Getting sick is a part of everyday life, and being on the road doesn’t exempt you from that fact, especially when travel exposes you to a whole new range of bugs, parasites, and environment such as a tropical country like Vietnam. To get the best out of your time in Vietnam, just remember to consider these tips below to stay healthy and enjoy your vacation.
Tropical weather is one of the reasons people come to Vietnam but it also causes several suffers. As rainy season is coming, the weather can be extremely muggy and hot during daytime.
- Remember to stay under shades or indoor during the hottest hours of the day because heatstroke can be a real health issue for foreign travelers.
- Protect yourself from the sun goes beyond getting bad sunburn. You should also stay well hydrated as well as cover up with loose clothing and even should prepare a hat or scarf to cover your head.
- Keep in mind that sudden change of temperature between inside and outside of places with air-conditioning can affect your health, so take it slow and be careful.
2.1 Restaurant food
Do you think restaurant food is safer than street food? The answer is yes and no. Follow those steps to make sure that everything is safe:
- Ensure that any food you eat is fresh, cooked thoroughly, and served piping hot. Fully cooked food is safest as always.
- If you enjoy eating food such as Phở, Bún Bò Huế (Hue Spicy Beef Noodle Soup) or any other dish that is a combination with vegetables, you can tell the seller to dip the vegetables into hot water just in case you worry that you will get food poisoning. When you eat Phở, try to order it with well-done beef. If you have a sensitive stomach, take it easy at first and don’t be afraid of eating familiar food from time to time.
- Have a hot cup of ginger tea after meals. Ginger tea is very useful in improving digestion and increasing absorption of food. It helps bloating after eating too much.
- Bring some medicines you are familiar with just in case you get an upset stomach.
2.2 Street food
Food contamination is one of the biggest causes of traveler’s diarrhea and gastrointestinal problems on any travel adventure, especially when you crave for street food style. If you are not careful with your food on your travel, you could potentially be exposing yourself to diarrhea.
- Vietnam is a paradise of street food and there are lots of delicious food that I bet you are happily to eat with your fingers. Eating foot with your finger is fine if your fingers aren’t filthy. A little common sense and good hygiene can help you avoid foodborne illness. Here are some suggestions:
- Cutlery can be a source of bacteria even if the food is safe and fresh. You can carry baby wipes with you for wooden chopsticks that look like they need a quick wipe, or for utensils that don’t seem well-washed. It will get you some weird looks but it can be helpful to ensure the cutlery is clean.
- Seek out street stalls and restaurants with a high turnover of food and low fly count. It means the food is never sitting out for hours and developing dreaded bacteria. Maybe, long lines can be discouraging when you’re hungry after a full day of exploring, but it’s not worth the risk of grabbing precooked food from the empty spot next door.
3. WATER & ICE
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 plumbing system still needs lots of improvement; hence, water here is not safe to drink before being boiled.
- You should drink water which has already boiled or for convenience, you can buy bottled water from any convenience store such as Circle K, GS24, Family Mart, Shop & Go, 7 Eleven.
Ice, henceforth, is also a big problem.
- Try to avoid places using block ice (you can see suppliers in motorbikes bringing these in, often) because the water used for these is often not hygienic.
- The only ice you shouldn’t have a problem with is the ones that look like small cubes. They are made more carefully and are more expensive.
4. INSECTS & STRAY ANIMALS
4.1 Insects and Mosquitoes
Vietnam is a tropical country so insects and mosquitoes can be a problem. Even if you are in a low- to no-risk area, it is still a good idea to prevent mosquitoes from biting you in the first place, even if it is only to avoid the annoyance of painful bites. It should go without saying that the best thing you can do to protect yourself from being bitten is to use preventive measures:
- Air-conditioned rooms are great for minimizing mosquito bites, as they are often better sealed and less likely to let them in.
- Cover up. Wearing the right clothing is essential. Wear light, loose cotton clothing that covers most of your skin, especially around peak exposure times and places. For example, near bodies of water or at twilight or after dark, the peak time for mosquitoes to feed.
- If you are in a homestay or in a place with garden or pond, you must sleep under mosquito- nets.
- Use anti-mosquito repellent every time.
4.2 Stray Dogs and Cats
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 mostly aren’t protected with any shots since birth. Their poor living conditions also make them more vulnerable with worms, fleas and other common diseases, which can transfer to you via touching.
These very simple tips will dramatically reduce your risk of getting sick while eating and traveling in Vietnam, but they are often so simple that many people overlook them. Before you set off on your trip of a lifetime, take a moment to think about your health and prepare properly. That way you will be able to enjoy your trip with peace of mind.