SURVIVAL GUIDE | 24 Hours in a Vietnamese Hospital

The next leg of our journey post Ha Long Bay was to the imperial city of Hue. We were to stop in Hue for just one evening, before continuing our journey on to Hoi An.

We had grand plans for the next couple of days – we were going to lighten up our lives at Hoi An’s lantern festival (pardon the pun) and then zip down the Hai Van Pass courtesy of the Le Family Rider’s motorbike tour.

Unfortunately, my digestive system had other plans for us. On day 13 of me not being able to eat anything but bananas, my friend suggested we popped into the international hospital to get me checked out before we continued sightseeing. You know, just your average day backpacking Vietnam.

In hindsight, it was probably a good suggestion – as I spent the next 24 hours wired up to a drip.

Exhibit A 


Of course, you learn a few things when you’re left to navigate the hospital system of a country such as Vietnam. So, I’ve put together a handy survival guide for any of you that may be unfortunate enough to find yourselves in the same predicament as I did…

1. Have a (really good) friend with you 

I would probably still be in Hue’s Central Hospital now if I hadn’t been travelling with someone. Luckily, my travel buddy knew exactly what to do in this sort of situation (no idea how) and kept me entertained with endless episodes of Aziz Ansari’s brilliant Master of None.

Side note: it’s also a good idea to have a friend with you when you inevitably need to relieve yourself, as it turns out you can’t do anything alone when you’re on a drip. And I mean anything…


2. Embrace the here and now 

OK, so you’ve landed yourself in hospital. In Vietnam. Your natural instincts will probably be telling you to break out of hospital and run to the nearest tropical beach you can find.

I’m sorry to break it to you, but this probably isn’t the best idea. If you’ve found yourself in this situation, it’s probably for a reason. Despite feeling like you’re on a Korean-drama version of Grey’s Anatomy, the doctors do actually want to help you.

So, resign yourself to the situation and make friends with your fellow roomies. Admittedly, this is probably easier said than done if you are put on a ward full of elderly Vietnamese men. However, I got lucky and was given a private room to share with an Irish bloke with a swollen foot. Just like being in a hostel really.

And if all else fails, find solace in the fact this is probably the best value room size-wise you’ll be bunking in all trip.

3. Perfect your sign language 

Admittedly, it is quite hard to communicate to a Vietnamese doctor that you are not in fact pregnant and are actually having an ultrasound for a completely different reason.

For this reason, and many others, it’s a good idea to have a basic understanding of universal sign language.

‘Please be gentle with the needle attached to my arm,’ is a particularly helpful phrase to pick up. Although I don’t know the authentic Vietnamese translation, looking like you’re about to cry will probably work.

International sign for ‘I think I’m OK mate’

4. Download a calming playlist

There is only so many times you can listen to Ed Sheeran tell his lover they look perfect tonight before you want to throw your phone against a wall. Trust me.

As an avid R&B fan, the only songs I had downloaded were ones you’d find in Kanye West’s holiday playlist. Great for when you’re on the road. Not so great for when you’re trying to lull yourself to sleep in a hospital bed.

I eventually ended up listening to slow Bollywood songs on repeat for the entire night, as they were the most relaxing thing I could find on Spotify.

My advice: be prepared for any situation by creating a playlist that will calm you down at the touch of a button. It will work wonders for both you and whoever you’re travelling with.

Hospital bliss

5. Make the most of every opportunity the rest of the trip throws at you 

It is easy when we go travelling to say no to things sometimes. Maybe you’re tired, maybe you’re not feeling zip-lining into a pitch black cave today or maybe you’re just feeling a little bit lazy.

Excuses, excuses. It is only when you physically can’t do things that you truly appreciate how amazing they are. So, if your trip is slightly derailed by a visit to a local hospital, don’t fret. It will only make you appreciate all the things you’re able to throw yourself into afterwards a whole lot more.

The road to recovery was worth it

Have you ever ended up in hospital on the road? Got any more tips for fellow travellers? Sound off in the comments below!

Happy travels!


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