Medical care is practiced almost entirely in public, government-run hospitals. As a foreigner, there are two choices: You can pay a steep price to go to one of the few private, English- or French-speaking hospitals, or, if you have a Vietnamese interpreter, you can go with them to a government hospital and receive ridiculously inexpensive tests and treatments.
The French Hospitals, located in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, provide a full range of services at very reasonable rates. Many foreigners living in Vietnam say that the care that they have received at these facilities has been excellent. Any medical condition can be treated at the French Hospitals, including trauma. There are also SOS clinics in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, which specialize in providing high-quality (but expensive) care to foreigners. For complex illnesses or surgeries, however, most foreigners chose to be treated in Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, or in their home countries, where international-standard medical care is routine.
The doctors in big cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City are skilled regardless of the hospital you attend, and the government hospitals have modern equipment and competent technicians. Whether you’re Vietnamese or a foreigner, medical care in government hospitals is inexpensive but not free. An X-ray costs about US$1.50, an ultrasound is less than US$5, and a consultation with a physician costs about US$4. The staff are all government employees—even the physicians earn meager government wages. The care at the public hospitals in Hanoi has improved to the point where most illnesses and injuries can be treated in the city.
Prescriptions are rarely required for medication. However, many medications available in North America have not yet made it to this corner of the world. If you require regular medication, be sure that you have both the generic and chemical name for it. The local pharmacy may either carry that exact medication or may be able to find a suitable substitute. Otherwise, you may wish to consider ordering your usual medication online and having it shipped to Vietnam.
When buying medications in Vietnam, always check the package for signs of tampering, be sure that the lot numbers match and the medication has not passed its expiration date. Counterfeit medications do exist in Vietnam, although this does not seem to be a widespread problem outside of major cities, for example it’s not a problem in Nha Trang, one of our favorite destinations in Vietnam. In general, medications here cost a fraction of what they cost in the West, and chances are good that they will be authentic. When in doubt about authenticity, though, get your medications at the hospital or at one of the larger pharmacies.