Vietnam is fast overtaking Bali as Australia’s favourite holiday destination. It offers a rich variety of landscapes, fresh and delicious cuisine and a very diverse yet welcoming culture. As competitive airfares continue to rise, we’re seeing a surge in interest.
Vietnam boasts some truly breathtaking landscapes, including Halong Bay, Phong Nha Ke Bang caves and the Cham Islands. It also offers a diversity of natural beauty including world-famous beaches, national parks with camping and amazing bird life, and mountainous areas where the sunsets are spectacular.
Thanks to its long, rich history and Buddhist traditions, Vietnam has many traditional festivals all year round. These festivals range from the Tet holiday - an ideal time to see how families celebrate their love for their ancestors and for each other, to the buffalo fighting festival in Hai Phong where the winning buffalo is presented to the village god.
When planning your trip to Vietnam, it’s important to consider your health and understand your risk of contracting foreign disease and illnesses.
Speak with your healthcare professional about how you can best protect yourself prior to your departure.
Before you go to Vietnam
All travellers should be up to date with their routine vaccinations before heading off to Vietnam. These include vaccines for measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, chicken pox, polio and influenza. For a full list, refer to the National Immunisation Program – available here.
There is an increased risk of contracting hepatitis A and typhoid in Vietnam, both of which can be contracted through contaminated food or water.
Hepatitis A is a viral infection of the liver. People are exposed to the virus generally through food or drink contaminated with faeces (poo), however, close personal contact (e.g.
Depending on where you are staying and what activities you have planned, the following vaccinations may be recommended for you by your doctor:
- Hepatitis B
- Japanese encephalitis
In 2017 there were 6,122 cases of hepatitis B recorded in Australia, of which 142 cases were “newly acquired” and 5,980 cases were “unspecified” in regards to the time lapse since first infection.
Japanese encephalitis (JE) is a viral infection of the brain spread by the bite of a particular type of mosquito.
Australia has been free of rabies for a number of years. Australia does however have similar virus, which is found in bats.
It is best to consult with your doctor or travel health clinic at least 4-6 weeks prior to your departure. They will be able to advise you about any vaccinations that you may need for your trip well before you leave, based on your specific travel plans.
What your doctor will need to know:
- When you plan to travel (time of year/season)
- The duration of your trip
- The regions of Vietnam you are visiting
- Your planned activities (i.e. if you are going trekking or visiting remote and/or wilderness areas)
- If you will be in contact with animals
- If you are up-to-date with your routine vaccinations
Your doctor may also conduct a general health check-up. This may be needed for your travel insurance if you have a pre-existing medical condition.
If you are not up-to-date with your routine vaccinations, or if your doctor believes you may be at an increased risk of contracting a vaccine-preventable disease, then they may recommend that you get a booster or be revaccinated against a particular disease.
Medicare will only cover your GP consultation cost in most cases, but some private travel clinics you may have an out of pocket expense of approximately $50. Medicare will not cover the vaccinations, and vaccination prices vary a lot.
The average cost of a single travel vaccine can vary between $45-$85.The general advice is to allocate about $300-$600 per person (including a travel medicine kit) for average trips to the more remote areas.
If you have private healthcare, you may find they will cover some costs, but this varies from one company to another – check with your personal insurer for more details.
Some health insurance companies provide coverage for vaccinations. You will need to contact your health insurance provider to see what they cover.
When you see your doctor regarding your trip, Medicare may cover the total cost of your consultation fees (if it is a bulk billing practice), or otherwise a portion of the cost. However, if you need to be vaccinated, Medicare will not cover the cost of the vaccines themselves.
The standard of healthcare facilities in Vietnam varies from place to place. So it is important you a prepared before heading off on your trip.
See your doctor at least 4-6 weeks before departure to discuss your travel health requirements.
- Register your trip with Smart Traveller
- Make sure you have enough of your regular prescription medicines;
- Ensure you’re up-to-date with your routine vaccinations
- Take out travel insurance - to cover you and your family for medical and other costs resulting from unexpected incidents and accidents
- Put together a travel kit with medication for pain, diarrhoeal medicine, oral rehydration salts, antiseptic lotion or ointment, adhesive bandages and other wound dressings, insect repellent, sunscreen, latex gloves, thermometer, motion sickness medicine, water purification tablets and compression stockings
- The tap water in Vietnam is not safe to drink.
- Drink bottled or filtered water only and check the plastic seal on bottled water is intact (some stores have been known to sell boiled water in recycled bottles). Avoid adding ice to your drinks, and check that salad and fruit have been washed with filtered water prior to consumption.
- Traveller's diarrhoea is common in Vietnam.
- Important ways to prevent traveller’s diarrhoea include:
- ensure you wash your hands with soap and water regularly
- where possible, opt for fully cooked fresh food and only eat fruit that you peel yourself.
- avoid mosquito bites, as you may be at risk of contracting illnesses such as Japanese encephalitis (JE) or malaria in some rural parts of Vietnam.
- Speak with your healthcare professional about whether or not you might need medication or vaccination, 4-6 weeks prior to your departure. You can further protect yourself with insect repellent, wearing clothes that cover your arms and legs, and staying in accommodation that has air conditioning, fly nets or screened windows provided.
- Rabies is a deadly disease and considered a risk in Vietnam. It is spread by the bite, lick or scratch of an infected animal, such as a dog or a monkey. Avoid close contact with wild and domestic animals, this is especially important for children. Do not carry food around, or feed/play with monkeys or other animals. Vaccinations for rabies are available – your doctor can advise whether vaccinations are required for your trip.
- Use condoms to prevent sexually transmitted infections, such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea, human papillomavirus, herpes, syphilis, hepatitis B and HIV.
- Diseases such as HIV and hepatitis B can also be spread through fluids such as blood and semen. To protect yourself, do not inject drugs, do not share needles or devices that can break the skin including those used for tattooing, piercings or acupuncture. Vaccinations are available for hepatitis B.
Sources & Citations
- Worldometers, Viet Nam Population (live). Available at: http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/vietnam-population/ [accessed 30 May 2018].
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Travelers’ Health. Health Information for Travelers to Vietnam. Available at: https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/vietnam [accessed 30 May 2018].
- The Travel Doctor. Before You Travel. Available at: https://www.thetraveldoctor.com.au/before-you-travel/ [accessed 30 May 2018].
- Finder, Travel Vaccinations – Can I claim travel vaccinations on my private health insurance? Available at: https://www.finder.com.au/travel-vaccinations [accessed 30 May 2018].
- International Association for Medical Assistance to Travellers. Country Health Advice – Vietnam. Food & Water Safety: Overview. Available at: https://www.iamat.org/country/vietnam/risk/food-water-safety-overview [accessed 30 May 2018].
- International Association for Medical Assistance to Travellers. Country Health Advice – Vietnam. General Health Risks: Sexually Transmitted Infections. Available at: https://www.iamat.org/country/vietnam/risk/sexually-transmitted-infections [accessed 30 May 2018].
SPANZ.TRAV.18.04.0158a - Date of preparation July 2018Show All