Asia and Oceania

Vietnam Flag of Vietnam

Still current at: 10 June 2008
Updated: 09 May 2008


This advice has been reviewed and reissued with an amendment to the Health section (An intestinal virus, a variant of hand, foot and mouth disease, is affecting Vietnam - worst affected areas include Ho Chi Minh City, Dong Nai, Kien Giang, Dong Thap, Vinh Long and Ben Tre, with a number of cases also reported in Da Nang, Khanh Hoa and Binh Thuan).   The overall level of the advice has not changed.

(see travel advice legal disclaimer)

Travel advice for this country


Travel Summary

  • Outbreaks of Avian Influenza (Bird Flu) in Vietnam have led to over 40 reported human fatalities. The last fatality was in 2008.
     
  • Dengue Fever is endemic to Vietnam and can occur throughout the year.  In 2007 there was a marked increase in the number of reported cases of Dengue, particularly in the southern regions of the country.  See the Health section of this advice for more details.

  • There is a low threat from terrorism in Vietnam.  But you should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks which could be in public areas, including those frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers.

  • Typhoons commonly occur in Vietnam between June and December.  In October 2007 Tropical Storm Lekima caused a number of fatalities and made thousands of people homeless on the central Vietnam coast near Dong Hoi. See the Natural Disasters (Tropical Storms) section of this advice for more details.

  • Around 85,000 British tourists visit Vietnam every year (source: Vietnamese Tourist Authority).  Most visits are trouble-free and serious or violent crimes against foreigners are rare.  The main types of incident for which British nationals required consular assistance in Vietnam in 2007 were: replacing lost and stolen passports (50 cases); and dealing with hospitalisations or deaths, mostly from natural causes (14 cases).

  • We strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling.  You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for all the activities you want to undertake.  

Safety and security

Terrorism

There is a low threat from terrorism in Vietnam.  But you should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks, which could be in public areas, including those frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers.

Crime

Crime levels are low, petty street crime is increasing in the larger cities (such as Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi) and tourist resorts.  Several violent assaults against tourists were reported on Cat Ba Island (close to Ha Long Bay) and in Nha Trang (Central Vietnam).  You should take sensible precautions.  Do not walk in secluded locations alone, or with people you do not know.  Petty crime is not confined to the backpacker district but also occurs in the main tourist shopping areas.  Bag snatchers on motorbikes can also be a problem.  You should 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.  You should use taxis after dark to minimise the risk of robbery by cyclo or motorbike drivers.
 
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.
 
You should be aware of spiked drinks, particularly late at night in the bars.  You are advised not to leave food or drink unattended or to accept food or drink from strangers.
 
Illegal drugs are increasingly available in major cities.  You should be aware that drugs are likely to have been ‘tampered with’ or spiked.
 
Political situation
 
Vietnam operates a single party political system, which does not welcome dissent.  Internal conflict is rare, although there have been some violent clashes between protestors and police in the Central Highlands region of Vietnam, which resulted in a number of deaths.
 
LOCAL TRAVEL
 
Unexploded mines and ordnance are a continuing hazard in former battlefields, particularly in central Vietnam and along the Laos Border. In 2008, there have also been a small number of incidents, that have resulted in fatalities, in southern Vietnamese provinces neighbouring Ho Chi Minh City. You should not stray off main routes in rural areas and you should check with your tour operator before travelling to affected regions.
 
Tragic accidents have occurred during mountain climbing excursions in the north of the country, and you should ensure such activity is undertaken under the supervision of reputable guides.
 
You should be aware that transport infrastructure in Vietnam can be in poor condition. Provincial authorities have warned that the Dong Nai bridge (linking Ho Chi Minh City with Dong Nai, Ba Ria-Vung Tau and other north-eastern provinces) is at risk of collapsing. Since 20 August 2007, vehicles seating seven or more passengers heading towards Ho Chi Minh City have been diverted to the Hoa An bridge to avoid overloading.

Road Travel
 
Some parts of Vietnam are fairly inaccessible.  In others, widespread road construction makes driving hazardous.
 
The standard of driving and vehicle maintenance is poor, including for public transport, and is the cause of many accidents and injuries.  Before driving any vehicle you must obtain a Vietnamese driving licence from the Vietnamese Road Administration in Hanoi, (fax:  +84 4 8571440) or, in Ho Chi Minh City, from the Department of Public Works and Transportation (tel:  +84 8 829 0451 or 0452, fax:  +84 8 829 0458).  Vietnamese law requires the use of crash helmets for motorbike riders on major highways.  You are advised to wear a crash helmet at all times when travelling by motorbike.
 
Pedestrians should take particular care crossing roads in major cities.  Driving is erratic and sometimes dangerous.  Taxis are a common mode of transport, but you should be vigilant and avoid using smaller unlicensed taxis.  Always agree with the taxi driver the cost of your journey before embarking.
 
Sea Travel
 
There have been attacks against ships in the waters off Vietnam.  Mariners are advised to be vigilant; reduce opportunities for attacks; establish secure areas onboard; and report all incidents to the coastal and flag state authorities.
 
Rail Travel
 
Rail travel in Vietnam is generally safe (there was one serious accident in 2004).  There are sometimes incidents of crime on trains and therefore you should remain vigilant.

Local laws and customs

You should avoid any involvement with drugs.  Drug trafficking and possession carries heavy penalties, including the death penalty, which is enforced in Vietnam.  Other crime, such as sex offences or fraud, can result in very long prison terms or a death sentence.  The Vietnamese legal system is not well developed and the standard of prisons is very poor.

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.

Foreign visitors to Vietnam are not permitted to invite Vietnamese nationals into their hotel rooms.
Photography of or near, military installations is generally prohibited.

Entry requirements

Visas
 
You must obtain a visa prior to travel unless, exceptionally, prior arrangements have been made (by your tour operator or if you are an officially sponsored visitor).  You should check visa validity and conditions carefully.  They are usually valid for one month.  There are fines and/or imprisonment if you overstay your visa.  Entry to Vietnam may be refused if your passport has less than six months validity. 

If you lose your passport or have over-stayed you will need to apply for a new visa from the Immigration authorities in order to leave the country.  This can only be done during working hours and usually takes three to five working days.

For further information, check with your nearest Vietnamese Embassy.
 
Passport validity
 
Entry to Vietnam may be refused if your passport has less than six months validity.

Customs form
 
You should retain the yellow customs form on entry to Vietnam, as this is required for exit.  If you lose this form you are likely to be fined on departure.
 
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.

Health

The standard of health care is sufficient in the major cities for treating minor injuries, but more complicated treatment may require evacuation to a third country.
 
Dengue Fever is endemic to Vietnam and can occur throughout the year.  There is no vaccination or immunisation.  In 2007 there was a marked increase, from the already high figures of 2006, in the number of reported cases of Dengue. Southern regions of the country have had particularly high levels of infection.
 
Malaria and Japanese encephalitis are common in many areas of Vietnam.  Both diseases are transmitted by mosquitoes.
 
An intestinal virus, a variant of hand, foot and mouth disease, is affecting Vietnam. In May 2008, the Vietnamese Health Ministry reported that there have been approximately 3,000 cases since the beginning of the year, mostly from Ho Chi Minh City, Dong Nai to the city's east, and Kien Giang, Dong Thap, Vinh Long and Ben Tre in the Mekong Delta. There have also been a number of cases reported in Da Nang, Khanh Hoa and Binh Thuan on the central coast. Children are a particular risk from the virus. The WHO advise that there is no cause for alarm and that you should take normal precautions and be vigilant about washing hands, etc.

Poor sanitation and eating contaminated food can increase the risk of cholera, typhoid and other diseases. In November and December 2007, a cholera outbreak was reported in Vietnam. Between January and April 2008 cases of cholera were reported throughout Vietnam, including Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.  Some cases were confirmed as cholera. Do not drink tap water or water that is not bottled and sealed.  Wherever possible, bottled water should be bought from reputable sources.  Hygiene standards in restaurants vary.  Beware of food from streetside vendors, which might be contaminated. 

Since 2004, cases of Meningitis (mostly affecting young people under the age of 15) have increased in Vietnam and in 2006 there was an increase in cases of Rubella (which is particularly dangerous if contracted by pregnant women).
 
You should seek medical advice before travelling and ensure that all appropriate vaccinations are up to date.  NHS Direct (0845 46 47) can provide you advice on vaccination requirements for Vietnam.

For further information on endemic diseases, like malaria, health outbreaks and vaccination requirements for Vietnam you should check the websites of the National Travel Health Network and Centre NaTHNaC website. and NHS Scotland's Fit For Travel.

Avian Influenza (Bird flu)
 
There have been outbreaks of Avian Influenza (Bird Flu) in at least 15 of Vietnam's 64 provinces.  This has led to over 40 reported human fatalities (most recently in 2008) believed to have arisen through close contact with infected poultry. Vietnamese authorities are taking measures to combat these outbreaks.
 
Since the end of 2003, a number of human deaths have also occurred in Azerbaijan, Cambodia, China, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Laos, Nigeria, Pakistan, Thailand and Turkey.
 
The risk from Avian Influenza is believed to be low, provided you avoid visiting live animal markets, poultry farms and other places where you may come into close contact with domestic, caged or wild birds; and ensure poultry and egg dishes are thoroughly cooked.
 
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned of the possibility that the Avian Influenza outbreaks could lead at some point to a human flu pandemic, if the virus mutates to a form easily transmissible between people.
 
British nationals living longer term in an Avian-Influenza affected region should take personal responsibility for their own safety in the event of a future pandemic, including considering their access to adequate healthcare and ensuring travel documents are up to date.

NATURAL DISASTERS

Tropical Storms
 
The typhoon season in Vietnam normally runs from June to December. Flooding and landslides can occur during this time.
 
You should monitor local and international weather updates from the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO).  You can also access http://www.nhc.noaa.gov for updates.
 
Central and North Vietnam are most affected by seasonal storms and typhoons. On 3 October 2007 Tropical Storm Lekima made landfall on the Vietnam coast near Dong Hoi.  There were a number of fatalities and thousands of people made homeless.  There were landslides and flash floods in the affected areas and severe damage to infrastructure.

In late 2006, typhoons caused considerable damage in coastal areas in Vietnam, particularly in Ha Long Bay and the Hue/Hoi.  An region.  On 5 December 2006, tropical storm Durian hit Vietnam, claiming a number of lives and injuring hundreds in Ria Vung Tau province.
 
Flooding
 
Provincial areas are often affected by flooding, which may result in disruption to infrastructure and possible loss of life.  You should check with your travel agent before travelling to affected areas.

Vietnam, particularly the Central Region and Mekong Delta, is subject to sporadic serious flooding in the monsoon season.  (The timing of this varies across the country but is usually from June to October).  This can cause considerable damage to the infrastructure and on occasions has left whole areas isolated, including border-crossing points into Laos.
 
In August, October and November 2007, tropical storms caused severe flooding in central Vietnam.  Some of the worst affected areas were Ha Tinh, Daklak, Quang Binh, Quang Thi, Thua Thien Hue and Hoi An.  A number of people were killed and thousands made homeless.  You should check the situation carefully through the media, weather reports, transport services and tour operators before embarking on journeys to Central Vietnam.

General

Insurance
 
We strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance (including medical evacuation) before travelling.  You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake.

Consular Assistance

Providing prompt consular assistance is difficult outside Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City because of Vietnam’s poorly developed infrastructure.  It is essential that you have comprehensive travel/medical insurance.

Registering with the British Embassy

If intending to stay for more than one month you should register with the British Embassy in Hanoi or the British Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City.

Money

You should bring enough money for your stay.  US$ are most widely accepted.  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 distribution is still poor and limited to the major cities and tourist areas.  It is possible to have funds transferred to Vietnam via international money transfer companies.

Foreign passport holders can exchange up to US dollars 500-worth of Vietnamese dong back into US dollars on departure.

Travel advice for this country

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contacts

Vietnam, Hanoi, British Embassy

Address:

British Embassy
Central Building
4th floor
31 Hai Ba Trung
Hanoi

Telephone:

(84) (4) 936 0500
(84) 90340 4919 Duty Officer Mobile

Fax:

(84)(4) 936 0561 Chancery/UKTI
(84)(4) 936 0562 Consular
(84)(4) 936 0551 Management

Email: behanoi@hn.vnn.vn

Office hours:

GMT:
Mon-Fri: 0130-0530 / 0630-0930

Local Time:
Mon-Fri: 0830-1230 / 1330-1630

Website: http://www.britishembassy.gov.uk/vietnam



 

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