Vietnam Country Report
Vietnam's generally high level of security, combined with the hospitality of its inhabitants, makes it an excellent destination for foreign visitors despite its authoritarian regime. If Vietnam rarely makes front page news in the West, it can be attributed to its political stability and the fact this this small Southeast Asian country (95 million citizens) has been extremely successful in its efforts to pull itself out of poverty over the past 20 years.
Vietnam is a one-party system governed by the Vietnamese Communist Party (VCP). Any political dissidence is severely repressed (heavy imprisonment sentences and suppression of all civil rights).
A new president was chosen by the National Assembly in April 2016, followed by legislative elections on May 22, 2016. Participation was extremely high as 98.7 percent of the registered electors voted, and only two independent candidates were elected. The next legislative elections should take place in 2021.
SECURITY and CRIME
In the capital Hanoi (north) and Ho Chi Minh City (south), one should nonetheless remain vigilant, particularly in tourist centers; special care should be taken in the areas around “36 Streets” and Hoan Kiem Lake (Hanoi), as well as Dong Khoi, Nguyen Hue, Le Lai, Le Loi, and the backpacker district of Pham Ngu Lao (Ho Chi Minh City).
Travelers to Vietnam should note a few other risks as well. First, typhoon season lasts from June to December. The country sees an average of ten storms per year, particularly the northern and central regions.
In November 2009, Typhoon Mirinae, after battering the Philippines, left 50 dead in Vietnam; the majority of the deaths were due to the severe flooding that struck the provinces of Phu Yen, Binh Dinh, and Gia Lai (center). Typhoon Sarika hit in mid-October 2016, leading to 30 missing people and flooding in over 120,000 homes in Quang Binh province.
The summer monsoon season regularly results in significant flooding (Red River basin in the north and the Mekong delta in the south).
Drought, heatwaves, and floods are also natural risks in Vietnam, which counts among the five countries most affected by the climate imbalance.
Regarding medical conditions, travelers should be aware that outside the large urban areas of Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, the quality of medical care and hospital facilities is far below European standards.
Cases of avian influenza have been reported in several provinces (in the south, particularly in the Mekong River Delta region; in the suburbs of Hanoi in spring 2007). Furthermore, malaria and cholera are endemic in many regions.
Zika virus is present in Vietnam and is transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes.
Rabies is endemic; be vigilant with stray animals.
Travelers should be aware that public transit is often slow, run-down, uncomfortable, and not necessarily safe. Maritime transport safety is not guaranteed, particularly in Ha Long Bay where accidents (e.g. ferries sinking) are relatively common. Since the beginning of 2015, a boat sinking (May 2) following a collision with another ship and a fire on another tourism boat (February 3) have been reported; neither incident resulted in fatalities. Serious accidents ‒ in overloaded and outdated boats ‒ regularly occur along the maritime route linking Ho Chi Minh City with Vung Tao; maritime travel along this route is strongly advised against.
It should be noted that unexploded landmines still exist in the center of the country and that pirate attacks perpetrated in Vietnamese waters are on the rise.
Finally, in mid-June 2015, Vietnam announced that French, German, British, Italian, and Spanish citizens would no longer need a visa for visits not exceeding 15 days.
Vietnam has a tropical, hot, and humid climate. There is a significant difference between climatic conditions in the south (very hot in March and April: 35°C) and the north (cooler). The country's central regions receive high levels of rainfall between July and January as do the southern regions between July and November. The rainy season lasts from May until October in the north and during this period temperatures are high (30°C to 40°C). Torrential rains are common in July and August and the country is often hit with typhoons between September and November. The dry season (December to April) is pleasant with mild temperatures.
Useful NumbersCountry Code: +84 Police: 113 Fire Dept.: 114 Ambulance: 115
Voltage: 127/220 V ~ 50 Hz
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