Are you wondering if it’s safe to travel to Vietnam right now? Is coronavirus (aka COVID-19) a threat? Read this post for all the latest info.
What in our post to safe travel in Vietnam? Is there COVID-19 in Vietnam? Could you handle a quarantine? How does a coronavirus spread? Who is at highest risk from novel coronavirus? How will the outbreak affect your trip? How to stay healthy on the plane to Vietnam How to stay healthy in Vietnam What should you do if you have symptoms? Will travel insurance cover you if you cancel your trip? What else should you know to stay safe when you travel to Vietnam? More Vietnam travel advice
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Among the other safety concerns that come with international travel, the big question on all travellers’ minds right now is, is it safe to travel while coronavirus is spreading steadily across the globe?
Is it less safe to travel to Vietnam because it shares a border and a close relationship with China, where novel coronavirus (aka COVID-19) originated?
Ultimately, the question of whether you should travel to Vietnam or cancel your trip and wait for a “safer” time, is one only you can answer.
This post will help you decide by laying out the facts as they stand today and digging into how those facts relate to your Vietnam trip.
UPDATE MARCH 16
As of today, I am suggesting that our readers don’t travel anywhere right now. While I’m not an epidemiologist, virologist, or fortune-teller, I think social distancing and reducing international mobility will be our best shot at limiting the effects of COVID-19 worldwide.
Consider asking your airline, hotel, tour operators and other travel providers if you can postpone your trip. Many are giving refunds but if you postpone instead of cancel, it will help them weather this crisis a little better, so they’ll be there for you when it’s safe to travel again.
If you’re still thinking of going to Vietnam, read on for your guide to…
Coronavirus Outbreak – Is it Safe to Travel to Vietnam? If you do decide to go to Vietnam, don’t miss our wealth of helpful tips, including our complete Vietnam travel advice, our Vietnam itineraries, and our guide to transformational activities in Vietnam. You’ll love them! Is there COVID-19 in Vietnam?
Although Vietnam shares its northern border with China, where the COVID-19 outbreak began, relatively few cases have been detected in Vietnam.
Vietnam experienced a surge of cases this week, and the number of confirmed cases is now 39.
However, as with all countries, nobody is sure how well detection systems are working. In addition, it is possible to be infected and not show any symptoms or be aware that you have the disease.
All of which means that the likely number of true cases is far higher than the official confirmed cases.
Vietnam is beautiful. But is it safe to travel there right now?
While it’s relatively safe to travel to Vietnam today, there is no way to predict what tomorrow will bring.
As we’ve just seen with the new cases unexpectedly popping up in Italy and Iran, no one knows where in the world it will show up next, which includes your home country.
Could you handle a quarantine?
Even if you’re in a low-risk group for contracting the disease, you could still get caught up in the outbreak in other ways.
If you come in contact with someone who is later confirmed, you could end up in quarantine or self-quarantine while you’re in Vietnam.
It’s also possible to end up stranded away from home if your country decides to shut down flights from Vietnam, or if your country goes into lockdown.
If this were to happen to you, what would be the consequences for you?
How does a coronavirus spread?
While research is still being conducted on novel coronavirus, it is thought that the spread is similar to other coronaviruses which have been studied more thoroughly.
The human-to-human spread of the virus is mainly via droplets of saliva or mucus.
Here’s how it works.
An infected person sneezes or coughs in a public place, spreading their infected fluids across nearby surfaces. A healthy person might then touch one of these surfaces and infect themselves by touching their nose, mouth, or eyes.
If you do start sneezing, use a tissue to help reduce the spread of respiratory droplets.
Keep in mind that the virus could also be transmitted via money, ATMs, elevator buttons, and other surfaces that are frequently handled by lots of people.
According to TheScientist:
“…based on previous studies of viruses such as MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV, at least some human coronaviruses could remain infective on materials such as metal, glass, or plastic for up to nine days. Ethanol or hydrogen peroxide solutions disinfected the surfaces within one minute, the researchers note in their paper.”
Who is at highest risk from novel coronavirus?
As with the more common flu virus, those most at risk of contracting COVID-19 are elderly people or people with weaker immune systems. So it’s less safe to travel to Vietnam if you are in one of these groups.
It’s worth pointing out that COVID-19 has a relatively low fatality rate when compared to previous coronavirus outbreaks SARS and MERS.
According to the New York Times:
“As of Tuesday, the case fatality rate of COVID-19 appeared to be about 2.5 percent… By comparison, the case fatality rate for the seasonal flu in the United States ranges between 0.10 percent and 0.18 percent. For SARS, it’s about 10 percent and for MERS, about 35 percent.”
It is possible to have it and feel fine, it is possible to have it and feel like you have a mild flu or cold.
The reason it is making headlines is because of the unknowns — scientists are still figuring out how fast it spreads and whether it will diminish with the onset of spring, like the flu does.
How will the outbreak affect your trip? Hoi An, one of Vietnam’s most popular cities, can get pretty crowded but right now it is mostly empty.
The biggest effect you’ll notice is that crowds are likely to be much smaller than under “normal” circumstances.
A huge portion of Vietnam’s tourist market is made up of travellers from China and Korea. Flights from China have been banned and restrictions have been placed on travellers coming from Korea and Japan.
Travellers who have no restrictions have also opted to cancel their travel plans – hotels and tour companies have reported that business is down between 30–60% compared to last year.
Though we haven’t been in Vietnam since the outbreak began, friends who live in Hoi An have told us that they’ve never seen the city so peaceful.
Because of this drop in bookings, you should be able to book accommodation, tours, and activities much more cheaply than you would have otherwise!
You may also want to wear a mask out in public. Masks are very common in Vietnam at any time of year and the population has embraced them as fears about novel coronavirus spread.
Some tourists have been feeling social pressure to wear a mask. Because of that, it’s a good idea to bring a package of medical masks from home, since availability may be low in Vietnam.
Fortunately, you don’t have to go to these extremes yet!How to stay healthy on the plane to Vietnam
In theory, a person infected with coronavirus who is not yet showing symptoms could board the plane with you — though at the moment the likelihood is relatively low.
After that, if you touch a surface where they have sneezed and then, say, chew your nails or rub your eye, you could also become infected.
Happily, as this National Geographic article explains, even if there is someone with a virus on your flight, your risk of contraction is fairly low.
To lower the risk even further:
Wash your hands. A lot. Make sure you wash your hands frequently and carry hand sanitizer for those moments when good old fashioned soap and water aren’t available Wear a mask. Though masks are not proven to be effective at keeping airborne virus particles out, when I wear a mask, it prevents me from touching my nose and mouth. A mask keeps you from subconsciously scratching your nose or biting your nails, so reduces the chance that you’ll transfer something nasty into your own system. Offer a mask to a sneezy seat mate. If your seat mate or someone sitting near you is coughing and sneezing on the plane, offer them a spare mask. Research has shown that masks do help prevent sick people from spreading their illnesses. Wear gloves. Instead of a mask, you might choose to wear gloves, which also serve as a reminder to keep your hands away from your face. Be a little obsessive. Wear gloves and use antibacterial wipes to clean your seat, tray table, and entertainment system thoroughly. If it’s good enough for Naomi Campbell, it’s good enough for you! Watch Naomi Campbell’s guide on how to keep healthy on the plane to see how the stars do it!How to stay healthy in Vietnam
It’s easy to become run-down when travelling. The flight is usually exhausting and jet lag can take its toll. If you add a busy sightseeing schedule to that, you will soon find yourself more susceptible to catching whatever is going around.
We always recommend that, to stay healthy while travelling, you:
Wash your hands frequently. In Vietnam, carry hand sanitizer, as the availability of soap and a clean towel to dry your hands on is hit-or-miss. While you’re out and about, avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Get plenty of sleep. Include a nap time in the afternoon if you have jet lag and leave lots of time at night to unwind before you sleep. Don’t pack your schedule. Slow down and give yourself time to recover from and absorb the amazing experiences you’re having. Eat healthy, nourishing food. This can be a challenge in Vietnam, where raw fruits and vegetables are not a big part of the cuisine. You can get fruit smoothies on most corners and raw salads are usually perfectly fine to eat in tourist restaurants. There is also nourishing hot noodle soup available on almost every corner! Get some exercise every day. This includes gentle activities like walking or doing some yoga. You could also book a cycle tour or rent a bike to go sightseeing. What should you do if you have symptoms?
If you do start to get sick while you’re travelling, make sure to take action immediately.
The three COVID-19 symptoms to watch out for are:
Fever Cough Shortness of breath
Though these symptoms could be the harbinger of plenty of other ailments, if you’re travelling and you get sick, here’s what to do.
Stay in. If you start to have symptoms, stay in your hotel room. Whether you have a common cold or COVID-19, staying in will be your speediest route to recovery and will prevent you from spreading the illness. In many cities in Vietnam, you can order food using the Grab app, so you won’t even need to go out to eat. Report your symptoms. If you have symptoms, ask the staff at your hotel for a trusted doctor’s phone number. Call right away so you can get professional advice. Wear a mask. Though the WHO says masks are ineffective at preventing you from catching a virus, they do recommend that you wear one if you are sick. If you have any kind of illness, including the common cold, do your duty and protect others by wearing a mask when you go out. These are the official WHO recommendations for when to wear a mask. Image via WHO.Will travel insurance cover you if you cancel your trip?
It’s unlikely that travel insurance will cover your cancellation if you decide to cancel your trip because of coronavirus risk. There is a chance, if you bought the “cancel for any reason” option, that you will be covered.
But in all likelihood, since there are no official travel restrictions to the country for most people, you’ll be saying goodbye to the cost of your flight or paying some steep flight change penalties if you decide to cancel.
Some hotels are waiving their normal cancellation fees, but again, depending on where you booked, you may be on the hook for that too.
If you do decide to go and you don’t yet have travel insurance, make sure to get it. We never go anywhere without it and in these days of uncertainty, it’s best to be covered!
We don’t leave home without travel insurance and neither should you. World Nomads is ideal for short-term travel — affordable, great coverage, and responsive. For long-term travel, check out Safety Wing.
What else should you know to stay safe when you travel to Vietnam?
The one thing that no one knows is how quickly or how far COVID-19 will spread.
Although travelling to Vietnam today is relatively safe, we don’t know what it will be like next week or next month. It’s this element of uncertainty that has made novel coronavirus into an international obsession.
Because of the uncertainty, we can’t tell you whether or not to cancel that trip to Vietnam; it’s a decision only you can make based on your particular set of circumstances and your tolerance of risk.
More Vietnam travel advice
If you do decide to go to Vietnam, don’t miss our extensive collection of truly transformational Vietnam travel guides, like these ones:
Vietnam Travel Advice – everything you should know before you go Best Vietnam Itineraries – our top 3 itineraries for 2 weeks in Vietnam Solo Travel in Vietnam – what it’s like to travel alone Vietnam Accommodation Guide – here’s how to find the best hotels at the best prices Vegan in Vietnam – how to find animal-friendly food
We hope this post about travelling to Vietnam during the coronavirus outbreak is helpful. It’s a tough decision whether to cancel your trip or continue on as planned. Make sure to carefully weigh the pros and cons and if you decide to go, have a safe and healthy trip!
♥ Happy transformational travels, Jane & Stephen
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