Rice fields, Vietnam
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Rice fields, Vietnam

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Vietnam Travel Guide

Key Facts
Area

331,230 sq km (127,889 sq miles).

Population

94,569,072 (UN estimate 2016).

Population density

276 per sq km.

Capital

Hanoi.

Government

Socialist republic.

Head of state

President Tô Lâm since 2024.

Head of government

Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh since 2021.

Electricity

220 volts AC, 50Hz. Plugs with two flat pins, two round pins or three square pins are used.

Some destinations evoke mental images the moment their names are mentioned, and Vietnam is one of them. A frenetic and fascinating country, it calls to mind conical-hatted street vendors, water buffalo plodding across rice fields, mopeds buzzing through cities and floating markets on the Mekong River.

The days when Vietnam was best known for its conflict with America are long gone. From the temples of Hanoi and the islands of Halong Bay to the beaches of Nha Trang and the palaces of Hue, it is a country now firmly etched in the travel psyche.

At times, Vietnam is an assault on the senses. Life in its feverish cities is conducted largely on the streets, among chattering bia hois (pavement pubs) and steaming pho (noodle soup) stands. The country’s two main cities – Hanoi in the north, Ho Chi Minh in the south – are different in many ways, but they share an intoxicating energy. Ancient pagodas and colonial houses jostle for space with new-build skyscrapers, while labyrinthine back-alleys hum with life. These narrow streets are atmospheric places to spend time, day or night.

The country’s long, thin shape, sometimes compared to two rice baskets at either end of a pole, means these two cities form natural start and end points to an itinerary. The highlights along the way, meanwhile, are as well packed as the spring rolls which adorn market stalls: nature-lovers, history buffs, beach bums and foodies are all catered for in singularly Vietnamese style.

Those heading into the countryside can expect not only glorious scenery, but a rich cultural web of different ethnic groups. The US wartime legacy can still be readily explored – perhaps most notably at the Cu Chi Tunnels near Ho Chi Minh – but this is a country to enjoy for what it is today, whether you’re here for a few days or a month.

Travel Advice

Before you travel

No travel can be guaranteed safe. Read all the advice in this guide and any specific travel advice that applies to you: 

Travel insurance

If you choose to travel, research your destinations and get appropriate travel insurance. Insurance should cover your itinerary, planned activities and expenses in an emergency.

About FCDO travel advice

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) provides advice about risks of travel to help British nationals make informed decisions. Find out more about FCDO travel advice.

Follow and contact FCDO travel on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You can also sign up to get email notifications when this advice is updated.

This information is for people travelling on a full ‘British citizen’ passport from the UK. It is based on the UK government’s understanding of the current rules for the most common types of travel.

The authorities in Vietnam set and enforce entry rules. If you’re not sure how these requirements apply to you, contact the Vietnamese Embassy in the UK.

COVID-19 rules

There are no COVID-19 testing or vaccination requirements for travellers entering Vietnam.

Passport validity requirements

To enter Vietnam, your passport must have:

  • an ‘expiry date’ at least 6 months after the date you arrive
  • at least 2 blank pages
  • no damage – British nationals have been denied entry and exit due to passport damage

Check with your travel provider that your passport and other travel documents meet requirements. Renew your passport if you need to.

You will be denied entry if you do not have a valid travel document or try to use a passport that has been reported lost or stolen.

Make sure you get your passport stamped.

Check the visa expiry date written in your passport is correct before leaving border control. If it is wrong, you could be accused of overstaying.

Visa requirements

You can visit Vietnam without a visa for up to 45 days for tourism or business.

If you want to stay longer than 45 days, you can:

  • book with a travel agent in Vietnam and ask them to apply for a visa pre-approval letter – your agent will tell you when to collect your visa from the embassy
  • apply for other visa types from the Vietnamese Embassy in the UK
  • apply for an e-visa that allows a 90-day stay and multiple entries

E-visas restrict you to the entry and exit points you select when you apply. If you get an e-visa while in Vietnam, you must exit the country and re-enter to start your e-visa.

The British Embassy will not assist with visa extensions.

Work or study

If you want to work or study, check which type of visa or work permit you need with the Vietnam Immigration Department.

Read about visas and work permits if you live in Vietnam.

If you overstay your visa or work illegally, the authorities can prevent you from leaving until you pay a fine. You could be deported and prevented from visiting Vietnam in the future.

Travelling through Vietnam

If you transfer from an international flight to a domestic flight in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City, you must go through immigration and enter Vietnam. You must do this even if your final destination is outside Vietnam.

Check with your airline before departing.

Vaccine requirements

For details about medical entry requirements and recommended vaccinations, see TravelHealthPro’s Vietnam guide

Customs rules

There are strict rules about goods you can take into or out of Vietnam. You must declare anything that may be prohibited or subject to tax or duty.

If you’re taking prescription medication into Vietnam, carry it in your hand luggage with a copy of the prescription. If it has a total import value greater than 100 US dollars, you must declare it at customs. For information about restrictions on medication, see Health.

Taking money into or out of Vietnam

If you’re taking cash into or out of Vietnam, you must declare amounts over:

  • 15 million Vietnamese dong
  • 5,000 US dollars (or the same value in other currencies)

If you’re leaving the country with more than these amounts, declare the money at customs and show either:

  • confirmation you’re carrying cash abroad, issued by an authorised credit institution
  • written approval to carry cash, issued by the State Bank of Vietnam

Terrorism

There is a high threat of terrorist attack globally affecting UK interests and British nationals, including from groups and individuals who view the UK and British nationals as targets. Stay aware of your surroundings at all times.   

UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out how to reduce your risk from terrorism while abroad

Terrorism in Vietnam

Although there is no recent history of terrorism in Vietnam, attacks cannot be ruled out. 

Attacks could be indiscriminate including in places visited by foreign nationals. Stay aware of your surroundings, keep up to date with local media reports and follow the advice of local authorities.

Political situation

Vietnam has a single-party political system, which does not welcome people disagreeing with the government. Some protests in recent years have turned violent or been violently suppressed by the authorities. Avoid all protests.

Crime

Protecting yourself and your belongings

Pickpockets and bag-snatchers operate in crowded areas and in places visited by tourists. Take care of your belongings and consider splitting important items between bags.

Do not give your passport to others as a guarantee – for example, to motorcycle rental shops or landlords. They can hold your passport against claimed damage.

There is a risk of petty theft on buses and trains, particularly while asleep on overnight trains.

Drink spiking and sexual assault

British nationals have reported rape and sexual assaults in tourist areas and places where foreigners live. Women have also reported indecent assaults and harassment. These include inappropriate touching and groping, particularly while walking alone.

In Vietnam there is a higher burden of proof for victims than in the UK. Victims must show they did not consent, particularly if they drank alcohol or knew the alleged attacker.

There is a risk of drink spiking – do not leave your drinks unattended or accept drinks from strangers.

Job scams

Be wary of job offers that appear too good to be true. People have arrived in the Mekong region and have been illegally transported to neighbouring countries on the promise of high-paying jobs, which turn out to be scams.

There have been incidents of:

  • passports being confiscated by scammers
  • victims being held in poor living conditions
  • coercion into undertaking wider online scamming activity

Transfers from airports and stations

Be cautious about offers of free bus transfers to hotels, unless organised in advance. These may be scams.  

Laws and cultural differences

Personal ID

You must always carry photographic ID. The authorities will accept a printed copy of the photo page of your passport and visa.

Illegal drugs penalties

Penalties for possessing, distributing or manufacturing drugs are severe. You can get the death sentence if you’re found with even small amounts.

Illegal drugs are often tampered with or spiked and can be much stronger than in Europe. British nationals in Vietnam have suffered severe psychiatric problems because of drug use.

LGBT+ travellers

Vietnam is a generally tolerant and progressive place for LGBT+ travellers. There are no criminal penalties for same-sex sexual activity or changing gender. Same-sex marriage is not recognised in law.

Read more advice for LGBT+ travellers.

Dress code

Respect local customs and dress in appropriate clothing when entering religious or cultural sites. This usually means covering your shoulders and knees. You’ll often see signs outside religious or cultural sites that tell you the dress code.

Money change counters

Only change money at official money exchange counters with a clear sign showing this status. Changing money elsewhere is illegal and you risk losing your money.

Rice wine

Some rice wines sold without recognised brand names can have very high and sometimes fatal levels of methanol.

Wildlife, animal products and souvenirs

It’s illegal to buy, sell, kill or collect protected wild animal or plants. If you’re caught buying or trafficking these items, you could get a fine or long prison sentence.

Restricted areas

There are restrictions on travel near military bases in Vietnam. Do not take photos near bases.

If you want to visit a village, commune or ward close to the border, you may need permission from the provincial police department. Contact the local authority for more information.

People convicted of sex and drug offences can receive very long prison sentences or the death sentence. The Vietnamese legal system is not well developed, and the standard of prisons is very poor.

If you are under criminal investigation, you can be detained for long periods without evidence. There can be long delays before you can contact lawyers, British Embassy officials or family. Legal representation is far below UK standards.

Foreign nationals involved in traffic accidents have been stopped from leaving Vietnam until the police have completed their investigations. This process can take a long time, and foreign nationals have been asked to agree out of court financial settlements. FCDO advises you to get professional legal advice and representation if you are in this situation. See Getting help.

Internet access

There are sometimes restrictions on internet use, which can temporarily affect access to social media websites. Most social media sites are normally available.

Outdoor activities and adventure tourism

British nationals have died or been injured in Vietnam while engaged in adventure tourism in rural and mountainous areas.

Risks include:

  • dangerous terrain
  • remote areas that are difficult for rescue services to reach
  • flooding, swollen rivers and landslides, especially during the rainy season
  • lower safety standards than in the UK

To reduce your personal risk:

  • follow safety guidelines
  • stay on main routes
  • take a reputable guide – in some places it is illegal to go without a guide
  • use approved adventure tourism companies – check local authority websites
  • check weather forecasts
  • make sure your travel insurance covers your planned activity

Illegal tour guides have been known to offer tours and activities prohibited under local regulations.

Firearms activities

If you take part in leisure activities involving firearms, make sure a reputable guide supervises you. There is a risk of hearing loss.

Transport risks

Road travel

If you are planning to drive in Vietnam, see information on driving abroad and driving rules in Vietnam.

You’ll need to have both the 1968 version of the international driving permit and your UK driving licence with you in the car. It is illegal to drive without third-party insurance.

Do not use your passport as a deposit for hiring vehicles or as a guarantee you will pay a fine for a traffic offence.

Drink-driving is a serious offence in Vietnam. If you are tested and found to have any alcohol in your system, you may get a fine and possible imprisonment.

Compliance with road laws is poor – keep your speed down and stay alert.

If you’re involved in an accident, you could face criminal charges and may need to pay compensation to injured people, even if the injuries are minor. Offer the police your full co-operation and inform the British Embassy in Hanoi or Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City.

Motorbike safety

Travelling by motorbike in Vietnam is much riskier than in the UK. Motorbike accidents are common and have killed and injured British nationals.

Do not hire a motorbike if you’re not an experienced rider. Always:

  • check your motorbike thoroughly
  • rent from a reputable organisation
  • use a good helmet – it is illegal for drivers and passengers to ride without a helmet

Make sure your travel insurance covers your planned activity.

Taxis

Metered taxis from larger firms are generally reliable. Where possible get hotels or restaurants to book you a reputable taxi. Always make sure the driver identifies themself before setting off. If you book taxis using the Grab app, which is similar to Uber – you can make sure the details of the vehicle and driver match those given by the company.

Buses and coaches

Bus and coach crashes are not uncommon and are more likely at night. Vehicles are often poorly maintained. Night bus drivers may become tired but continue driving, resulting in sometimes fatal crashes.

Sea travel

Check with your tour guide about the safety record and registration of boats, and the certification of staff. Make sure you get a full safety briefing and have a life jacket when joining any boat. 

Consider safety standards carefully before taking an overnight boat trip on Halong Bay. Overcrowding and poor safety standards have led to accidents in past years. Some boats have sunk quickly and without warning.

Piracy in coastal areas of Vietnam is very rare. See piracy and armed robbery at sea for precautions you could take.

Landmines and unexploded weapons

Landmines and other unexploded weapons are a hazard in former battlefields. Areas of particular risk include central Vietnam and along the Laos border, formerly crossed by the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Mined areas are often unmarked.

Extreme weather and natural disasters

Find out what you can do to prepare for and respond to extreme weather and natural hazards.

Tropical cyclones

Tropical cyclones affect the eastern coastal regions of Vietnam, with a risk of:

  • strong winds
  • heavy rainfall and flooding
  • disruption to transport

The season normally runs from May to November, but tropical cyclones can happen at other times. Monitor approaching storms on the National Centre for Hydro-Meteorological Forecasting and Japan Meteorological Agency websites. Follow the advice of the local authorities, including any evacuation orders.

Monsoon

Vietnam has a tropical monsoon climate. There can be large amounts of rain in short periods of time. Localised flooding, flash floods and landslides are common. Take care if you’re trekking in rural and mountainous areas.

Before you travel check that:

  • your destination can provide the healthcare you may need
  • you have appropriate travel insurance for local treatment or unexpected medical evacuation

This is particularly important if you have a health condition or are pregnant.

Emergency medical number

Dial 115 and ask for an ambulance.

Contact your insurance company quickly if you’re referred to a medical facility for treatment.

Vaccine recommendations and health risks 

At least 8 weeks before your trip check:

See what health risks you’ll face in Vietnam, including:

Altitude sickness is a risk in parts of Vietnam. Read more about altitude sickness on TravelHealthPro

Medication

Some medicines can be hard to find in Vietnam and many are fake.

The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or bought in the UK can be different in other countries.

Read best practice when travelling with medicines on TravelHealthPro.

Vietnam has restrictions on medicines it classifies as ‘addictive’ or ‘psychotropic’. These include medicine used to treat of addiction, anxiety, depression, insomnia and other conditions.

It is illegal to have more than the amount prescribed by a doctor for 7 days (addictive medicine) or 10 days (psychotropic medicine). You should carry the prescription with your medication and a letter from your doctor stating how much of the medication you need during your trip.

The letter can be in English and should:

  • include your name and age
  • list the medicine name, volume and dosage
  • include the doctor’s signature and address

If you’re unsure if your medication falls within these categories or you need to bring more medication than is usually allowed, contact the Vietnamese Embassy in the UK before travelling.

Healthcare in Vietnam

FCDO has a list of medical facilities in Vietnam where some staff will speak English.

There is also guidance on healthcare if you’re living in Vietnam.

Travel and mental health

Read FCDO guidance on travel and mental health. There is also mental health guidance on TravelHealthPro.

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) cannot provide tailored advice for individual trips. Read this travel advice and carry out your own research before deciding whether to travel.

Emergency services in Vietnam

Ambulance: 115

Fire: 114

Police: 113

Contact your travel provider and insurer

Contact your travel provider and your insurer if you are involved in a serious incident or emergency abroad. They will tell you if they can help and what you need to do.

Refunds and changes to travel

For refunds or changes to travel, contact your travel provider. You may also be able to make a claim through insurance. However, insurers usually require you to talk to your travel provider first.

Find out more about changing or cancelling travel plans, including:

  • where to get advice if you are in a dispute with a provider
  • how to access previous versions of travel advice to support a claim

Support from FCDO

FCDO has guidance on staying safe and what to do if you need help or support abroad, including:

Contacting FCDO

Follow and contact FCDO travel on TwitterFacebook and Instagram. You can also sign up to get email notifications when this travel advice is updated.

You can also contact FCDO online.

Help abroad in an emergency

If you’re in Vietnam and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the British Embassy in Hanoi or the British Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City.

FCDO in London

You can call FCDO in London if you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad.

Telephone: 020 7008 5000 (24 hours)

Find out about call charges

Risk information for British companies

The Overseas Business Risk service offers information and advice for British companies operating in Vietnam on how to manage political, economic, and business security-related risks.

Visa and passport information is updated regularly and is correct at the time of publishing. You should verify critical travel information independently with the relevant embassy before you travel.