Practical Tips to Avoid Getting Sick While Travelling in Vietnam

19, July, 2017

Practical Tips to Avoid Getting Sick While Travelling in Vietnam

A fast way to completely ruin a Vietnam private tour is by falling sick. For travellers to a foreign country for the first time, it can be difficult to know what to drink, what to eat, and other simple ways to stay healthy. Here are a few useful tips to stay safe while in Vietnam.

Drinking water
A simple rule to follow in Vietnam is to avoid drinking the local tap water. Water safety is a key issue for travellers. For many travellers, contaminated water is one of the top reasons to experience illness while away from home.

Bottled water is the right option to stay hydrated and is available everywhere in the country, and very cheap to buy. Also, it is worth being cautious with ice. Ice has the risk of being unsafe if made with contaminated water. However, most restaurants buy in ice from companies to ensure it is pure and healthy, so less risk of falling ill.  

Alternatively, iced tea (tra da) can make a refreshing drink for those travellers interested in something more than water. The brewing process of green tea with ice destroys any containment and leaves it safe to drink. Ice tea is often favoured in restaurants because it is more refreshing to drink.

drinks in vietnam

Food-borne illness is certain to be a concern for travellers, especially for those that haven’t eaten similar food. Any food eaten must be completely cooked and hot. Vietnam is well-known for its soup-like dishes so there is a greater chance of contracting some sort of illness. Pho or a similar dish should be piping hot before eating.

Limited the diet to cooked foods only and avoid eating raw meats. While there are plenty of sushi restaurants that will prepare the dish properly, travellers that are in the country for a short time may still wish to avoid any risk.

Eating raw vegetables and salads isn’t the best option. A delicious bowl of pho can accept a few raw herbs, but it is still wise to use your judgement. Most restaurants will be willing to flash boil raw herbs and vegetables on request.

Caution with certain fruit is necessary – fruits with an inedible skin (watermelon, oranges, bananas, etc.) are acceptable, while sugar cane and apples may be best to avoid.

Read more: Vietnamese Food and Drink

food in vietnam

Street food
In general the street food is perfectly safe and healthy to eat, but there are a one or two things to consider.

A great rule to find street stalls that abide by safety procedures and serve high quality food is to look at the volume and turnover. Any stall with high turnover means it is not only popular with the locals, but also the food will be freshly prepared. Many of the stalls lack a refrigeration unit so food is rarely prepared ahead of time.

Visiting a busy place Ben Thanh Market in Ho Chi Minh City on the Vietnam holiday will see a very high turnover of customers, compared to food stalls in the areas that get significantly less foot traffic. If the food is consumed within a relatively short period of being prepared, there is a much lower risk of getting sick.

Also, take a moment to observe the hygiene at the street stalls before making an order. If the food isn’t being prepared to your standards at one stall, you can simply move on the next one.

Take note of the plates and bowls used for serving the food. If they appear to be washed in tap water and still wet when the foods is served up, this may not be the right street stall for you. This can mean street foods are safer than others. For instance, the “banh mi” (baguette sandwich) relies on no bowls or utensils, so is safe to eat.

A great way to experience the best of the street food scene is to sign up for a guided tour. This is a great introduction to the local cuisine and gets you prepared for what to expect on the rest of the Vietnam travel guide. Also, the professional guides will give tips on safety procedures and finding high-quality food.

street food tour in vietnam

Air Pollution
When visiting the urban areas of Vietnam like a major city like Ho Chi Minh City it is worth consider air pollution. While this city isn’t over polluted, some travellers may find the air quality different to other cities around the world.

For tourists planning to tour the city on a bike it is certainly worth wearing a mask to protect against pollution and dust. This is especially useful if planning regular bike trips or even to ride long distances across the country. However, for the short bike rides in the countryside, there is less need to rely on a mask.

Also, dust and pollution can have a negative impact on your eyes, so goggles or sunglasses are worth wearing on the long journeys to avoid any potential issues.

Sun and Insects
With the hot tropical climate in Vietnam it is well worth considering insect protection and sun safety. It is practical to apply a strong sunscreen and use a hat on days under the very potent sun. This is certain to apply on boat or other trips where you are entirely exposed to the elements.

While the risks of insect transmitted diseases are relatively low, it is beneficial to educate yourself on diseases like dengue fever and malaria before travelling. Malaria is mostly limited to rural areas, while dengue fever has the potential to impact tourists throughout the country. Use a high-quality insect spray to get protection from mosquitoes which transmit these diseases. Read more: Vietnam Weather and Climate

Stray Animals
A simple rule on the Vietnam family holiday is to stay clear of stray animals (chickens, cats, dogs, etc.) – no matter the cuteness factor. Vietnam isn’t a rabies-free country, and can be found in bats, dogs, and other mammals. In addition to rabies, there are several other diseases that are transferred to humans through animals. Simply avoid the stray animals on the street to avoid the low risk of catching a disease.