|Still current at: 07 January 2011
Updated: 04 January 2011
This advice has been reviewed and reissued with an amendment to Health (dengue fever statistics). The overall level of the advice has not changed; there are no travel restrictions in place in Vietnam
(see travel advice legal disclaimer)
Safety and Security - Terrorism
British nationals should avoid all demonstrations and large gatherings, which may turn violent.
See our Terrorism Abroad page.
Safety and Security - Crime
Take precautions and be on your guard against pickpockets and bag snatchers. Do not walk in secluded locations alone, or with people you do not know. Petty crime is not confined to the backpacker districts but also occurs in the main tourist shopping areas.
Avoid carrying handbags or wearing highly visible jewellery, especially necklaces, and expensive looking watches. When possible, leave passports and valuables in a hotel safe and only carry a photocopy of the data page of your passport. Use taxis after dark to minimise the risk of robbery.
There are known scams in Vietnam targeting tourists. There are reported cases of fake charities, gambling and taxi scams. Beware of people who strike up conversations with you in the street and invite you back to their home or tell you about the charity they work for. Some British Nationals have lost thousands through fixed card games.
Violent assaults against tourists have been reported on Cat Ba Island (close to Ha Long Bay) and in Nha Trang (Central Vietnam).
There have also been reports of arguments over hotel or restaurant bills turning from arguments to attacks quickly.
There is low reporting of sexual assaults but tourists should travel with friends and take the normal precautions.
See our Victims of Crime Abroad page.
Tragic accidents have occurred during mountain climbing excursions in the north of Vietnam, and there have been reports of the firing of real firearms in Cu Chi tunnels near Ho Chi Min City. Undertake any activities, which include firearms at your own risk and ensure all activities are undertaken under the supervision of reputable guides.
In 2008, there were a small number of incidents that resulted in fatalities, in the southern Vietnamese provinces neighbouring Ho Chi Minh City.
Do not stray off main routes in rural areas and check with your tour operator before travelling to affected regions.
Retain the customs form on given to you on arrival, as this is required for exiting the country. If you lose this form you could be fined on departure and face the possibility of having your belongings confiscated.
Safety and Security - Local Travel - Cambodia Border
To enter Vietnam from Cambodia you must obtain a visa before arriving at the border. Bavet, Kaam Samnor and Phnom Den crossings are open to foreign travellers and issue visas. The other border crossings at Trapeang Phlong, Prek Chak, O Yadaw and Trapeang Srer are also reported to be open to foreign travellers and in some cases issue visas. There are also a number of other local crossing points which are only open to Cambodian and Vietnamese nationals. Check locally before travelling to these points. To enter Cambodia from Vietnam, you can get a visa on arrival at the border.
See our Travel Advice for Cambodia.
Safety and Security - Local Travel - Laos Border
Unexploded mines and ordnance are a continuing hazard in former battlefields, particularly in central Vietnam and along the Laos Border, formerly traversed by the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Mined areas are frequently unmarked.
See our Travel Advice for Laos
Safety and Security - Local Travel - Rail Travel
Rail travel in Vietnam is generally safe. The level of comfort and safety varies greatly between national and tourist routes and more rural routes. There have been numerous reports of personal belongings being stolen whilst people are asleep on the Sapa to Hanoi train.
Safety and Security - Local Travel - Road Travel
A Vietnamese driving license is required to drive in Vietnam. These can be obtained from the Vietnamese Road Administration in Hanoi, (fax: +84 4 38571440) or, in Ho Chi Minh City, from the Department of Public Works and Transportation (tel: +84 8 3829 0451 or 0452, fax: +84 8 3829 0458).
When travelling by bus or train, remain vigilant against petty theft. Always use licensed taxis or pre-arranged hotel pick-up when transferring from airports. Do not accept offers of free transfers to hotels, as these are likely to be bogus.
The standard of driving and vehicle maintenance is poor, including public transport, and is the cause of many accidents and injuries. Take particular care crossing roads in major cities. Driving is very erratic and sometimes dangerous.
Traffic accidents tend to attract a large crowd quickly. If you are involved in a traffic accident you could face criminal charges. It is not uncommon to pay a large compensation to the injured person even if the injuries are minor. Failure to pay the compensation claim can lead to full investigations by the police. If you are subject to an investigation, offer the police your full-cooperation and inform the Embassy/Consulate.
Safety and Security - Local Travel - Road Travel - Motorbikes and cars
Vietnam’s main mode of transport is motorbike. Riding a motorbike can be dangerous and a number of road accidents involving British nationals have been reported. These can result in costly medical bills as insurance usually does not cover it. When riding a motorbike, take the same precautions as in the UK.
Safety and Security - Local Travel - Road Travel - Travelling by Taxi
Taxis are a common mode of transport, but be vigilant and avoid using smaller unlicensed taxis.
Licensed taxis are generally reliable. The meter should always be used and it is advisable to get the hotel/restaurant/bar to call you a taxi. There are many brands of taxi and the meters are set at different prices for the first km. Some taxi’s meters appear to start at 100’s of thousands of VND but most should start at around 8-20,000VND.
Taxis from Hanoi Airport should stick to the published set fee; those from HCMC should be registered and use the meter.
See our Driving Abroad page.
Safety and Security - Local Travel - Sea Travel
There are numerous coastline areas that have regular boat tours. Ha Long Bay is a particularly popular place; however, there was a fatal boat accident there in 2009. Check with your tour guide about the safety record and registration of boats before setting off and ensure you receive a full safety briefing when joining any boat.
Piracy has been known to occur in coastal areas off Vietnam. Mariners should be vigilant; reduce opportunities for attacks; establish secure areas onboard; and report all incidents to the coastal and flag state authorities.
See our River and Sea Safety page.
Safety and Security - Political Situation
Vietnam Country Profile
Illegal drugs are increasingly available in major cities. Be aware that drugs are likely to have been tampered with/spiked. Drugs are much stronger and of a higher potency in Asia than in Europe and British tourists have suffered fatal overdoses in the past from very small amounts.
Penalties for possession, distribution or manufaction of drugs can be severe and Vietnam maintains the death penalty. In Vietnamese law, anyone found in possession of even a small amount of drugs can face the death sentence.
Crimes such as sex offences or fraud can result in being stopped from leaving Vietnam for an unlimited period without being charged, very long prison terms, or a death sentence. The Vietnamese legal system is not well developed and the standard of prisons is very poor. The Embassy/Consulate can not get you out of prison.
When checking into a hotel, you will have to surrender your passport so that the hotel can register your presence with the local police. It is advisable to carry a photocopy of the data page from your passport, which can be used as proof of identity. If you are staying in private accommodation, you will still be expected to register. Ask your host to assist you with this as soon as you arrive. You may be charge an administrative fine for staying without registration. The level of fine is at the discretion of the Head of the Police in the area you stay.
Foreign visitors to Vietnam are generally not permitted to invite Vietnamese nationals into their hotel rooms.
Never take photographs of or near, military installations. When entering religious or cultural sites it is a courtesy to respect local customs and dress in appropriate clothing.
See our Your Trip page.
Entry Requirements - Passports
Entry into Vietnam may be refused if your passport has less than one month validity from the date your Vietnamese visa expires. Other countries in Asia expect six months validity.
Neither the Embassy nor Consulate can issue passports. If you require a new passport, applications are processed by the British Consulate in Hong Kong and take approximately 4 weeks. Please visit our website at: ukinvietnam.gov.uk for further information about how to apply, fees and what documentation is required.
In the event of an emergency, the Embassy/Consulate can produce Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs).
For more information about passports and ETDs, please visit the British Embassy website at: ukinvietnam.fco.gov.uk.
Entry Requirements - Visas
A visa is required for Vietnam. Ensure that you obtain the correct visa for the purpose and destination of your travel, via your closest Vietnamese Embassy. We are aware that some travel agencies are able to arrange legitimate visas-on-arrival. Vietnamese visas are usually valid for only one entry. If you plan to leave Vietnam and re-enter from another country make sure you obtain a visa allowing multiple entries. Overstaying without authority is a serious matter and you can be held in detention until a fine is paid. Check the visa validity and conditions carefully. The UK Embassy/Consulate can not offer Vietnamese immigration advice.
For further information, check with your nearest Vietnamese Embassy.
If you have your passport lost/stolen you will need to apply for both a replacement passport and a replacement Vietnamese visa from the Immigration authorities in order to leave the country. This can only be done during normal working hours and usually takes three to five working days. Neither the Embassy nor the Consulate can expedite replacement Vietnamese visas.
Entry Requirements - Travelling with Children
Single parents or other adults travelling alone with children should be aware that some countries require documentary evidence of parental responsibility before allowing lone parents to enter the country or, in some cases, before permitting the children to leave the country.
The standard of health care in Vietnam is sufficient in the major cities for treating minor injuries; more complicated treatment may require evacuation to a third country. Health care in rural areas is extremely basic and it is unlikely that English will be spoken. Travel insurance is essential and medical bills can run into thousands of pounds. Complete the next of kin details in the back of your passport. Whilst most clinics and hospitals provide adequate health care; food and comforts are usually provided by friends or family. Things like TV’s and English books are rare.
In the 2008 report on Global AIDS Epidemic the UNAIDS/WHO Working Group estimated that around 280,000 adults in Vietnam were living with HIV, 0.5% of the population compared to 0.2% in the UK. Exercise normal precautions to avoid exposure to HIV/AIDS. See our HIV and AIDS page.
As of 23 Dec 2010, a total of 109,304 dengue cases, including 84 deaths, have been reported in Vietnam.
Malaria occurs in Vietnam are prevalent in urban areas and there have also been cases of Japanese Encephalitis reported in Northern Vietnam.
Heavy rain continues in the central regions of Vietnam, particularly in Khanh Hoa, Lam Dong, Phu Yen and Binh Dinh, causing severe floods and landslides. Transportation links, including rail and road, have been affected and some flights to Cam Ranh airport have been cancelled. Check with your tour operator or airline before travelling to these areas. If you are already in these areas, exercise caution, monitor local news and follow the advice of local authorities.
Vietnam’s climate is recognised to have two monsoon seasons – the southwest monsoon from March or April to September and the northeast monsoon from October to late March or early April. Infrastructures of the major cities can sometimes be heavily affected by longer periods of rain which can result in flooding, fluctuations of power and fresh water to certain areas and on occasions, landslides which can affect roads and rail links. It can sometimes take days for the water to recede completely, and all areas of the local infrastructure may become affected.
Check your travel arrangements prior to travel and expect some delays and difficulties moving around the country.
Natural Disasters - Tropical Storms
If you encounter a storm/typhoon system whilst travelling or living in Vietnam, monitor weather reports and think about limiting your movement around the country. In rural/isolated areas, take normal precautions (such as stocking a reasonable amount of bottled water/looking at alternative flights etc) in case the weather makes it difficult to leave your home/hotel.
Independent travellers should avoid extremely isolated or rural areas if a typhoon system is forecast or affecting that area. Ensure friends/family have a copy of your travel itinerary and stay in regular contact with them to prevent unnecessary concern.
On 2 November 2009, Tropical Storm Mirinae resulted in the deaths of at least 90 people in the central regions of Phu Yen, Khan Hoa, Gia Lai and Binh Dinh.
Many areas in Vietnam do not have well developed pavements, including major cities. This can make it difficult for people using prams or push-chairs.
General - Insurance
You should take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance (including medical evacuation) before travelling. Check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake. See our Travel Insurance page.
If things do go wrong when you are overseas then see our When Things Go Wrong page.
General - Consular registration
Register with our LOCATE service to tell us when and where you are travelling abroad or where you live abroad so our consular and crisis staff can provide better assistance to you in an emergency.
If you are a British national and plan to stay for an extended period in Vietnam register with the British Embassy or Consulate via LOCATE upon arrival.
General - Consular Assistance
Providing prompt consular assistance is difficult outside Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City because of Vietnam’s poorly developed infrastructure. Some places are a flight away with only one daily flight. It is essential that you have comprehensive travel/medical insurance.
General - Consular Assistance - Statistics
51 British nationals required consular assistance in Vietnam in the period 01 April 2009 – 31 March 2010 for the following types of incident; deaths (14 cases); hospitalisations (25 cases). During this period assistance was also requested with regard to lost or stolen passports (75 cases).
General - Money
The national currency for Vietnam is Vietnam Dong (VND). However, US dollars are accepted. It is near impossible to change VND into USD, without the use of flight tickets to demonstrate your onward destination.
Credit cards are becoming more widely accepted, but outside main centres you may find cash the only acceptable currency and find it difficult to cash travellers’ cheques.
ATM’s are available in major cities and tourist areas.
It is possible to have funds transferred to Vietnam via international money transfer companies such as Western Union or Moneygram. Only exchange money at official Money Exchange Counters with a clear sign showing this. Illegal exchange places like gold shops may offer a higher rate but there are risks of losing your money.