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A Guide to Health and Travel Insurance for Vietnam

A Guide to Health and Travel Insurance for Vietnam

Whether you are working, teaching, or backpacking in Vietnam, or just in the initial stages of planning to move to Vietnam, health insurance is something you’ll likely consider at some point. In fact, health insurance is still technically a requirement for entering Vietnam, even though the immigration officers seldom ask for it.

But, of course, there are also international clinics and hospitals all over the country which have a higher quality of services and staff if you can afford to pay more. We will discuss that in-depth below.

In this article, we’ll recommend a few insurance providers suitable for expats or travelers in Vietnam, based on our personal experience. You can purchase any of these plans either before you arrive in Vietnam or once you are already here.

We will also give you an idea of how much it cost to go to the emergency room in Vietnam for basic medical assistance and what to expect.

Our Recommended Insurance Providers

A paper that says "Insurance Policy" on it

It’s possible to get local Vietnamese insurance or an international one. However, we’ve only ever used international insurance providers since they cover worldwide for less money.

Fortunately, I haven’t been in the position where I needed major support from my insurance provider and only had to visit the hospital a few times for minor issues.

Here’s a table with our three most recommended options.

SAFETYWING (Nomad insurance)Everyone
Worldwide; medical and
travel insurance covered
dates are flexible and can be longer than 4 weeks
COVID19 is covered, can be bought even
after you left your home country
SAFETYWING (Remote health)Remote workers
Worldwide; medical and
travel insurance covered
dates are flexible and can be longer than 4 weeks
COVID19 is covered, can be bought even
after you left your home country
IMGLOBAL (Global Medical Insurance)Everyone; seniors and dual residents who are 6 months or longer outside US)
Worldwide; medical and
travel insurance covered
Varies, annual plan availablefreedom to choose your health provider

Local vs. International Health Insurance Providers

As we said above, we always use international ones. This makes the most sense for us because we travel a lot, both in Vietnam but also to other countries. During to the pandemic, I had to rethink my medical insurance and I briefly considered getting a local one.

However, upon checking, it was almost the same price if I used a Vietnamese company or a foreign one. The good thing about using a local provider is that I wouldn’t need to pay for any medical bills in the country (read my story about that below). They would be paid directly for me.

But with an international provider, I would most likely have to pay from my pocket first, and then get a reimbursement. Not such a big deal, but something to consider.

Health Insurance Laws for Expats

Motorcycle traffic in Vietnam
Motorbiking is super common in Vietnam

You will be surprised how many expats and travellers in Vietnam come, travel, and live here without proper health and travel insurance coverage. While the health services aren’t so expensive, if you want an English speaking and high-tech facilities, prepare to drop some cash. Still others might have the right medical insurance, but are not aware of Vietnam’s health insurance laws.

For instance, motorbiking in Vietnam is the main mode of transportation, not to mention all the fun motorbike routes. However, international driver’s licenses are not valid in Vietnam unless they are converted into a Vietnamese one. Driving a motorbike without a valid license will invalidate your travel insurance if you get in a motorbike accident.

You can either convert your driver’s license, make sure your medical insurance will cover Vietnam, or you can pay upon receiving the medical attention you need without using your insurance card.

On the other hand, you can also get or purchase travel insurance specifically for Vietnam from a Vietnamese company, which some expats living in Vietnam do opt for.

Get Health Insurance Before or Just Pay When You Need It?

Two wads of Vietnamese money
How much will it cost?

So the real question is: should you get health/travel/medical insurance for living or backpacking in Vietnam? Or should you just pay if and when you have to visit the hospital?

Personally, after living in Vietnam for around three years now, I’ve only had to go to the hospital twice. Once was for an eye check-up and another was when I cut my finger so badly that it wouldn’t stop bleeding. Let me share more about my finger “mini emergency”.

After waiting for 20-minutes for it to stop bleeding, I stood up and felt dizzy. I checked my finger and it was still bleeding, so I figured it was time to head to the hospital. I visited the emergency room, received a tetanus shot, anaesthesia, three stitches, and one week’s worth of medication. It took about 1.5 hours in total and I paid around 500,000 VND (US$ 22). A week later, I came back to have the stitches removed and I didn’t have to pay anything.

That is a very good price for the medical attention I received. This was a private hospital but a small one. On the first visit, no one spoke English and we used a phone translator to communicate. On the second visit, one staff member could actually speak English very well, so it seems to be hit or miss.

So what can we learn here? If you’re lucky enough to only have the occasional minor health issue like me, just paying at the hospital each time will be cheaper than buying health insurance.

However, what if something bigger happens? This is the same question you would ask for traveling or living in any country in the world, or even for your house or car. You hope nothing really terrible ever happens. But if it does, you sure will be glad that you have the insurance.

Health Services in Vietnam

medical clinics and international hospitals in vietnam

Health services in Vietnam are maybe not the go-to place for medical tourism. However, Vietnam’s health system and services have been improving and continually developing in the past few decades.

Today, you will see both public clinics and private hospitals in almost every major city. Private hospitals and clinics are often foreign-owned or managed, which means you can expect improved and updated facilities meeting international standards.

Public Hospitals and Clinics

Since 2019, the Vietnamese government has been working on a universal health care system both for locals and foreigners who are legally residing in Vietnam. They’re getting there, but for now, most people still pay for themselves when they go to hospitals and clinics for the medical attention they need.

At public hospitals and clinics in Vietnam, it can be hard for foreigners to navigate the system due to the language barrier. We recommend that you bring a local friend with you who can help you translate. The good thing is, it’s a lot cheaper to go to public hospital and clinics than private ones.

Find the best International and Local Hospitals in Vietnam

Private Hospitals and Clinics

There are many private hospitals and clinics all over Vietnam. These hospitals are equipped with the newest technology. Their staff and doctors speaks very good English. Sometimes you can also find foreign doctors in these hospitals.

Since Vietnam has so many foreign residents, many private clinics and hospitals have staff who speak multiple languages, such as English, Korean, Mandarin, Japanese, Spanish, and French, just to name a few.

Of course, these places are on the expensive side, but it definitely makes your visit a lot more convenient. Most of these big private hospitals are located in larger cities like Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang, and Nha Trang.

International Insurance from Local Provider

For some reason, I thought it would be cheaper to get local insurance in Vietnam than from a foreign company outside Vietnam. But after speaking to two companies in Vietnam and comparing their prices, I found the price difference was negligible.

However, both of these companies offered me worldwide coverage, even though they are Vietnam-based businesses. I can only imagine that if you only want local coverage, it should be cheaper.

I won’t mention the names of those companies I spoke with, but I’ll break down the prices and coverage they offered to me below:

InclusionCoverage6-mos coverageannual coverageothers
Company #1inpatient, outpatient, emergency support, ICU, preventive health benefitlower bracket: Vietnam only
higher bracket: worldwide
3,700,000 – 5,700,0007,300,000 –
no copay
Company #2inpatient only, but the outpatient cover is possible lifetime cancer care treatmentworldwide inpatient cover15,000,000 – 18,500,00027,000,000 – 34,000,000no deductible
All prices are in Vietnam Dong (VND)

Other Things to Watch For

If you decided to purchase health and travel insurance specifically for Vietnam, to make it much easier for you, here are things that you should consider:

  • What’s covered?
  • Will it be convenient to use in Vietnam?
  • Is there a deductible?
  • How are the reviews? Especially when it comes to reimbursement, are they easy to deal with?
  • How much is it?
  • Do they speak English well when you have to deal with them?

Hospital Partnerships

When choosing a local insurance company to go with, it’s great if that company has a partnership already in place. In this way, you don’t need to pay out of your pocket when you visit the hospital and go through a tedious process of reimbursement with your insurance company. And in some cases, the insurance may try its best to find a way to deny your claim.

Having an insurance company already partnered with the hospital, you will only need to present your insurance ID and you are good to go.

Vietnam Coverage

If you decide to go with an international insurance provider, make sure Vietnam is covered. Believe it or not, many international brands often don’t include developing countries in their list of coverage.

Ease of Claim

Many insurance providers prefer you to pay out of your pocket when you visit the hospital and then ask you to apply for a claim/reimbursement. This is often because the company doesn’t have a direct agreement with the hospital. It also helps them filter out your claims and find a loophole to get away with not paying you back for the services you received.

Make sure you do your research very well on how easy it will be to claim a reimbursement from that insurance provider. Ask other expats or frequent travellers, read forums, read reviews, and generally do everything you can to get this information.

Vietnam Insurance Final Thoughts

If you are planning to be in Vietnam for a while and maybe even planning to drive a motorbike every single day, it’s really best to get medical and travel insurance for peace of mind. You can consider local options, but for us we did just stick to our international ones, even though we live here for the time being.

If you’re just passing through and planning to be here for a short period of time, or if you travel a lot, use your worldwide travel insurance instead.

I hope you found this article on insurance for expats in Vietnam helpful. I know this topic can be tedious and takes so much time and confusing too because of the different coverage of different companies. But it’s worth it and really helps you feel more confident and relaxed.

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