When folks my age think of Vietnam, we recall the turmoil that tore our nation apart. The current generation of Americans do not have these memories. In 1995, diplomatic relations were established between both countries.
Today, Americans travel to Vietnam for vacations, business and to study abroad. For international travelers, this is a foreign country in every sense of the word. While all travel abroad is enlightening, one cannot compare a visit to Southeast Asia with trips to Canada, England or other European countries. The culture, language and cuisine in Vietnam are so different than the customs and traditions in the western hemisphere. Traveling to Vietnam is a true adventure in a foreign land.
First, the country has stunning beauty with pristine beaches, rice paddies studding the country and scenic mountain vistas. It has a natural resource that every nation that wants tourist desires – a long coastline. There are many historical sites, museums, outdoor activities, fine dining and breathtaking landscapes. The climate has a wide temperature range and the country has a rainy season. Travelers are advised to consider the time of year and region of Vietnam they intend to visit when scheduling their trip.
There are more important preparations, however, than bringing an umbrella and rain gear. It is extremely important that travelers consult with a travel doctor, preferably several weeks before departure. All travelers to Vietnam and Southeast Asia are advised to receive vaccinations for Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B, both of which can cause severe liver disease. Your travel physician will also discuss your particular itinerary to decide if vaccines for Japanese encephalitis, rabies and typhoid are necessary. In rural regions of the country, malaria is a risk and travelers would need to take prophylactic medications. These medicines should be prescribed by your travel physician and not obtained abroad where the quality of the medicines may be in question.
Earlier this year, there was a measles outbreak in Vietnam. This is an extremely contagious infection, that rarely leads to severe illness. This is a reminder that travelers should be up to date on their routine vaccinations, as well as special travel vaccines.
Vietnamese travelers face risks besides infections. Travelers should avoid swimming in fresh water (unless well chlorinated) where parasites may be lurking. Travelers headed for Vietnam should consider many other safety precautions to minimize risks of illness and accidents.
Remember, before you get packed, get vaccinated. Enjoy your adventure!