Do you need vaccines for Vietnam travel? Yes, there are a few you should definitely have and few more to consider to avoid unexpected health calamities. Read on to find out which vaccines you need.
We have travelled in Vietnam for nearly a year in total and have loved (almost) every minute of it.
We’ve spent time in the busy cities of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, cycled across northern mountain ranges, sailed Ha Long Bay, motorbiked the coast, lazed away days on beautiful beaches, volunteered in rural villages, and so much more.
Vietnam is an incredible country which offers visitors a diverse set of travel experiences.
Of course, it also offers a diverse set of travel health risks. Getting your injections for Vietnam before you leave home is the first step to a healthy trip.
As always, when seeking health advice online, it is best to double-check with your doctor or travel vaccines expert before you make any final decisions.
With that said, read on to learn all about…
Vaccines for Vietnam – Which Ones Should You Get?
Vaccines you should definitely have for Vietnam
Make sure you are up to date on your routine jabs including:
- MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella)
- Chickenpox (Varicella)
- Annual flu shot
You will also need to add at least these two vaccines:
- Hepatitis A
Both of these diseases can be contracted through contaminated food or water in Vietnam.
All travellers should be vaccinated for Hepatitis A before going to Vietnam.
Travellers who plan on staying in home stays or with friends, visiting smaller cities or rural areas, or eating street food or in small restaurants (so almost everyone), should also get the Typhoid vaccine.
Vaccines you might need for Vietnam
We can give you general advice about these vaccines but if you are unsure about what you need, please make an appointment with a travel vaccine specialist at least 2 months before your trip.
The Japanese encephalitis vaccine is very expensive but is generally recommended if you plan to stay in Vietnam for more than a month, or plan to spend a lot of time in rural areas or outside.
Full disclosure: We have never gotten the vaccine for Japanese encephalitis, even though all of those conditions apply to us. But just because we took the risk doesn’t mean you should — speak to your local travel vaccine specialist who will help you decide.
You’ll need this if you plan on have sex with strangers in Vietnam, or you’re going to get a tattoo, a piercing, use IV drugs, or have any medical procedures. Obviously, we recommend that you don’t engage in any of these activities on your Vietnam trip!
It is rare for travellers to get malaria in Vietnam. You might consider taking anti-malarials if you’re going to be camping, or are planning to spend a lot of time in the outdoors in the central and southern areas bordering with Cambodia. For most travellers, liberal use of a deet-based mosquito repellent is sufficient for Vietnam.
If you’re going to wild regions of Cambodia and Laos as well, you should consider taking anti-malarials for that part of your trip. I got malaria in northern Cambodia / southern Laos last year and it was the most awful experience of my entire travel career!
You can get rabies from dogs, rats, bats, and other animals in Vietnam. Not fun! If you’re going to be outside a lot, have a penchant for caving or playing with street dogs, or are travelling with children, you might want to consider a rabies vaccine.
There is no yellow fever in Vietnam and you only need proof of the vaccine if you’re travelling there from other countries with yellow fever. This applies to many African and South American countries.
There is no vaccine for zika and it is present in Vietnam. Your best protection against zika is to avoid mosquito bites! Be diligent about wearing mosquito repellent and opt for long sleeves and long trousers. If you are pregnant or considering getting pregnant, travel to countries where zika is present is not advised.
When Should you Get Your Vietnam Travel Vaccinations?
Ideally, you should visit a travel vaccination specialist at least 2 months before you travel. Leaving lots of time has three major benefits:
- It gives the vaccine some time to start protecting you
- Some vaccines require multiple shots that are spaced out over time
- If there are side effects, you get to suffer them before you leave home
Of course, if your trip is coming up in less than 2 months, that doesn’t mean you should skip your shots. Just get to a clinic as soon as possible!
How Much do Vaccinations for Vietnam Cost?
The cost of travel vaccines vary widely, depending on where you are getting the vaccines and what type you need. This is a rough estimate of the expenses you’ll face for your Vietnam travel shots:
- $100 consultation fee with travel vaccine expert
- $50–100 for each vaccine you need
- $1–5 per day for anti-malarial pills
Budget $300–600 for vaccines and consultations for your trip. If you’re on a tight budget, don’t be tempted to skip your travel injections. If you get sick, not only will your trip be ruined, but you’ll have the additional medical fees to worry about.
Cautions About Mosquitos in Asia
Coming from a western country, we tend to think of mosquitos as highly annoying, yet mostly harmless, creatures. In Asia though, mosquitos are more than just pests. They carry sometimes-fatal and always awful diseases, like malaria, dengue fever, and Japanese encephalitis. They are currently spreading zika across the world, too.
The best way to avoid these diseases is to avoid getting mosquito bites.
Which Kind of Mosquito Repellent Should you Use?
In the west, you might rely on “natural” repellants to keep you from getting bitten. In areas where mosquitos carry disease, this is not good enough. These repellents, though they smell nicer and are less full of disgusting chemicals, tend to be less effective against mosquitos — and their effectiveness varies depending on the breed of mosquito.
If you must use a natural repellent, those containing Lemon Eucalyptus Oil have been shown to be the most effective “natural” repellent. Be aware that you need to apply it more and more frequently than you would with DEET.
There are other options, such as insect repellent clothing, which might be useful if you’re going to spend a lot of time in rural areas.
Are Mosquitos the Same Everywhere You Go?
In Asia, mosquitos can be quite different than the ones you’re used to:
- Some are so tiny you might not even notice them flying around or biting you
- They are quieter, too, so you might not hear them buzzing
- Some barely leave a bite mark and the itching can go away in a matter of hours, while others leave huge misshapen welts that itch like crazy
- Certain breeds are active during the day, while others are more active in the morning and evening
Because of this, it’s important to wear repellent even when you don’t notice any mosquitos or notice them biting you. Don’t be fooled into thinking you don’t need mosquito repellent!
Is It OK to Avoid Repellent if Mosquitos Don’t “Like” You?
One last caution. Mosquitos in the east can have different taste buds from mosquitos in the west.
In North America and Europe, Stephen is a mosquito magnet. He can’t go anywhere without getting a bite. I am the opposite; mosquitos barely notice me at home. In Asia, it’s the other way around. I get bites left and right, while Stephen gets by relatively unscathed.
Why is this important? Because Western travellers often tell me “Oh, mosquitos don’t like me so I don’t have to wear repellent”. Don’t assume that your experience with mosquitos in the west will be the same as with mosquitos in Asia.
Also, if you think mosquitos don’t bite you, it might actually mean you just don’t react to their bites. It’s easy to get bitten by small mosquitos in Vietnam and not even notice. Wear your repellent!
Do You Need Travel Insurance for Vietnam?
Of course you do!
Though Vietnam is a relatively easy place to travel, you should still make sure to have good travel insurance.
After five years of full-time travel, we have experienced first-hand how easily accidents or medical emergencies can happen. We have had malaria, dengue fever, near-fatal accidents, and more. These disasters are stressful enough without the added worry of how you’re going to pay for them.
Almost all the avid travellers we know use World Nomads insurance.
It is convenient, affordable, trustworthy, and easy to apply for.
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We hope this round-up of vaccinations for Vietnam helps you plan your trip. As always, we only provide health information as a starting point for your planning. Please consult your doctor or a travel medical expert before making any final decisions.
♥ Happy transformational travels, Jane & Stephen
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