All in all, Vietnam is an extremely safe country to travel in.
For more than three decades, four armies expended untold energy and resources mining, booby-trapping, rocketing, strafing, mortaring and bombarding wide areas of Vietnam. When the fighting stopped, most of this detritus remained exactly where it had landed or been laid; American estimates at the end of the war placed the quantity of unexploded ordnance (UXO) at 150,000 tonnes.
Since 1975 more than 40,000 Vietnamese have been maimed or killed by this leftover ordnance. The central provinces are particularly badly affected, with more than 8000 incidents in Quang Tri alone.
While cities, cultivated areas and well-travelled rural roads and paths are safe for travel, straying from these areas could land you in the middle of danger. Never touch any rockets, artillery shells, mortars, mines or other relics of war you may come across. Such objects can remain lethal for decades. And don’t climb inside bomb craters – you never know what undetonated explosive device is at the bottom.
You can learn more about the issue of landmines from the Nobel Peace Prize–winning International Campaign to Ban Landmines (www.icbl.org), or visit websites of the Mines Advisory Group, which clears landmines and UXO.
If you plan to spend your time swimming, snorkelling and scuba-diving, familiarise yourself with the various hazards. The list of dangerous sea creatures includes jellyfish, stonefish, scorpion fish, sea snakes and stingrays. However as most of these creatures avoid humans, the risk is very small.
The following government websites offer travel advisories and information on current hot spots.
● Australian Department of Foreign Affairs (www.smarttraveller.gov.au)
● British Foreign Office (www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice)
● Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs (www.dfait-maeci.gc.ca)
● US Department of State (http://travel.state.gov)