I arrived by Vietnam Airlines to the Tan Son Nhat Airport which recently sports a new terminal. The terminal is spanking new, clean and nice. If you need a visa, you would a 'Landing Visa' counter just to the left, before the immigration counters. Expect lots of bureaucracy and waiting time to get your visa. Make sure you have a letter through your travel agency, otherwise you may be denied a visa. Bring along some passport-size photos so that you do not need to pay anything from USD4-10 just to get your picture taken. The whole process of getting your visa may take 1 hour!!! Then proceed for immigration clearance and after that you arrive at your baggage carousel. Some duty free shops are also found here. After that, you would need to pass customs where your luggage will be scanned. Then you come out to Ho Chi Minh City and you would enjoy a wonderful holiday!
motorcycles may very well be the city's main transportation. there are thousands all over the city. there are about 30 motorcycles for every car on the road. and they are everywhere, literally! on sidewalks.. highways.. these are available for tourists to rent, but i wont recommend it because the fee doesnt include a helmet- or any protective gear.
surely a must-try, just make sure you set a price before taking the ride because these drivers really take advantage of tourists. we agreed to pay vnd45,000/pax from our hotel to the Notre Dame Cathedral (about 10mins away). when we got there, they were asking for vnd200,000 for the three of us.. that's 65,000 more! we insisted on paying vnd135,000 but gave them vnd140,000 anyway because we didnt have loose change.
Tan Son Nhat International Airport has its origins in the early 1930s, when the French Colonial government constructed a small unpaved airport, known as Tân Sơn Nhất Airfield in the village of Tan Son Nhat. By mid-1956 United States of America foreign aid built a 7,200-foot runway and the facility became South Vietnam's international airport. During the Vietnam War, Tan Son Nhut Air Base it was an important facility for both the United States and the South Vietnamese Air Force (VNAF). Before 1975, Tan Son Nhat International Airport had been one of the busiest airbases worldwide.
It is located around 7km (4 miles) northwest of the city center. It is the largest of the three international airports in Vietnam receiving more international flights than the capital, Hanoi. Twenty-two airlines serve 18 cities in Asia and Europe with regular flights going to Bangkok, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. The terminal has been expanded recently and improvements are continually being made to handle larger numbers of passengers. However, compared to most other South East Asian cities, facilities are very limited. A New Terminal Was Recently Opend (see my Than So Nhat Airport New Tips) A project to build a new international terminal is planned, although it will not be operational for a few years.
Than So Nhat is Located at: Tan Binh District, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; Taxis are plentiful outside the arrivals area, and a ride to town should be around $5. Alternatively, your hotel may have an airport shuttle—more expensive, but also more convenient.
Ho Chi Minh City is another destination of Tiger Airways. Tiger is a low cost carrier with hub in Singapore. Flights can be as cheap as SGD 49.99 (excl. tax, one way). You have to book online and flights are leaving from Budget Terminal of Changi Airport.
Vietnams national airline Vietnam Airlines is a modern airline with modern and new aircraft. They offer both regional and domestic as well as some international destinations. I flew with them from Hong Kong to Saigon Airport and was quiet surprised about the standard. Read my travel logue about the experience!!
Cyclo (pronounced Cyc-lo), is general quite inexpensive & good mode of travel in Vietnam.
Do remember to negotiate prices before jumping into one.
My personal feel is cyclo is a must-try-once-when-you-are-in-Vietnam kind of transport, but this is not the safest mode of all. The passengers are sitting in front of the cyclist, any collision will affect the customer more than the rider. And the chaotic street scene will make you think twice after the first ride.
Travel by air can be considered the fastest and of course costing the most as compared to train & buses.
If you can't stand the numb butt for travel by bus for 12 hours or more, travel by air is the best option.
For me, i can't possibly get to Vietnam fast across the ocean. So, air travel will be the only choice at least from Kuala Lumpur to HCMC.
We flew by Garuda from Singapore Changi Airport. Flight time about 1 hour, 27 minutes.
Look at that hairline crack (or is it some water marks) on the left wing of the Boeing 737. Took this picture on the way back from HCM on flight GA 869 1st May 2006, 1345 hrs HCM time.
For departure, get to the airport early. Inadequately staffed, the lines are long at all counters: airliine and immigration. Expect 1-2 hours to get through both. As smartly dressed, mature Americans , we were pulled from check-in line and ticketed quickly. Others had to wait at least 30 minutes or more. However, no such luck at immigration where the wait was at least 40 minutes to get through 15 peoples in each line. There process was pretty much manual and slow.
To foreigners who come to HCMC at the first time, it could be their nightmare to travel by road here. This is a city of motobikes & scooters and somehow people move on the street as if they are going to crush to each other.
If you want to be safe, take a taxi (Mailinh or Vinataxi or Saigontourist or Vinasun) which costs only 15,000VND = US$1 for first 2 kms
You should not catch a bus to go to your decided place although it cost only 2,000VND to go around the city. Bus is not popular here and even a local one like me do not know how to choose the right route.
If you have enough time and want to discover th city slowly, call xe om (a motobike with a local driver) or xich lo (pedicab). It is cheap, but you should negotiate the fare in advance.
1. International fight
Of course you can take your prefered airline. In this tip, I just want to remind you about departure tax you are requested to pay at Tan Son Nhat Airport, that is US$12. You can pay by US dollar or VN dong
2. Domestic flight
There are only 2 airlines, Vietnam Airlines & Pacific Airlines who have exclusive right to fly domestic sky and that is the reason why their airfares are also up to the sky. At present time, round ticket from HCMC to Hanoi is US$200. Pacific Airlines are lounching a promotion with only US$150, but there are many conditions applied.
Vietnam Airlines is a good airline to travel with.The male attendants wear white shirts with dark red ties and black pants while the female flight attendants wear the dark red 'Ao Dai'
I travelled from KLIA to Ho Chi Minh City with an Airbus A320 (which is a bit more comfortable rather than travelling with Boeing 737s.
Taxi is definitely the best choice after stepping out of airport or train station.
I don't think you'll want to catch other mode of transportation (Cyclo or bike) with your heavy backpack on your back.
Once you're checking into your hotel, you may choose whichever mode of transport that you may fancy.
Backpacking & travel from Saigon to Hanoi & vice versa is so convenient with Open Bus Tickets.
These buses are mostly operated (should i say monopolized) by some big cafes & travel companies with extensive coverage in all touristy cities/towns.
The advantage of Open Bus ticket is you're not bound by specific schedule & you can stay in a town or city as long as you want & confirming your next destination one day before you departure.
Open Bus ticket valid for 1 year from the date of purchase.
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