With its high earning potential, low cost of living and stunning scenery, Vietnam has fast become a favourite destination for expats. So, if you’re planning on relocating for work, to start a new life, or to enjoy your golden years - it’s important to consider your healthcare options. Although it may seem complicated at first, we’re here to make things clearer and easier.
Healthcare in Vietnam combines aspects of both Eastern and Western medical practices. The healthcare system is split into public and private, with most medical institutions being owned by the public sector. As many public health facilities are not equivalent to the standards of Western medical facilities, many expats and native citizens opt for private coverage. The level of care in the private clinics are similar to Western standards.
The cost of using private specialists, such as dentists and dermatologists, might be slightly more expensive for expats. However, they are much cheaper than in many other developed countries. To avoid these costs, many expats choose more comprehensive insurance plans.
The following sections discuss the Vietnamese healthcare system in further detail and provide information about private coverage for expats looking to relocate.
Since the 1980s, the Vietnamese health system has had some dramatic changes due to government investment in the universal healthcare plan. This means that medical assistance for some Vietnamese citizens is free, with the majority being funded by the government in some way and a minority paying for their medical care in full. Contributions from this plan, combined with government spending and payments from the private sector, have significantly advanced the national health network. However, the system is still in development. Public hospitals are often underfunded and poorly equipped. This has led to long waiting times across the nation. Much of the medical staff in these public facilities only speak Vietnamese and, in the rural and remote parts of the country, public health services are noticeably worse or non-existent.
Private hospitals in Vietnam, especially in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh, are often staffed by English- or French-speaking medical professionals trained in Europe or South Korea. The overall quality of these institutions is much higher, and the level of aftercare is preferred by many. Often, private hospitals will ask for your insurance details and either charge a discounted fee (based on your coverage) or ask you to pay in full, so you can claim the money back later from your insurer.
In order to access both public and private hospitals, you will only need your passport. You will then pay an amount according to your insurance status and which type of hospital you have chosen.
Expats who are employed in Vietnam with a work permit and a temporary residence card will make mandatory contributions to the nation’s medical and social insurance plans. This gives them access to public medical facilities without paying in full. You cannot opt out of this government scheme, even if you decide to take out private medical coverage.
If you’re visiting the country, you will need to have enough private medical coverage to fulfil the ‘Plan for the Resumption of Tourism Activities Under New Normal Conditions’, created by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism. Introduced in 2022, this is a government mandate that allows visitors to enter Vietnam but requires travellers to have health insurance and Covid-19 cover to the value of at least $10,000 (around £9000)¹.
Under Vietnam’s social health policies, the poor, certain ethnic minorities, children under 6, the elderly above 80 and socially vulnerable groups are fully covered for healthcare. Households with low income, students and regular households are partially funded by the government or by their employers’ contributions2. The national health plans provide basic coverage through public facilities. They include: some inpatient and outpatient care, pathology, medications, pregnancy check-ups, support and transport for vulnerable people, birth defects, treatment for self-inflicted injuries and eye treatments for children under 6. You will have to pay large out-of-pocket bills for more complex treatments or to find care from English-speaking medical staff.
In the case of an emergency, dial 115 for medical assistance. However, be aware that ambulance response times are slow, many paramedics will not speak a high level of English and the ambulance equipment may be outdated. Private hospitals in bigger cities have much faster and more reliable private ambulance services. As a result, it is important to consider medical coverage that includes the cost of private emergency services.
In many cases, expats choose a policy that covers medical evacuation and treatment in a neighbouring country because better care facilities are available in nearby Thailand and Singapore.
Finding and/or visiting your local GP (General Practitioner) in public clinics or hospitals can be difficult as many only speak Vietnamese. There are far more English-speaking medical professionals at the private clinics. Whichever you choose, you can find a list of local English-speaking doctors from your embassy.
Fortunately, there is no shortage of high-quality pharmacies in Vietnam’s towns and cities. However, expats should be careful of counterfeit or expired drugs in some public pharmacies. Many expats use the more reliable pharmacies attached to private hospitals and clinics.
As the Vietnamese public health system is still developing, it is not equivalent to Western standards of public healthcare. In Vietnam, it is normal to pay for healthcare (public or private) in some way and expats often invest in private health coverage to avoid discrepancies in the public health service. Equally, expats take out insurance to avoid the inflated prices offered by some clinics and to avoid the expense of using English-speaking medical staff.
In addition, expats often opt for an insurance policy that covers medical evacuation and treatment outside Vietnam, as Thailand and Singapore offer more advanced treatments and emergency care.
With its stunning beaches and vibrant culture, many expats plan for a new life in Vietnam. And, as with all relocation projects, we understand that healthcare can be a real concern. But don’t worry, our dedicated team is here to provide 24/7 support and help build a plan tailored to you and your family.
Whether you’re looking to work on a placement in the heart of Hanoi or the beaches of Da Nang, we can cover you for any period between 3 and 11 months. Our short-term international health plan will also cover medical evacuation and repatriation, a necessity in Vietnam.
From its ancient ruins to its beautiful sandy beaches, it’s no wonder Vietnam is loved by expats. Take your first step towards a new life today.
It can be difficult to find your feet in a new city, especially one as busy as Ho Chi Minh. So, until you’re settled, talk with one of our experienced virtual doctors instead. Available by phone or video consultation, day and night3.
With all the correct information, around 80% of all our customers’ eligible claims are paid within 48 hours. Get back to the moments that matter most.4
With the modest conditions of Vietnam’s public medical services, it’s always best to be prepared. We offer a range of comprehensive cover plans, which include dental and medical scans (CT, PET, MRI) as standard.
As many urgent and advanced procedures need to be performed in nearby Singapore and Thailand, we provide a range of evacuation and repatriation services.
Sometimes, starting a new life in a new country like Vietnam can be exhausting. So, if it all gets too much, our qualified professionals are available on our dedicated Mind Health service. 5
For the moments when important things get lost in translation, you can get an independent second medical opinion from the experts. 6
With global health plans that include eye tests, prescriptions and a range of outpatient services as standard, we’re here to support your healthcare needs, so you can get back to business as usual.
Perfect for families, we can help you with every part of the Vietnamese public and private health sectors. We offer a range of coverage that includes maternity and pregnancy benefits, routine and non-routine dental check-ups, vaccinations, asthma treatments and prescription glasses. We’re always there for you and your family.
For a little extra safety and security during the best years of your life. Our plans offer annual health check-ups, palliative care and disability compensation. All your healthcare needs in one place.
*Lines are open Monday to Friday, 8am-5pm (GMT).
Calls may recorded and/or monitored for quality assurance, training and as a record of the conversation.
The Virtual Doctor, Mind Health and Second Medical Opinion services are provided by Teladoc Health.
Local insights have been provided by Oban International’s LIME (Local In-Market Expert) network’ - https://obaninternational.com/lime-network/
3 The virtual doctor service is provided by Teladoc Health. Appointments are subject to availability. You do not need to pay or claim for a consultation, but you will be charged for the cost of the initial phone call when using the call back service. You won’t be charged if you request a call back using the app or online portal. Telephone appointments are available 24/7/365 and call-backs are typically within 24 hours. Telephone appointments in Greek are available between 09:00 and 21:00 EET, 7 days a week. Video appointments in English, Spanish and Mandarin are available between 08.00 and 00.00 UK time, Monday to Friday. Video appointments in German are available between 08:00 -20:00 CET, Monday to Friday.
4 80.5% of eligible claims submitted online between January 2022 and December 2022 were paid within 2 days
5 Service provided by Teladoc Health. This service provides you with access to six sessions with a psychologist, per mind health concern, per policy year. Mind Health psychologist appointments are available in English and Spanish between Monday and Friday, 09.00 - 17.30 (UK time).
6 Service provided by Teladoc Health