HEALTHCARE IN VIETNAM
Healthcare in Vietnam has come a long way. In fact, many Vietnamese hospitals these days compare well against Western counterparts and in some areas, like customer service, medical care in Vietnam is better. As well, the ‘wait time’ for many medical procedures in Western countries is counted in years whereas access to healthcare services in Vietnam is almost immediate. The medical facilities in Vietnam (in the private sector) are also very good as is the wait time. Medical results come back the same day or as soon as practically possible.
But the best feature of all about healthcare in Vietnam is the cost. The Vietnamese healthcare system is easy on the pocket. Elective operations in Australia such as hip replacements, for instance, can cost a fortune but in Vietnam you can have them done for a fraction of the price. So, where once the idea of having health problems in Vietnam or having an operation left many expats a quivering, fearful mess, nowadays it is often their preferred choice.
An offshoot of developing healthcare in Vietnam is medical tourism. And according to news reports, the word is out! Vietnam is emerging as the next medical tourism hub of Southeast Asia thanks to the fast-paced development of the healthcare services and wellness sectors. Last year thousands of people chose to come to Vietnam for operations. They were also flocking for dental tourism, laser-eye surgery, cosmetic surgery and more.
But let’s not get carried away! While routine procedures that cost a fortune back home may be fine, if we had to have major life-threatening surgery we’d be on the first plane home.
Hospitals and Healthcare in Vietnam
While some hospitals in Vietnam are outstanding in the services they provide – they are not all ‘born’ equal. There is a gaping cavern between public hospitals and private hospitals.
Public Hospitals in Vietnam
The public hospital system in Vietnam is still quite grim. They are underfunded and overcrowded. The only bedding supplied is the mattress and it is not unusual to have two people to a hospital bed.
However, for routine procedures such as blood tests, vaccinations and work visa health checks they are fine (though for English speaking foreigners it can be tricky as staff and doctors mainly speak Vietnamese). However, with the explosion of tourists and foreigners living in Vietnam there have been recent attempts in the public system to have someone on hand who can speak English.
Private Hospitals in Vietnam
The standard of most private hospitals in Vietnam is very good. In these hospitals, particularly those in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, many of the doctors are from overseas (UK, USA, Korea, France, Australia) or are Vietnamese doctors who have trained in Western countries. Customer service is outstanding and facilities can be state-of-the-art.
Private hospitals in Vietnam accept credit cards and international health insurance.
Are there any good private hospitals in Hoi An or Da Nang?
Private Hospitals in Hoi An
Hoi An Hospital is a public hospital and fine for small treatments but in the event of anything serious go to the Pacific Hospital Hoi An which is a private hospital with an International wing. The Pacific Hospital Hoi An is better equipped to deal with medical emergencies. However, due to ongoing negative reviews about the Pacific Hospital Hoi An we recommend heading to Da Nang when you are physically able.
Private Hospitals in Da Nang
The best Vietnam hospitals in the country’s Central region are in Da Nang. There are several private hospitals in Da Nang that have excellent reputations. The newest and perhaps the most impressive is VinMec Hospital. This very swish international hospital with its piped foyer music has been likened to a 5 Star hotel. Standards here (according to many expats and Hoi An Now staff) are superior to anything you’d get in a Western hospital.
Other widely respected hospitals and medical surgeries in Da Nang are the Hoan My Hospital (International wing), Family Hospital Da Nang (due to its Canadian doctor), Pasteur Clinic (for women’s issues), and the Family Medical Practice.
What is the cost of private hospital treatment in Vietnam?
While prices are still lower than the rates charged in Western countries, specialists who promote themselves for the tourist/expat market will charge more than those that work with locals.
What about Emergency Services in Vietnam?
Emergency services in Vietnam are far inferior to those in Western countries. Ambulances, for example, are known for having a slow response time. Apart from having little or no training, paramedics do not always speak English and equipment may be substandard.
Whilst there are some private hospitals in Vietnam’s bigger cities that provide a faster and more efficient private ambulance service, you would be advised to grab a taxi to the nearest private hospital for emergency medical treatment.
The emergency services number in Vietnam is 115.
Is it essential to have Health Insurance for Vietnam?
Yes. It is essential that anyone coming to Vietnam (or living in Vietnam) is covered by health insurance, as you may require healthcare in Vietnam. It is important, also, to carry your insurance card with you at all times as some hospitals will not treat you unless you are covered by health insurance or have the cash to pay them. You should always check that the hospital will accept your health insurance claim
Pharmacies in Vietnam
Can you buy medication over the counter in Vietnam?
Yes. Buying medication over the counter is straightforward, but tourists should be aware that some drugs sold in Vietnamese pharmacies may be counterfeit or have expired. Always check the date on the packaging before making a purchase.
Can I get prescription medication over the counter in Vietnam?
Yes. But it depends what it is. Pharmacies in Vietnam are well stocked. You can buy antibiotics over the counter, blood pressure tablets, lipid tablets and more. Be aware, though, that pharmacies often charge tourists exorbitant price,s so if the price sounds ludicrous move on and try the next one. See our guide to Vietnam Travel Safety for more information and advice about safety and scams.
Can I bring prescription medication into Vietnam?
Yes. But if you are bringing prescription medicine into Vietnam make sure you carry a copy of the prescription and a letter from the doctor confirming that the medication is for personal use.
What are the health risks and common diseases in Vietnam?
If you take basic precautions in Vietnam, you should not experience any major health issues.
Avoid drinking tap water in Vietnam and buy bottled water instead (it is safe to have ice in drinks in Hoi An, as most restaurants make it from boiled water).
Do I need vaccinations for Vietnam?
Yes. Whilst Vietnam has come a long way, it is still advisable to get vaccinated for some diseases. For example, Typhoid and Hepatitis A and B can be a problem, especially in the countryside where hygiene standards are not always maintained. See Vaccinations for more information.
Should I take malaria tablets for my Vietnam travels?
The malaria risk in Vietnam is low but cannot be excluded. If you are travelling to places commonly visited by tourists there is no need to take malaria prevention tablets. However, you may consider it if you are traveling to remote areas.
Dengue Fever Vietnam
Far more prevalent than malaria in Vietnam is Dengue Fever. There is no precaution for this mosquito born disease, but DEET mosquito repellant will help. For more information about Dengue Fever, the Dengue virus, Dengue rash and Dengue Fever symptoms see our section on Dengue Fever.
‘Dental Tourism’ is exploding in Vietnam. In fact, more than 100,000 foreigners came to Vietnam last year for dental work. And is it any wonder when the cost of procedures is a fraction of what you’d pay in a Western country? Back home (in Australia) a crown costs around $US1,500 whilst here in Vietnam you pay as little as $US300 (maximum).
And so it goes for teeth whitening, dental implants, crowns, fillings, cosmetic work, orthodontic work, prothesis – divide the cost you’d pay in a Western country by four and you’ve roughly got the price you’d pay a Vietnamese dentist.
What is the standard of dental clinics in Vietnam?
The standard of dental work in Vietnam is good. In fact, to many foreigners who live here, it’s seems incomprehensible that people pay the prices they do back in their home countries. The cost of dental work in Vietnam is so low we often wonder why people don’t come to Vietnam, have a holiday thrown in and get their bridges or crowns or whatever done for a quarter of the price because they will still find themselves hundreds of dollars in front.
Do Dentists speak English?
All the listed dentists in our dental section speak English (apart from two in Hoi An). You will find many English-speaking Vietnamese dentists in the major cities. See our section on dental clinics in Hoi An and Da Nang for more information.
Optometry - buying glasses in Vietnam
Designer glasses, prescription glasses, multi-focal lenses, rayban sunglasses – as with dental care – it’s all much cheaper in Vietnam. For a cost guide and comparison see Opticians. However, what may cost you $US700 in the US or Australia will only knock you back around $US100 here.
Are glasses you get made in Vietnam any good?
Mostly they are but not always. However, many foreigners living here get their glasses and frames made and only a few complain of problems. As the turnaround period is usually overnight, if there are issues with your glasses you can always deal with it quite quickly.
Laser Eye Surgery in Vietnam
If someone had suggested five years ago that we would be recommending laser eye surgery (lasik eye surgery) in Vietnam, we’d have scoffed in their faces. However, in places such as the American Eye Center in Ho Chi Minh City you will encounter standards not just on par with Western hospitals, but better. See our Laser Eye Surgery section for the average cost of lasik surgery in Vietnam and someone’s first hand encounter of having lasik done at the American Eye Center Vietnam.
So... is Vietnam safe?
Whilst access to healthcare in Vietnam has come a long way – the roads have not! Your biggest health risk in Vietnam by far and away is posed by the roads. Traffic accidents are the leading cause of death for people aged 15 – 29 years (WHO). Cross the roads carefully if you don’t want to be flattened, don’t think a red light means anything and read our sections on Rules of the Road and Motorbike Insurance. If you plan to travel Vietnam by motorbike and are on a tourist visa – whether you have an International Driver’s License or motorbike license from your home country or not – you are not able to legally drive in Vietnam. This means if you have an accident you cannot claim insurance.
Apart from that – enjoy your Vietnam adventure!