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Malaria and food poisoning

Level Contributor
1 post
4 reviews
Malaria and food poisoning

Hi all,

My boyfriend and I are spending a week in Vietnam and leave in a few days. We will be basing ourselves in Hanoi while making trips to Sa Pa, Ninh Binh and Ha Long Bay.

This is a bit of a last minute trip and I am wondering if there are any medications or health precautions that we should take.

I have read conflicting opinions about malaria online and as we will be spending two days and one night in Sa Pa I'm curious if malaria tablets are necessary?

We are aware of Dengue and are packing bug repellent (40% DEET) and long clothes for the trek.

Also, we are really looking forward to trying the street food in Hanoi but would hate to end up with food poisoning on such a short trip.

Any advice on how to prevent this and over the counter medications to pack?


13 replies to this topic
Level Contributor
362 posts
30 reviews
1. Re: Malaria and food poisoning

First thing is that you should be seeking medical advice from your GP or travel doctor, not a travel forum, as only they can give you advice specific to your circumstances.

However in saying that, I haven't used any antimalarial in visiting Vietnam for the past decade, including to many rural areas. DEET bug repellent is sensible.

Street food is fabulous and one of the real joys of visiting Vietnam. I rarely eat in western style restaurants when visiting the country. You may be unlucky with food poisoning but if you follow the usual rules of sensible eating (seeing the food prepared and eating at popular places) you should be ok. Go with an open mind and your tastebuds will be rewarded. Do get yourself a batch of over the counter anti-diarrhoea meds because you may experience a little "movement" in adjusting your tummy to the new diet. Nothing much but if you need to travel its always good to be prepared.

Enjoy it.

Sydney, Australia
Level Contributor
2,501 posts
44 reviews
2. Re: Malaria and food poisoning

Agree with Vigo. We took our kids and ate pretty much only street or at least Vietnamese food and didn't get sick from the food once (this was 3.5 weeks). We always try to look for places that have lots of locals and there is a high turnover which means the food, in theory, should be fresher.

Perth, Australia
Level Contributor
5,966 posts
15 reviews
3. Re: Malaria and food poisoning

Most food poisoning is caused by bacteria and viruses. Its more about hygienic food handling rather than the freshness of the food or the volume of turnover.

Most western stomachs will get a dose of a bacteria they haven't experienced before.

Bangalow, Australia
Level Contributor
607 posts
54 reviews
4. Re: Malaria and food poisoning

In the five times I've been to Vietnam I've only had food poisoning once, ..It was either from ready cut fruit. As the knives are probably not cleaned that often, or it was from a restaurant where we were really late for lunch and the rice had been sitting there all day...So I buy my fruit and peel it myself, and I eat when the Vietnamese eat dinner lunch etc. not some tourist place where it's all day food.

Never taken a malaria pill myself but am up to date with hep A b and tetanus,..your doctor will advise.

puerto princesa
Level Contributor
7,453 posts
447 reviews
5. Re: Malaria and food poisoning

I was unlucky enough to catch malaria while in VN back in 1993 (2 months in VN). During that time i met many people who were sick from eating local food, but i did not get sick myself. I am happy to say that hygiene has really improved as we were back in Vietnam for two weeks , two years ago, and we ate from street stalls on many occasions.

To avoid mosquitoes do not wear black or dark blue clothes as this attracts the little critters.

Level Contributor
1,003 posts
21 reviews
6. Re: Malaria and food poisoning

Just buy Remos mosquito repellent when you arrive, it is a nice smelling product that contains less DEET, that 40% is revolting stuff, live wearing poison, just use Remos with t-shirt and shorts for comfort.

Level Contributor
2,383 posts
217 reviews
7. Re: Malaria and food poisoning

Up to date Hep C and tetanus, and anti mozzie spray. Don’t drink the water, bottles only ( we use tap for cleaning teeth) and we bring Diacalm or equivalent in case we get sick whilst on the move.

As said, new bacteria you are not used to is usually a cause of mild illness, proper food poisoning is worse and will knock you out for a few days.

I honestly think it’s luck. We’ve eaten in local places, street food carts, peoples houses and western cafes etc and never been ill (7th trip) but have been sick in other Asian countries.

Follow your nose and use your initiative. If you looked in the kitchens and toilets in most places in Vietnam you probably wouldn’t think them to be hygienic, you just can’t tell.

Portsmouth, United...
Level Contributor
2,049 posts
41 reviews
8. Re: Malaria and food poisoning

Take a look at this for up-to-date information:


Food poisoning? What Ross (post #3) says is absolutely correct. People over-dramatise experiences of upset stomachs as 'food poisoning'.

Houston, Texas
Level Contributor
8,650 posts
4 reviews
9. Re: Malaria and food poisoning



Take it FWIW.



St. Petersburg, FL
Level Contributor
8 posts
2 reviews
10. Re: Malaria and food poisoning

Can you speak about the raw veggies that accompany some foods? Did you have any tummy trouble from those? I'm concerned about what to eat as I'm a vegetarian (some fish but rarely) and I had tummy problems in Egypt and Morocco. Thanks!

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