While Vietnam is making efforts to improve its tourism image post pandemic, public toilets with bad odors and filthy floors have left foreign tourists with a bad impression while visiting Vietnam.
American Hugh Lozina, who has traveled all over Vietnam by motorbike, said public toilets in petrol stations and street side restaurants were “extremely dirty.”
“Usually, it looked like nobody had ever cleaned them and the smell of urine from these toilets was very bad,” he said.
“I would like to say that more than half of the public toilets I used during my trip in Vietnam were quite bad,” he said.
Lozina said he had visited many Southeast Asian countries like Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore but the quality of public toilets there were better than in Vietnam.
“I think Vietnam has the worst public toilet quality,” he added.
Wei Chao from Singapore also felt disappointed when he used public toilets in Vietnam.
“Honestly, I have high expectations in countries like Vietnam in terms of public toilets but the real experience was too terrible,” Chao said.
Vietnam made him recall his past experience when he was in the army and had had to relieve himself in the jungle.
A public toilet in HCMC. Photo by VnExpress/Xanh Le
Roslyn from Australia said she had been in Vietnam several times and her experience regarding public toilets was really bad.
She had to pay VND2,000 each time she used a public toilet but what she experienced was really the worst.
“I just had to know to cover my nose because I had no other choice,” she added.
She told of one experience in Ninh Binh, about two hours south of Hanoi. “The toilet door was broken and it was temporarily covered by some plastic cover and sacks,” said Roslyn. “It was completely filthy and people had to bring their own toilet paper and none of us knew that.”
Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam’s two biggest metropolises, recently stood near the bottom in a global ranking of 69 cities in terms of public toilet density as compiled by British company QS Supplies, one of the largest independent bathroom wholesalers and retailers in the United Kingdom.
As of 2017, HCMC has around 208 public restrooms while there are 351 public toilets in Hanoi as of 2020, according to the cities’ transport departments.
The quality of public toilets across Vietnam has been a major tourist concern for years.
On busy tourist streets such as De Tham and Bui Vien in HCMC’s downtown District 1, there are no public restrooms and tourists have to visit restaurants, coffee shops or trade centers nearby if they need to use a toilet.
Vietnam’s biggest metropolis opened several “5-star” hotels using private funds at major parks nearly a decade ago, but they have been poorly maintained.
A sign to a “5-star” public toilet at a park in HCMC’s downtown District 1
Now most public toilets in the city are seriously deteriorated, with some dirty and smelly, making tourists hesitant to go inside.
Le Truong Hien Hoa, deputy director of the HCMC Department of Tourism, said at a recent conference that the municipal tourism authorities are keen to improve the quality of public toilets to boost the city’s tourism image.
Many foreign tourists expected the Vietnamese government would heavily invest in a public restroom system to make Vietnam a friendly destination.
Hugh, who plans to return to the country this summer, said he hoped the quality of public toilets would improved so that foreign tourists can feel comfortable using them.
Vietnam received 3.6 million foreign tourists last year but targets eight million arrivals this year.
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