Vietnam

Latest update

This Advice was last issued on Friday, 18 July 2014.   This advice has been reviewed and reissued with editorial amendments. We continue to advise Australians to exercise normal safety precautions in Vietnam.

Vietnam overall

Summary

  • We advise you to exercise normal safety precautions in Vietnam.
  • Exercise common sense and look out for suspicious behaviour, as you would in Australia.
  • Penalties for drug offences are severe and include the death sentence. Vietnamese authorities have strict security measures to combat drug trafficking. Over 30 Australians are currently serving long sentences, including life imprisonment, for drug trafficking in Vietnam.
  • The rainy season occurs between June and December every year. During this period, flooding, flash flooding and typhoons are common. Travellers should follow the instructions of local authorities, monitor media and weather reports, and check with tour operators before travelling to affected areas.
  • Traffic accidents occur often in Vietnam. You should consider the risks of driving a car or riding a motorcycle in Vietnam, particularly if you are unfamiliar with local conditions. You must have a valid Vietnamese drivers licence to drive in Vietnam.
  • There have been reports of scams involving online Vietnamese visa applications. We recommend you apply for your Vietnamese visa directly from the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Vietnam.
  • Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
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Entry and exit

To enter Vietnam, you must have a valid visa, a visa exemption document or a written approval letter for a visa on arrival. Your passport must also have at least six months’ remaining validity at the time of your arrival.

Vietnam has recently introduced an online information portal containing visa information, including which type of visa you should apply for. There is also an application form which you can complete online, print and take to the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Vietnam.

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) change regularly. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Vietnam for the most up to date information.

Visa scams

The Australian Government has received reports of scams involving online visa applications and applications through travel agents for a ‘visa on arrival’ approval letter. The Australian Government is also aware of reports of applicants’ personal details being made public after applying for a ‘visa on arrival’ approval letter, either online or through a travel agent.

Due to these risks, the Australian Government recommends that you apply for a visa for Vietnam directly from the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Vietnam.

Passports and visa extensions

In order to obtain a visa extension from the Vietnamese immigration authorities (including for overstaying your visa), your passport must have at least six months’ validity remaining at the time of application. This requirement is subject to change, so you should confirm with the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Vietnam.

Failure to hold a valid visa in your passport may delay your departure from Vietnam.

For detailed information on passports and visas for Vietnam, including lost or stolen passports, visa replacements and exit visas, please visit the Australian Embassy or Consulate-General in Vietnam websites.

You should carry copies of a recent passport photo with you in case you need a replacement passport while overseas. For information on reporting and replacing your lost or stolen passport, visit the Australian Passport Office website.

You are required to pay an additional fee to the Australian Government to have a lost or stolen passport replaced. In some cases, the Australian Government may also restrict the length of validity or type of replacement passports.

Registration requirements

All foreigners are required to register their place of residence with the local police within 24 hours of arrival.

Foreigners staying at a hotel should check with hotel management that registration is completed as part of the normal check-in process. You will need to provide your passport details to the hotel for registration to be completed.

Foreigners staying at a private residence, for example, at the residence of family or friends, must register by visiting the local police station, with a translator if needed. Please note, the Embassy or Consulate-General cannot provide translation services to assist with registration. If you are staying at a private residence, you must ensure that your local host has complied with the legal obligations associated with the pre-registration of foreign guests.

Employment

If you intend to work in Vietnam, you and/or your prospective employer are responsible for obtaining all necessary work permits. The Australian Embassy or Consulate-General can provide notarial services in relation to work permits.

Customs

Foreign currency (including cash and travellers cheques) in excess of US$5,000 cash exceeding Vietnamese Dong 15,000,000 and gold exceeding 300 grams must be declared at customs (with supporting documentation) upon arrival and departure. Excess currency and gold not declared may be confiscated at the port of entry/exit and the passenger arrested and/or fined.

Re-entry visas

If you intend to leave Vietnam and return during your trip, you should hold a valid Vietnamese multiple-entry visa.

Australians planning to travel to neighbouring countries should refer to the travel advisories for Cambodia,Laos and China.

Safety and security

Terrorism

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. You can find more information about this threat in our General advice to Australian travellers.

Civil unrest/political tension

Although rare, protests do occur in Vietnam. The most recent example of protests in Vietnam were during May 2014, where there were large-scale demonstrations aimed at Chinese-affiliated companies, factories and official representatives in Vietnam. Australians should avoid taking photographs of demonstrations, the military or the police, as this may not be tolerated by the Vietnamese authorities.

Internal conflict is rare in Vietnam, although some localised violent clashes between protesters and police have, in the past, resulted in a small number of casualties.

Crime

We advise you to exercise normal safety precautions in Vietnam. Exercise common sense and look out for suspicious behaviour as you would in Australia.

Street crime and harassment occur, especially in larger cities. Aggravated theft and assault occur, particularly in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang, Nha Trang, Sapa (particularly on the train to/from Lao Cai) and Cat Ba Island (near Ha Long Bay).

Petty theft, including bag-slashing, is also common in tourist areas, markets, on crowded trains, buses and at supermarkets. The incidence of petty theft increases in the lead up to Vietnamese and Western holiday periods.

Snatch-and-grab crimes against pedestrians by thieves on motorcycles are frequent and have sometimes resulted in injury to victims. These types of crimes can occur when crossing the street or walking along footpaths. Be aware that jewellery, handbags, phones and cameras are popular targets for criminals. Pay close attention to your personal security at all times and where possible, minimise the amount of valuables you carry.

Foreigners have been robbed and sexually assaulted after accepting spiked food and drinks, particularly at late-night establishments in major cities.

There have been reports of break-ins to hotels and private residences, even while guests are in their rooms. You should take care to ensure your valuables are secure at all times and report any theft promptly to the local police and hotel management.

Due to the prevalence of HIV/AIDS, hepatitis and other sexually transmitted diseases and infections, victims of violent crime, especially rape, are strongly encouraged to seek immediate medical assistance.

There have been reported cases of tourists becoming victims of gambling scams. Be aware of people who are overly friendly towards you and invite you back to their home. These approaches may lead to gambling scams, in which some Australians have lost thousands of dollars. Gambling may contravene local laws, which also apply to tourists. See the ‘Laws’ section for further information.

There have been reports of taxi scams involving foreigners. At airports, travellers are advised to use airport taxis, prearranged hotel transfer services or taxis from clearly marked taxi ranks with minders. Check that any person holding a placard with your name on it knows your destination. You should ensure that, if you are catching a taxi late at night, you choose a reputable and reliable company and that the taxi driver knows your destination before entering the taxi.

There have been reports of threats of physical violence or death related to personal or commercial disputes. If this occurs, you should report the matter to the local police personally, or through your hotel staff or other in-country contacts. To avoid potential disputes, make sure you have a clear agreement on what the expected level of service is.

Money and valuables

Before you travel, organise a variety of ways to access your money overseas, such as credit cards, travellers' cheques, cash, debit cards or cash cards. Australian currency and travellers' cheques are not accepted in many countries.

Credit cards are becoming more widely accepted throughout major cities in Vietnam. Cash can be obtained using several internationally recognised credit/debit cards through ATMs, which are widespread in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Da Nang. You should check with your bank to confirm if your ATM card will work in Vietnam

Incidents of card swiping have occurred throughout Vietnam and you should keep your credit card in sight at all times. There have also been incidents of theft occurring near ATMs soon after travellers make cash withdrawals.

If you require a replacement ATM card while overseas, please be aware that you may have difficulty having it delivered to Vietnam. Many Australian banks do not maintain local or regional branches with English-speaking staff and Vietnamese postal services are generally unreliable. You should consider using an international courier service if you need a replacement. The Australian Embassy or Consulate-General cannot provide you with bridging funds while you wait for a new card.

Make two photocopies of valuable documents such as your passport, tickets, visas and travellers' cheques. Keep one copy with you in a separate place to the original and leave another copy with someone at home.

While travelling, don't carry too much cash and remember that expensive watches, jewellery, cameras and other valuable items are tempting targets for thieves.

As a sensible precaution against luggage tampering, including theft, lock your luggage. Information on luggage safety is available from Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport. If your passport is lost or stolen overseas, report it online or contact the Australian Embassy in Hanoi or the Australian Consulate-General in Ho Chi Minh City as soon as possible.

Please refer to the Entry and exit section for advice on what to do if your passport is lost or stolen in Vietnam.

Local travel

Travel is restricted near military installations. Travel is also restricted in some parts of the Central Highlands and some border areas.

Unexploded ordnance and landmines are a continuing hazard in former battlefields, particularly in central Vietnam and along the Laos border. Mine-free roads and paths are well marked.

Tour operators may not meet the safety standards expected in Australia, especially for adventure sports (such as mountain climbing) and boat trips.

If you plan to visit the Long Tan Cross site in Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province, you should note that the site is located on non-public land and visitors are required to follow certain procedures to access the site. See the Australian Consulate-General website for further information.

Road travel

You must have a valid Vietnamese drivers licence to drive in Vietnam (for all vehicles, including motorcycles of 50cc or more). International Driver’s Permits are not recognised in Vietnam. Non-Vietnamese citizens are only permitted to drive in Vietnam if they hold a temporary Vietnamese drivers licence. Fines for driving without a valid licence vary. For information on obtaining a Vietnamese drivers licence (including temporary licences) visit the website of the Australian Embassy or Consulate-General in Vietnam.

Driving standards and vehicle and road maintenance are generally poor. Traffic accidents occur frequently in Vietnam and tend to attract large crowds.

A very high number of serious injuries and deaths occur as a result of motorcycle accidents. The number of tourists involved in serious motorcycle accidents is increasing. Under Vietnamese law, you must wear a helmet at all times when riding a motorcycle, including when travelling as a passenger.

You should consider the risks of driving a car or riding a motorcycle in Vietnam, particularly if you are unfamiliar with local conditions. If you are involved in an accident, whether or not you are at fault, you could face criminal charges and may be required to make large compensation payments to the injured person.

Inter-city buses have a high accident rate. Petty theft regularly occurs on buses.

Streets are crowded in major cities and road rules are routinely ignored. Be very careful when crossing busy streets as traffic can appear from any direction.

For further advice, see our road travel page.

Rail travel

Rail travel is generally safe in Vietnam, however petty theft can occur. We have received numerous reports of theft on sleeper trains between Hanoi and Lao Cai/Sapa. When travelling by rail, ensure you retain the ticket stub at all times as it is required upon exiting the train station.

Sea travel

Boats, hydrofoils and ferries in Vietnam may not meet Australian safety standards. Accidents on waterways do occur and there have been a number of fatalities resulting from vessels sinking, for example, in Ha Long Bay. Whenever considering travelling by boat, you should ask tour operators about the safety record and emergency procedures, and ensure there is adequate safety equipment such as life vests on board.

Piracy occurs in the coastal areas of Vietnam. For more information about piracy, see our piracy bulletin. The International Maritime Bureau issues piracy reports on its website.

Airline safety

All airports in Vietnam require you to show your luggage tags when exiting the airport. You must ensure to keep your luggage receipt from your airline on you at all times. Please refer to our air travel page for information about aviation safety and security.

Laws

When you are in Vietnam, be aware that local laws and penalties, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards, do apply to you. If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you but we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.

Information on what Australian consular officers can and cannot do to help Australians in trouble overseas is available from the Consular Services Charter.

Penalties for serious crime, such as rape, espionage and hijacking, include the death sentence.

Penalties for drug offences are severe. Under the Vietnamese penal code, a person caught in possession of even a small amount of heroin can be sentenced to death. There are over 30 Australians currently serving life sentences for drug trafficking offences. Vietnamese authorities have strict security and investigative measures to combat drug trafficking.

Photography of border crossings and military installations is prohibited and may result in arrest. You should also avoid taking photographs during demonstrations.

You could be detained if you venture too close to the border with China, Cambodia or Laos without prior written permission from the local authorities.

It is against the law to export antiques from Vietnam without a permit. The Ministry of Culture can provide further advice and any necessary permit.

Foreigners wishing to marry a Vietnamese citizen in Vietnam must seek formal approval from the Office of Justice in the province where the Vietnamese citizen is registered. You will also be required to obtain a Certificate of No Impediment to Marriage (CNI) if you plan to marry in Vietnam. You can apply for a CNI through the Australian Embassy in Hanoi or the Australian Consulate-General in Ho Chi Minh City. Please note, the Embassy and Consulate-General will only issue CNIs for the purpose of marriage.

Gambling is illegal in Vietnam, except in government-licensed casinos. Anyone found to be in violation of this law is subject to steep fines and/or a severe prison sentence. Access to licensed casinos is restricted to holders of foreign passports.

Local laws prohibit possession of pornography, non-state sanctioned political material and religious material. Being caught in possession of this type of material will attract penalties, including fines and detention.

Foreign citizens suspected by local authorities to be involved in non-state sanctioned political or religious activities may be denied entry into Vietnam, detained, deported or prevented from departing Vietnam until authorities have completed investigations of their activities. This also applies to activities carried out online.

Foreigners involved in commercial disputes may be prevented from departing Vietnam until the dispute is resolved.

Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, child pornography, and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.

Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism and child pornography laws. These laws provide severe penalties for up to 25 years imprisonment for Australians who engage in child sexual exploitation while outside of Australia.

Information for dual nationals

Vietnam only recognises dual nationality in limited circumstances.

Our ability to provide consular assistance to Australian/Vietnamese dual nationals who have entered Vietnam on their Vietnamese passport may be limited, as local authorities may claim the person is a Vietnamese citizen. Particularly in cases of arrest and detention, Australian consular officers in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City may not be advised, permitted consular access or allowed to provide consular assistance to Australian/Vietnamese dual nationals.

We encourage all Australian/Vietnamese dual nationals to travel on their Australian passport.

If you are an Australian/Vietnamese dual national, you may be subject to compulsory military service while in the country. For further information, contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Vietnam in Australia before you travel.

Our Dual nationals page provides further information.

Health

We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for a traveller's medical expenses overseas, guarantee your payment, or medical evacuation costs.

Outside of Australia, Australian citizens do not have the same level of access to the Australian social welfare system (Centrelink). Medicare is also not available in Vietnam and medical services are provided on a fee-paying basis. Once overseas, you will be responsible for meeting all costs associated with any treatment you receive.

It is important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our health page also provides useful information for travellers on staying healthy.

The standard of medical facilities and care in Vietnam varies. Foreign private medical clinics are available in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Vung Tau and Da Nang but may not meet Australian standards. Medical facilities and care at most public hospitals, especially in areas outside Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City, are poor and medical evacuation to a major centre may be required for even relatively minor operations. Doctors and hospitals expect cash payment prior to providing medical services, including for emergency care. Some hospitals may liaise with travel insurance companies for payment, others may request upfront payment.

Air evacuation from Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City may be required in cases of serious illness or accident. Air evacuations, often to Bangkok or Singapore, are very expensive.

Hyperbaric chambers are located in Khanh Hoa (Nha Trang), Quy Nhon (Binh Dinh), Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi.

The mosquito-borne illness dengue fever is prevalent in Vietnam, particularly in the south. Malaria is also a risk in some remote mountainous areas of Vietnam. We recommend you take measures to avoid mosquito bites including using insect repellent at all times, wear long, loose-fitting, light coloured clothing, ensure your accommodation is mosquito proof and that you ask your doctor about taking prophylaxis against malaria.

The mosquito-borne disease Japanese encephalitis is prevalent in Vietnam. A Japanese encephalitis vaccine is registered for use and is currently available in Australia.

Measles cases have increased in Vietnam. A reported outbreak in April 2014 has primarily affected children. Measles is a highly contagious and potentially severe disease. Symptoms can include fever, tiredness, runny nose, cough and sore red eyes which usually last for several days before a red, blotchy rash appears. Two doses of a measles containing vaccine (administered at least 4 weeks apart) is recommended prior to travel. Travellers with symptoms of measles should seek medical attention. As measles is highly infectious, you should call ahead before attending a health care facility. For more information about measles, see the WHO website.

Rabies: Rabies is a potentially fatal viral disease that is almost always spread by an animal bite but can also be spread when a rabid animal’s saliva gets directly into the eyes, nose, mouth, or broken skin. In Vietnam, most cases are reported in the mountain provinces of Northern Vietnam and most commonly transmitted through dog bites. Travellers are strongly advised to avoid direct contact with dogs and other mammals. See our health page for further information on what to do if bitten by an animal that may carry rabies.

Outbreaks of water-borne, food-borne, parasitic and other infectious diseases (including HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, rabies, typhoid, tuberculosis, and meningitis) occur from time to time.

Acute watery diarrhoea and cholera occur in Vietnam, with more serious outbreaks occurring from time to time throughout the country. Careful preparation of food and good personal hygiene are strongly recommended. Medical attention should be sought if symptoms continue.

We advise you to boil all drinking water or drink bottled water with intact seals and to avoid ice cubes, raw and undercooked food and unpasteurised dairy products. Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering from diarrhoea.

Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD) is common in Vietnam with more serious outbreaks occurring from time to time. In recent years, outbreaks of the disease have been reported in Ho Chi Minh City. In Asia, outbreaks of HFMD usually start in March/April and peak in May but can continue until August to October. It mostly affects children under the age of 10 years but adult cases (particularly young adults) are not unusual. The illness is characterised by fever as well as blisters and rashes on the hands, feet and buttocks. HFMD is spread by direct contact with nose and throat discharges and faeces of infected people. Normal hygiene precautions should be taken including careful and frequent hand washing.

Outbreaks of conjunctivitis occur in Vietnam. We advise you to avoid close contact with anyone who is infected, wash your hands thoroughly and frequently, and avoid exposure to infected eyes.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed human deaths from avian influenza in Vietnam. See our health page and Avian Influenza bulletin for further information on influenza.

Where to get help

In Vietnam, you can obtain consular assistance from the:

Australian Embassy, Hanoi

8 Dao Tan Street
Ba Dinh District, Hanoi
Vietnam
Telephone: +84 4 3774 0100
Facsimile: +84 4 3774 0111
Website: www.vietnam.embassy.gov.au

Australian Consulate-General, Ho Chi Minh City

20th Floor, Vincom Centre
47 Ly Tu Trong Street
Ben Nghe Ward, District 1
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Telephone: +84 8 3521 8100
Facsimile: +84 8 3521 8101

See the Embassy www.hcmc.vietnam.embassy.gov.au website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.

If you are travelling to Vietnam, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we encourage you to register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online or in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency - whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.

In a consular emergency if you are unable to contact the Embassy you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

In Australia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra may be contacted on (02) 6261 3305.

Additional information

Natural disasters, severe weather and climate

Flooding is common in and around Hanoi, in Northern Vietnam and in the Mekong River Delta regions in the south. The Mekong River Commission website contains information on flood levels for the Mekong River region. Flooding, flash flooding and landslides may occur during the rainy season (June-December).

Typhoons are also common during this period. The areas most affected by typhoons are the coastal provinces of the North and Central Regions. However, typhoons in the south, though less frequent, still occur. If a typhoon does occur, travellers should follow the instructions of local authorities, monitor media and weather reports, and check with tour operators before travelling to affected areas.

For information on what to do in a storm, see our severe weather page.

All oceanic regions of the world can experience tsunamis, but in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, there is a more frequent occurrence of large, destructive tsunamis because of the many large earthquakes along major tectonic plate boundaries and ocean trenches. See the Tsunami Awareness brochure.

Information on natural disasters can be obtained from the Humanitarian Early Warning Service. If a natural disaster occurs, follow the advice of local authorities.



While every care has been taken in preparing this information, neither the Australian Government nor its agents or employees, including any member of Australia's diplomatic and consular staff abroad, can accept liability for any injury, loss or damage arising in respect of any statement contained herein.

Maps are presented for information only. The department accepts no responsibility for errors or omission of any geographic feature. Nomenclature and territorial boundaries may not necessarily reflect Australian Government policy.