Staying Healthy on Your Visit
Ho Chi Minh City is a vibrant International destination but there are still some things you should consider for staying healthy on your visit. Here’s a few tips and some handy numbers if the worst does happen and you need assistance. Please note, I am not a doctor. This advice comes from extensive travel in developing countries and generally staying healthy while doing so.
If you are only travelling to HCMC then it is possible that you won’t need too many vaccinations especially if you have kept the usual ones (tetanus, polio etc) up to date. However, if you intend travelling further afield to rural Vietnam or other nearby countries it’s probable you should have some extras. If possible, visit a doctor or clinic that specialises in travel medicine at least 3 months before you intend to travel
Click here for more information from The Travel Doctor in Australia
General Health Precautions
For me this is the number 1 way to staying healthy on your trip. HCMC is hot and humid much of the year so you need to keep your fluids up. It’s easy to get distracted by the many sights and activities on offer but please do not ignore getting enough fluids. Bottled water is cheap and widely available. If you are worried about the environmental aspects of plastic bottles then take your own re-usable drinking bottle from home and buy larger containers to fill it with. 5L bottles are readily available from small supermarkets and many hotels have water coolers that you can use.
Even the locals don’t drink the tap water but they do drink copious amounts of iced green tea which will also help to keep you hydrated. Some people may be wary of ice in their drinks but we personally haven’t had any issues since we arrived back in 2014.
Be sensible and trust your instincts and use COMMON SENSE. If you think the prawns in the glass cabinet that have been sitting in the sun all day will make you ill, you are probably right. That dried up kebab meat that doesn’t look like it’s been touched for days and there isn’t a local within cooee of the stall…stay away!
Salads and green leaves form a large part of the Vietnamese diet and you will miss out on a large selection of their excellent cuisine if you avoid them altogether. Many health advisory’s recommend not eating raw vegetables but I have never had an issue in HCMC. Most times you put them into boiling soup anyway. Then again, I am known for a fairly healthy consitution and have had years of practice getting my immune system nice and strong.
There are plenty of fruit vendors who have peeled andprepared fruit for you in advance. I can’t vouch for the cleanliness of their utensils but one again I’ve never had tummy troubles except perhaps from eating tooooo much yummy fruit at one time.
Despite your trepidation, please don’t avoid street food and local Vietnamese restaurants altogether. They will definitely be some of the highlights of your trip to Ho Chi Minh City. If you’re a bit reluctant to strike out on your own then take one of the many food tours available to give yourself a bit more knowledge and confidence. I highly recommend Saigon Street Eats or the Urban Adventures Saigon Street Food by night.
Eat early before the crowds and choose a restaurant or street vendor that has prepared a lot of food that looks fresh. A huge pile of freshly cooked food means they are expecting a crowd and therefore the food should be awesome and great value. There are a couple of tell tale signs that a street vendor has been around for a while and therefore has some good nosh on offer. The bottom of their pans will be blackened and you will see evidence of them having been in their position for a while by the soot and residue on any solid surface around them (walls/poles etc).
As with most chaotic Asian cities there will be germs everywhere from filthy banknotes through to public urinals (anything that stands still enough to be peed on!!!) Wash your hands on a regular basis with soap or at least use alcohol based wet wipes or hand cleaner. Carry your own or use the ones provided by most restaurants before you eat. They will charge you a couple of cents for them but better than being laid up with a crook tummy for a good part of your trip. It’s hard for us fingernail biters but try and keep your hands out of your mouth. This is one of the easiest ways to make yourself ill.
Pharmacies are everywhere in Ho Chi Minh City and staff will often speak english. Even if they don’t, use charades to act out your problem and they will be only too happy to provide you with somthing to cure your ills. My preference for minor tummy troubles (anything under 24 hours) is SMECTA and staying well hydrated I used to be the Immodium queen but since a doctor friend recommended using SMECTA I have not looked back. Do your own research before deciding but for me it is the number one safe and effective cure for most tummy troubles you will experience while travelling. Of course if you don’t get better see a doctor but before you reach for the Immodium, try SMECTA first. It is extremely cheap and readily available in every country I have travelled in (102!!) EXCEPT Australia. (and no I don’t have shares in the company or earn anything from this recommendation!)
Pharmaceuticals are extremely cheap in Vietnam BUT you need to make sure you know exactly what you are getting before you stock up your supply. I have read stories of “counterfiet” medications being sold but it is quite hard to verify these statements. I buy things like panadol and ibuprofen all the time without issue but for anything more critical you might want to think twice. If you are carrying any medication, whether you bring it from home or buy it here, make sure you bring a doctors letter if there’s even the slightest chance customs officials might be inquisitive about what you are carrying.
International Hospitals and Clinics
There are a number of medical facilities of an International standard here in HCMC. The following services have been recommended to me by my current employer or friends and acquaintances. I have only mentioned those in District 1 and 3. There are others in outlying Districts. Thankfully I haven’t yet required their services.
If you need an ambulance, ring one of the emergency numbers for the 24 hour clinics. You are far more likely to get someone speaking English than the local ambulance number. Some of these can assist with Medical evacuations if there is a serious emergency.
Family Medical Practice HCMC – Ph +84 (0)8 3822 7848
Diamond Plaza, 34 Le Duan, District 1
Opening- 24 hours – Clinic, Ambulance and Medical Evacuation Services
This is where we go when we get sick. My husband spent a couple of nights as an inpatient and has visited as an outpatient. Services are top notch, if a little expensive. Our insurance covered ALL costs so make sure you have a good one. This is who we insure with. Here’s an article I wrote about the necessity of travel insurance.
Columbia Asia International Clinic – Ph +84 (0)8 3823 8888
Opening – Emergency Room – 8am to 9 pm 7 days. Consultations by appointment.
International SOS Vietnam, Ltd. – Ph +84 (0)8 3829 8520
167A Nam Ky Khoi Nghia St, District 3
Opening – 7 days a week, 24 hours
I have needed these guys in Cambodia and they were excellent.
Victoria Healthcare International Clinic – Ph +84 (0) 8 3910 4545
79 Dien Bien Phu, District 1
Opening – 7 days a week, 24 hours for Emergency
They have another clinic in District 15.
International Medical Centre (CMI) – Ph+84 (08) 3827 2366
1 Han Thuyen, District 1
Opening hours for consulations – Monday to Friday 8.30 – 19h, Saturday 9 – 13h
For French speakers, this hospital is staffed by mainly French doctors. (Right near Notre Dame Cathedral.)
If you have a dental emergency or would just like to get some dental work done at a fraction of the price back home then here are a couple of dental practices that have been recommended to me. My personal dentist is the first one.
Au My Dental Clinic (read about my experience here)
113-115 Dinh Tien Hoang, P. Da Kao, District 1, HCMC (Turn left off Dien Bien Phu, heading towards D2, and it’s about five shops down on the left)
Ph: +84 (0)8 38202039/+84 (0)8 38202179/ +84 (0) 918145 499
Opening Hours: Monday-Friday 8h00-12h00/14h00-20h00
Koseiki Dental Clinic – Ph – +84 (0)8 3910 6255
21 Nguyen Trung Ngan St., District 1
Opening – Mon-Friday 8am – 7pm, Saturday 8am- 5pm
Starlight Dental Clinic – Ph +84 (0)8 3822 6222/3823 9294
2 Bis Cong Truong Quoc Te St, District 3
It’s my personal belief that if you can’t afford Travel Insurance then you can’t afford to travel. You can read and article I wrote on this matter here. You don’t want to have to think twice about good medical care if something happens and you certainly don’t want to spend the rest of your life paying for it.
With a little bit of care you’ll have no problems staying healthy on your visit to Ho Ch Minh City. Just remember not to let any worries about getting sick stop you from experiencing the best this wonderful city has to offer. Use your common sense and everything will be just fine. If the worst happens and you do fall ill, there is plenty of help on hand to assist.
Let me know if you think this page needs any further information or if you’d like to know anything else.
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