Australian Government advice for Vietnam
When travelling to Vietnam, you should always get travel insurance in case the worst happens. To help you ensure you travel safely, we have included the travel advice from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for Vietnam.
This Advice was last issued on Tuesday, 19 November 2013. It contains new information in the Summary and under Entry and exit (due to reported online visa scams we recommend you apply for your Vietnamese visa directly from the Embassy or Consulate of Vietnam). We continue to advise Australians to exercise normal safety precautions in Vietnam.
- We advise you to exercise normal safety precautions in Vietnam.
- Pay close attention to your personal security and monitor the media for information about possible new safety and security risks.
- Penalties for drug offences are severe and include the death sentence. Vietnamese authorities have strict security measures to combat drug trafficking. Over 20 Australians are currently serving long sentences for drug trafficking in Vietnam.
- 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.
- Typhoons and heavy rains during the rainy season (June-December) may cause flooding, flash flooding and landslides.
- 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:
Entry and exit
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 and instructions on applying for a Vietnamese visa.
You must obtain a visa or a ‘visa on arrival’ approval letter (the visa on arrival letter allows you to obtain a visa on arrival) prior to entering Vietnam. People attempting to enter Vietnam without a valid visa or ‘visa on arrival’ approval letter risk being sent back to their port of departure. You should review all visa conditions and carefully note any conditions listed on the immigration stamp which you will receive on arrival. There are several types of visas, including tourist, business and official visas. You should contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Vietnam for clarification of the type of visa you should obtain for your stay in Vietnam.
There has been an increase in the number of Australians applying online for a ‘visa on arrival’ approval letter. There have been reports of visa scams involving online Vietnamese visa applications. There have also been reports of applicants’ personal details being made public by online visa websites. Due to the risk of fraud when using such online services, we recommend you apply for your visa directly from the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Vietnam .
Your passport must have at least six months’ remaining validity at the time of arrival in Vietnam. If you lose your passport which contains your visa for Vietnam or the visa document issued by Vietnamese authorities, you will need to obtain an exit visa from a Vietnamese immigration office. In order to obtain an exit visa, you must first obtain a police report from the local police office closest to where the passport was lost or stolen. The Australian Embassy in Hanoi and Consulate-General in Ho Chi Minh City cannot assist with obtaining a police report. Vietnamese authorities will not permit you to depart Vietnam until the exit visa is issued. Processing may take up to 4 working days and a fee is payable.
All foreigners are required to register their place of residence with the local police within 24 hours of arrival. Foreigners staying with family or friends in a private home must comply with this requirement by visiting the local police station with a translator. Failure to do so could result in fines. If you are staying at a hotel, this is done as part of the normal check-in process and you will be required to provide your passport to the hotel for this purpose. Foreigners intending to stay in private residences should ensure that their local host has complied with obligations to pre-register foreign guests.
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.
Make sure your passport has at least six months' validity from your planned date of return to Australia. You should carry copies of a recent passport photo with you in case you need a replacement passport while overseas.
Safety and security
Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. You can find more information about this threat in our General advice to Australian travellers .
We continue to receive reports that terrorists in South East Asia are planning attacks against a range of targets, including places frequented by foreigners.
Civil unrest/political tension
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. You should avoid all public gatherings and demonstrations as they have the potential to turn violent. You should avoid taking photographs of demonstrations, the military or police as this may not be tolerated by the Vietnamese authorities.
We advise you to exercise normal safety precautions in Vietnam. Pay close attention to your personal security and monitor the media for information about possible new safety and security risks.
Street crime and harassment occur, especially in larger cities. Aggravated theft and assault occur, particularly in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, 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 possessions at all times and avoid carrying or wearing objects that can be easily grabbed.
Foreigners have been robbed and sexually assaulted after accepting spiked food and drinks, particularly at late-night establishments in major cities.
There have been reported break-ins to hotels, even while guests are in their rooms. You should take care to ensure your valuables are secure at all times.
Due to the risk of HIV/AIDS, 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 and taxi scams. 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. 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. There have been reports of late night taxi scams involving foreigners. 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.
Money and valuables
Before you go, 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. Consult your bank on the most appropriate currency to carry in Vietnam and whether 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.
Make two photocopies of valuables 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 and cameras 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 nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.
If your passport is lost or stolen in Vietnam, in addition to obtaining a new passport, you will also need to get your visa reissued. You must obtain a police report from the local police office. You will then need to submit the police report to Vietnamese immigration authorities together with a request for a new visa.
Failure to hold a valid visa in your passport may delay departure from Vietnam.
You are required to pay an additional fee to have a lost or stolen passport replaced. In some cases, the Government may also restrict the length of validity or type of replacement passports.
Traffic accidents occur often in Vietnam. A number of Australians have suffered serious injuries from road accidents in Vietnam in recent years. Driving standards and vehicle and road maintenance are generally poor. Motorcycle and inter-city bus travel have particularly high accident rates.
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, you may be required to make large compensation payments.
You should be aware that you must have a valid Vietnamese driver's licence to drive in Vietnam, including for motorcycles of 50cc or more. Under Vietnamese law, you must wear a helmet at all times when riding a motorcycle in Vietnam, including when travelling as a passenger. Fines for riding a motorcycle without a valid licence range from between VND800,000 and VND6,000,000.
For further advice, see our road travel page.
For information on obtaining a Vietnamese driver's licence (including temporary driver's licences) visit the website of the Australian Embassy in Hanoi .
Travellers should be aware that transport infrastructure in Vietnam can be in poor condition.
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.
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 Consulate-General’s website for further information.
Travel is restricted near military installations and in some parts of the Central Highlands and some border areas.
Unexploded landmines and ordnance are a continuing hazard in former battlefields, particularly in central Vietnam. 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.
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 traveling by boat, you should ask tour operators about the safety record and emergency procedures, as well as ensure there is adequate safety equipment such as life vests on board.
Please refer to our air travel page for information about aviation safety and security.
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 20 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.
Gambling, except in government licensed casinos, is illegal in Vietnam. 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 pornographic, non-state sanctioned political 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 activites carried out online.
There has been an increase in incidents where local authorities have prevented the departure from Vietnam of foreigners involved in a commercial dispute by withholding their passport 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 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 before you travel.
Our Dual nationals page provides further information for dual nationals.
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 or medical evacuation costs.
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 liase 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. All medical costs, including evacuations, are at the traveller’s expense. We strongly encourage you to take out travel insurance that will cover any medical costs, including medical evacuation.
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. There has been an increase in the number of cases reported and deaths from dengue fever. The mosquito-borne illness 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 whether you need to take prophylaxis against malaria.
The mosquito-borne disease Japanese encephalitis is found throughout many regions of North, South and South-East Asia and Papua New Guinea, and is prevalent in Vietnam. A Japanese encephalitis vaccine is registered for use and is currently available in Australia. For further details please consult your travel health doctor.
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, particularly in the capital Hanoi and surrounding northern provinces. Careful preparation of food and good personal hygiene are strongly recommended. Medical attention should be sought if symptoms continue. 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.
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.
Outbreaks of conjunctivitis or ‘pink eye’ 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.
Avian influenza : The World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed human deaths from avian influenza in Vietnam. See our health page 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
Telephone: +84 4 3774 0100
Facsimile: +84 4 3774 0111
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
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.
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 area’s 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.
For general information and tips on travelling with children see our Travelling with children page.