Traveling can be fun and exciting, especially to a country with amazing scenery and cuisine such as Vietnam. However, more often than not, unfamiliar with the country’s culinary culture and weather can ruin your trip. To get the best out of your time in Vietnam, just follow 5 simple tips below to stay healthy and enjoy your journey!
1. Stay hydrated and avoid midday sun
People come to Vietnam for the tropical weather, but many suffer because of it. As rainy season is coming, the weather can be extremely muggy and hot during daytime. Heatstroke can be a real health issue for foreign travelers so do remember to stay under shades or indoor during the hottest hours of the day.
Big cities, like Ho Chi Minh or Ha Noi, provide air-conditioners in cafes, shopping malls and convenience stores almost everywhere. But keep in mind that sudden change of temperature inside and outside places with air-conditioning can affect your health, so take it slow and be careful when moving between places with vast temperature differences. If those places are too mainstream for you, check out some of these hidden resting spots around Sai Gon.
While Northern cities have distinctive seasons, the South, specifically Ho Chi Minh city, only have dry season and rainy season on top of the all-year-round hot-to-extremely-hot weather. Remember to keep yourself well-hydrated by drinking lots of water. However, you shouldn’t drink tap water. The reason for which will be explained next.
2. Tap water is not safe to drink directly
Some Western countries provide drinkable tap water in public places for free, and it is absolutely fine to drink straight from tap. In Vietnam though, we use Chlorine to clean water and our plumping system still needs lots of improvement; hence, water here is not safe to drink before being boiled. Public taps with drinkable water are only installed at one in few places in big cities.
However, you can find lots of small stalls selling bottled waters and green tea almost everywhere. This is the part which Vietnamese and British have in common – our love for green tea. A long integrated part of our street food culture, you can find green tea served hot in the North and cold in the South.
3. Be mindful of food hygiene to stay healthy
With the variety of street foods and tasty local dishes across Vietnam, it is hard not to get carried away by a food tour all day long. To stay healthy, do be careful of food poisoning. The tip is to follow the crowd, eateries that are flocked by locals have a higher chance of providing tasty and safe food than the others.
Street foods are best enjoyed on the street, of course, but if the place is near sewage or is surrounded by a hungry squad of flies then please avoid at all cost, regardless of how crowded the place is. Most travelers’ stomach isn’t used to the level of hygiene in Vietnamese street foods, so it is always better to be cautious than to suffer from a dreadful stomach-ache that lasts most or even all your trip. A beginner’s guide to Saigon street food sure will keep you fulled with local-approved, fresh street food.
Fruits here are mostly sprayed with bug repellent or other chemical to make them more tempting, so you should peel their skin before consumption. Ice cubes used in street food stalls also aren’t always made from clean and boiled water; so if possible, avoid eating or drinking them as well. To keep it short, staying healthy means to boil it, cook it, peel it or forget eating it at all.
Hot weather in Vietnam also makes a perfect environment for bacteria to grow, so if your food has been out for half a day, it is best to not eat them anymore. Your stomach will be thankful for that.
4. Get bug repellent!
Mosquitoes are unavoidable in tropical countries. While there are some natural herbs like lemongrass that can keep those nasty creatures at bay, you can buy bug repellents for a very reasonable price at all convenient stores and supermarkets in town. A few recommended brands are Soffell – cream and Remos – spray.
For those with cockroach phobia, here we have a cheap and common remedy called “Băng phiến” – those tiny little colourful balls of Naphthalene that you can find at most local convenient stores. Just show them the photo, or even better, impress them with your Vietnamese by naming that very pack of “Băng phiến” on the shelf, and enjoy your cockroach-free stay. Cockroaches can’t stand this smell so they will not appear in your place until the Naphthalene cube completely evaporates. This is also a more humane way than killing them using bug spray, which our vegans/veggies out there will appreciate.
5. Be careful with stray animals.
Here in Vietnam, pet culture is mostly embraced in big cities by better-off families. In the larger part of the country, you can find stray dogs and cats wandering around in many streets. They are not safe to be touched, regardless of how adorable those little eyes are. They are mostly wild animals since birth and aren’t protected with any shots. Their poor living conditions also make them more vulnerable with worms, fleas and other common diseases, which can transfer to you via touching. If you see some animals showing signs of rabies or aggressive behaviors, carefully avoid contacts. Should you get bitten, wash your wounds immediately with water and soap, and get rabies shots as soon as you can from local medical places.
It is always advised to prepare some common pills like antibiotic, anti-diarrhea and oral re-hydration salts. But if you forget to buy them before the trip, pharmacies in Vietnam are either marked with the recognizable cross, the sign pharmacy at the front, or for more local ones, just look at the ranges of medicines and pills behind the glass cases and you will know what you are looking for.
Travel is no fun if you’re health is not up to it. From the littlest of things like the water you drink can make you severely ill. So take in mind these tips and enjoy a wonderful trip in Vietnam!
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