Providing prompt consular assistance is difficult outside Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City because of Vietnam’s poorly developed infrastructure. The Embassy strongly recommends that comprehensive travel insurance, including medical insurance, is obtained before travelling to Vietnam. Travellers should note that the Irish government does not provide funds for emergency medical treatment, medical repatriation or for repatriation of remains.
Vietnam is a beautiful country which has many attractions for tourists. However, persons planning a trip should take into account the need to ensure that medical matters are addressed before travelling, (such as vaccinations, bringing medication and need for medical insurance cover including medical evacuation) and that appropriate safety measures are taken to make your trip enjoyable and safe. Appropriate care should be taken when travelling around the region. A small number of visitors have suffered the theft of their belongings and or passport. There have been a number of cases of theft of handbags by motorbike riders , especially in Ho Chi Minh City. Passports should be kept safely as considerable delay and expense is incurred by those who require a new passport and exit visa.
Irish citizens need to acquire a visa before travelling to Vietnam, and the closest Vietnamese Embassy – for persons resident in Ireland, this is in London – will be able to assist.
Safety and Security
The incidence of violent crime, in particular against foreigners, is low in Vietnam and your stay shouldbe without incident. However, a number of recent incidents have involved attacks on female travellers using motorbike taxis, known as xe oms, or rickshaws, known as cyclos, late at night. All visitors should exercise caution. Petty street crime can occur in the larger cities and tourist resorts and you should take sensible precautions. In main tourist areas, travellers should also be vigilant for any ploys or distractions by potential thieves or pickpockets. Bag snatchers on motorbikes can also be a problem and recently there have been reports of the straps of bags being cut and bags taken. Where possible you should leave passports and valuables in a hotel safe and only carry a photocopy of the data page of your passport. You should use licensed taxis after dark to minimise the risk of assault by cyclo or motorbike drivers.
Reports of thefts of belongings, including passports, continue to rise. Your passport is a very important document and should be kept safely. If your passport is stolen or lost, it will delay your travel plans considerably, as well as costing you money. In addition to the time taken to arrange for a new passport, you will need to obtain a replacement visa from immigration, which takes a minimum of 3 working days.
Citizens are advised to be vigilant whilst in Ho Chi Minh City and take extra care with their belongings. When you are travelling by air, bus or train, remain vigilant against petty theft, particularly in busy rail and bus stations and in crowded airports. Always use licensed taxis or pre-arranged hotel pick-ups when transferring from airports. You should not accept offers of free transfers to hotels as these may be bogus.
It is not advisable to publicly express strong political views or to take part in political demonstrations in Vietnam.
OUTDOOR ADVENTURE SPORTS
Before taking part in any outdoor or water based sports or activities, such as kayaking, rock climbing, hang-gliding etc., please check that your travel insurance will cover you in the event of death or injury to yourself or a third party. You should also be aware that the health and safety requirements in Vietnam are not as stringent as in Ireland, and are often neither observed nor enforced. The risk of a serious or fatal accident in the course of these activities is therefore higher.
The standard of driving and vehicle maintenance is not high, including for public transport and is the cause of many accidents and injuries. Before you drive any vehicle in Vietnam you must obtain a Vietnamese driving licence from the Vietnamese Road Administration in Hanoi (Fax: 00-84-8-829-0458).
Pedestrians should take particular care when crossing roads in major cities. Driving can be erratic and sometimes dangerous. Taxis are a common mode of transport but you should be vigilant as the standard of driving may be poor.
Motorbike use: Accidents involving motorbikes or scooters, often causing serious injury, long term brain damage or death, are a common occurrence. If you decide to rent or purchase a motorbike or scooter please take the same precautions as you would at home. These include wearing a helmet, observing speed limits and obeying the rules of the road. Never drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Failure to follow this advice is likely to invalidate your insurance coverage if you are involved in an accident. Please note that the use of crash helmets is compulsory for motorbike users and passengers. Please note also that in the event of an accident, third parties involved are likely to have little or no insurance.
It is not recommended to leave your passport with a bike or car rental company during the period of rental as you may encounter difficulties getting the passport back if there is any incident with the hired vehicle.
You should be aware of spiked drinks, particularly late at night in bars and you are advised not to leave food or drink unattended or to accept food or drink from strangers. Home made alcohol may be contaminated with bacteria or with toxic chemicals from pesticides and should be avoided.
A number of energy drinks, which are banned in European countries due to the high levels of stimulants they contain, are available in Vietnam. Many but not all carry health warnings. Excessive (more than two per day) consumption of these drinks, on their own or with alcohol can pose a serious danger to health, particularly to people with pre-existing cardiac or other health conditions.
Local Laws and Customs
You should avoid any involvement with drugs. Drug trafficking and possession carry heavy penalties, including the death penalty, which is enforced in Vietnam. Illegal drugs are likely to have been tampered with or spiked. Other crimes such as sex offences or fraud can result in long prison terms or a death sentence. Foreign visitors are not permitted to invite Vietnamese nationals into their hotel rooms.
Photography of, or near, military installations is generally prohibited.
Natural Disasters and Climate
Between the months of June and December, Central and Northern Vietnam are affected by seasonal storms and typhoons. 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, in particular the Central Region and Mekong Delta, is subject to sporadic 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. You should check the situation carefully through the media, weather reports, transport services and tour operators before embarking on journeys into the interior of the country.
Accidents have occurred during mountain climbing excursions in the north of the country. You are advised to undertake such activity under the supervision of reputable guides.
Additional Country Info
You should bring enough money for your stay. US Dollars are usually easily changed into Vietnamese Dong (VND). Credit cards are becoming more widely known, but outside the main centres you may find that cash is the only acceptable currency and you may find it difficult to cash travellers’ cheques. ATM distribution is still poor and limited to the major cities and tourist areas. However, it is possible to have money transferred to Vietnam by international money transfer companies. Foreign passport holders may exchange up to US$500 worth of Vietnamese Dong back into US Dollars on departure.
Unexploded mines and ordnance are a continuing hazard in former battlefields, particularly in central Vietnam and along the border with Laos. You should not stray off main routes in rural areas and you should check with your tour operator before travelling to affected regions.
The Embassy of Ireland is located in Hanoi. The contact details for the Embassy are available here .