It’s never fun falling ill, especially when you’re abroad. It can feel extra tough since you’re in a foreign country, you’re not sure about the different medications, you don’t know where to seek care, and perhaps you don’t even know why you’re sick! Sometimes, there’s nothing you can do either. But there are ways we can try to avoid getting sick. Take a look at these tips on how to avoid falling ill in Vietnam.
Food and Water Safety
First rule: never drink the tap water. That will almost guarantee you falling ill. In fact, water safety is a very serious issue in Vietnam. The tap water is contaminated and causes illnesses. So what you can do is to either buy bottled water or bring your own water filter. However, please keep in mind that Vietnam has a huge issue with plastic, so try to bring your own reusable water bottle and refill it in any water refill station. This will not only save you a few bucks, it’ll also help the environment.
When you sit down in restaurants, you’ll probably be offered something called “tra da”, which is cold green tea with ice. The water has been boiled and then cooled, and the tea has been steeped. It’s safe to drink this and you’ll see lots of locals drinking this over water, since it’s much safer, it’s quite tasty and very refreshing. So there’s no need to avoid it. As for the ice, the rule is usually to avoid the crushed ice and go with the ice that has a hole in it. But the ice is usually safe and many people, including foreigners, enjoy their drinks with ice in them without any consequences.
As for the food, it gets a bit trickier. But always make sure that your food is properly cooked, especially your soups! Make sure it’s boiling hot. Try to stay away from raw meats, only eat cooked foods, and try to avoid sushi restaurants. Yes, sushi is delicious, but if you’re only traveling in Vietnam for a shorter period of time, eat some local food instead so you can avoid the raw fish that might make your trip less pleasant. Also, be cautious of fruits without inedible peels, such as apples. If you are going to eat it anyway, make sure you wash it thoroughly with clean water.
When it comes to street food, it’s a big part of the culture in Vietnam and you don’t have to avoid it. You just need to use your better judgement. Some of the street food stalls hold very high standards, while others… not so much. Observe the hygiene at the street stall you are considering, notice if it gets many customers, be observant of the vessels they use, and check out reviews before eating there. However, keep in mind that even if no one else has fallen ill, it doesn’t mean it won’t ever happen to someone.
The pollution in Vietnam is strong, especially in the big cities such as Hanoi. With millions of motorcycles riding through the city every minute, the air quality has worsened quite a lot. If you come from a country that doesn’t have the same air, say Sweden, your body will most likely not get accustomed to the pollution. You’ll probably see lots of people wearing masks covering their mouths. This can be a good solution if you’re going on a longer motorcycle or bicycle ride for example, but it won’t really help if you’re just walking on the street. Your eyes should also be protected so wear sunglasses as often as you can when you’re outside.
It’s no secret that there’s tons of insects in tropical countries, and Vietnam is no different. Although it’s quite rare to fall ill of malaria and dengue fever, it still exists in the country. So buy a ton of bug spray, wear long pants and long sleeved shirts, and be extra cautious at dawn and dusk when the insects thrive.
Yes, I know. You want to pet all the cute animals on the streets. Unfortunately, many of these stray animals may carry diseases, or they’re not used to human touch or scared of you, and then they’ll try to bite you. If you do get bitten (which is not unheard of amongst travelers), visit a doctor immediately to get a rabies shot. Try not to pet or provoke them at any cost. Simply steer clear from them!
Although it all might sound scary, it’s quite uncommon to fall very ill in Vietnam. The most common thing is to get food poisoned, but there’s plenty of pharmacies to visit then to get the proper medications. Remember to hydrate, rest, and you’ll be up on your feet quicker than you can say ‘food poisoning’!
Before arriving to Vietnam, make sure that you apply for a visa. There are three ways you can apply for a visa: Visa on Arrival, E-Visa or go to the nearest Vietnamese Embassy or Consulate. The two first are online visas which can you apply from wherever you are in the world. That’s why they’re the most popular options. However, if you plan on arriving to Vietnam by land, you can’t apply for an online visa and have to go through the Vietnamese Embassy or Consulate.