper alternative to taxis, but be sure that the information in the app matches the drivers.
The train is the safest way to travel through Vietnam, since intercity buses are often involved in accidents. Petty theft is common on both forms of transportation.
Before getting on a boat for sea travel, confirm that the vessel has the required safety equipment as many do not meet Australian standards.
Smartraveller does not comment on the safety of individual airlines in Vietnam, but you can find safety information on flights in Vietnam on Aviation Safety Network.