Health issue is a part of traveling safely. Vietnam is one of the developing countries in a tropical area with many chances of catching diseases. Before going to Vietnam, it is advised to see if there are any current epidemics in Vietnam like viral hemorrhagic fever, especially during hot and humid summer. You may also worry about food and drink safety in Vietnam. Read our guide on Vietnam water to know about the safety of using tap water in Vietnam.
Vietnam Water Supply
Contamination of water is still a challenge for the government. The water has a high level of E. Coli, ammonia, and arsenic that can affect your health on a different level. Even the bottled water that is manufactured by shady and unlicensed water firms has a certain amount of contamination; these factories were shut down in a row when the government inspected their manufacturing places. The water supply, sewerage, and waste treatment in urban and rural areas are controlled by many organizations from the state government to local authorities, agricultural cooperatives, and private enterprises. The state government still holds substantial responsibilities for those activities, but the division between organizations makes it hard for quality control, operation, and maintenance. Many problems are the result of that.
In rural areas, people have less access to pipe water systems. They mostly use groundwater or even river water for cooking, bathing, and cleaning. Because of the poor operation and management, during the dry season, there could be water shortages as well, even in major cities. Inadequate treatment and purifying processes have made water in Vietnam have a high level of chlorine (sometimes, above the required standard) and thus the smell.
Most Vietnamese don’t drink water directly from the tap because they don’t trust the tap water quality, even in urban areas. Some people also go to the extent that they installed water filters and purifiers in their homes to make sure they don’t drink contaminated water.
Water and food from street vendors are other problems for your health. Street vendors usually have a small budget so they will use water from a cheap supplier and thus the water is not suitable for your stomach. If your stomach gets upset easily, it is best to avoid street vendors that you find not hygienic.
Common Questions about Water in Vietnam
Can I Drink Water Directly from the Tap in Vietnam?
No, do not drink tap water in Vietnam under any circumstances.
It is highly recommended that you always boil the water before drinking to avoid travelers’ diarrhea. It should be safe to bring the water to boiling point for about one minute. However, if you are in rural areas, where old water pipes may contaminate the water supply, it is best to use bottled water for drinking, cooking, and rinsing.
A bottle of water costs only about VND 10,000. It is best to buy one from supermarkets, convenience stores or at your hotels. Before drinking, check the seal and the bottle for signs of damage or opening; you should only drink from one with a proper seal.
Can I Brush My Teeth with Tap Water in Vietnam?
In the urban area, yes. Rinsing or brushing your teeth with tap water in Vietnam is fine, as long as you don’t swallow a significant amount of it.
In the rural areas, maybe no. If you have bottled water or boiled water available, use them.
Can I Bathe or Swim in Vietnam?
In the urban, yes. In the rural areas, maybe no.
If you find the water, for example in the streams, canals, or pools and tubs is not treated well – have a smell, weird color, and weird objects, it is best to avoid swimming or bathing in there. You may get skin irritation problems.
Can I Have Ice in Vietnam?
Yes and no.
Yes, if you know that the water source to make the ice is safe enough to drink, boiled or bottled. If it is tap water, you should avoid using ice. Many stores try to save money by doing this, so read the reviews about food safety before eating at any restaurant.
Tips for Staying Safe When Using Water in Vietnam
For information about Food Safety in Vietnam in general, do check out our guides!
- Go to the doctor before traveling for a general check-up and see if you need to bring particular medicines with you.
- Check the quality of the tap water at your hotel for the color, smell, etc., and see if there are any construction sites nearby. If there are, the tap water may be infected.
- Always drink bottled, boiled, purified, or pasteurized water.
- Always store water in case of water shortage.
- If you run out of bottled water, in major cities like Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, and Danang, you can boil the tap water with an electric kettle. It is then safe enough to drink.
- In rural areas, filter the water with a water filter machine or settle the water in a clean container and then boil the filtered/settled water. You can also use chemical disinfectants or ultraviolet light. But you still need to filter in the case of using chemical disinfectants and boil them in both cases. Make sure you follow the instructions thoroughly because the latter two methods can affect your health.
- Bring medicine and activated charcoal. Activated charcoal can help with digestive cleansing and water filtration.
- Buy refrigerated beverages instead of putting the ice cube in the drink.
- Never leave your drink or food to strangers or unattended because they might be drugged.
- Make sure the bottled water you buy still has its seal and no signs of damage.
- Bring alcohol-based hand sanitizer to wash your hands before eating and cooking. Carrying around a small bottle of Purell Hand Sanitizer can come in handy.
- Use bottled water to wash your contact lens and injuries to prevent an allergy and infection. You can also use eye drops and lens solutions for your lens.
|To have fun trips in Ho Chi Minh City, check out our authentic motorbike tours with professional local guides!|
How to Deal with Travelers’ Diarrhea
Many factors can cause travelers’ diarrhea, but it usually comes from consuming contaminated food and water. Make sure to follow the above drink/food safety tips in Vietnam. However, if you, unfortunately, get travelers’ diarrhea, you can check out the below tips to deal with it.
- STAY HYDRATED. It is essential to make up for the amount of water you lose when having travelers’ diarrhea because it could endanger your survival.
- Drink alkaline ionized water to make up for the minerals you lose. Remember to buy the sealed and bottled ones.
- Eat and drink warm food that can slow diarrhea like rice, bananas, apples, and tea.
- Have yogurts or probiotics drink (the easiest to find in Vietnam is Yakult).
- It is best to let out all of the toxic insides of your stomach when you have travelers’ diarrhea. However, in case you need to keep it under control, you can take Imodium. Read the instruction carefully, and do not use more than the recommended dose because it might be fatal.
For more details and tips, you can check out an article from the NY Times.
Hospitals and Pharmacies in Vietnam
Usually, in each hospital, they will have pharmacies, located near the gates or on the ground floor. You should go to hospitals for a check-up if there are any signs of diarrhea. Get to the hospital as early as possible because you may have to wait in a long line. Check-up hours: 7 AM – 4 PM (Mon-Fri), after that you may be charged an out-of-office-hour fee.
Read more about the Healthcare System in Vietnam
Hospital for Tropical Diseases (BENH VIEN BENH NHIET DOI)
Address: 190 Ben Ham Tu, Ward 1, District 5, HCMC
Tel: (028) 3923 5804
Saigon General Hospital (BENH VIEN DA KHOA SAI GON)
Address: 125 Le Loi, Ben Thanh Ward, District 1, HCMC
Tel: (028) 3829 1711
Thong Nhat Hospital (BENH VIEN THONG NHAT)
Address: 1 Ly Thuong Kiet, Ward 7, District Tan Binh, HCMC
Tel: (028) 3864 2142
Bach Mai Hospital (BENH VIEN BACH MAI)
Address: 78 Giai Phong, Phuong Mai Ward, Dong Da, Hanoi
Tel: (024) 3869 3731
Friendship Hospital (BENH VIEN HUU NGHI)
Address: 1 Tran Khanh Du, Bach Dang District, Hanoi
Tel: (024) 3972 2232
Vietnam-Germany Hospital (BENH VIEN VIET-DUC)
Address: 40 Trang Thi, Hang Bong Ward, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi
Tel: (024) 3825 3531
Or protect yourself when traveling to Vietnam with travel insurance
Final Thoughts on Is It Safe to Drink Tap Water in Vietnam?
Tap water in Vietnam is safe or not depending on where they are provided and what purposes you use it for. In urban areas, it is safe to use for bathing, cleaning, rinsing, and cooking, which means you have to boil it before drinking it. In rural areas, it is safer to use boiled or bottled water. Some advice that you need to remember: 1) check the water quality before consuming/using it, 2) avoid food and drink that you find poorly processed and unhygienic, 3) stay hydrated and make up for the minerals you lose when having diarrhea, and 4) go to the hospitals for a check-up and buy medicine at their pharmacies. Follow these rules to keep yourself healthy and safe when traveling in Vietnam.
For other safety tips in Vietnam, check out our other blogs: