Miscellaneous, Ho Chi Minh City
As British citizens we required visas when we visited Vietnam in May 2013.
We had two choices. We could either obtain a visa in the UK prior to our trip or we could obtain a visa upon arrival at Ho Chi Minh City's Tan Son Nhat Airport.
Ordinarily, we'd have chosen the latter, especially as it was the cheaper of the two options. However, after researching the pros and cons, we decided to sort our visas out in the UK before we travelled.
Briefly, our thinking was as follows:
Obtaining visas in the UK – this would involve filling out an application form, sending our passports and passport photos down to the Vietnamese Embassy in London and sending a cheque to cover the fee. We had plenty of time before we travelled, and the Embassy indicated that the turnaround time would be 5 working days, so this would be a fairly simple process. It would also make things easier for us when we arrived in Ho Chi Minh City following a 12 hour flight.
I received an email from the Embassy informing us that the price of a single entry 30 day tourist visa was £54 plus a postage fee of £6 per passport. Multi-entry visas and business visas were available for higher prices, but we only required a single entry visa on this occasion.
Obtaining visas on arrival – this wasn't as straightforward an option as it first sounded. Unlike some countries, we couldn't just turn up, pay a processing fee and obtain a visa. Yes, we could get a visa on arrival, but we had to do some legwork before our arrival to obtain an authority letter that would entitle us to get our visas on arrival. It seemed that it was just as easy to get the actual visas before our trip as it was to get the authority letter for visas on arrival. We'd still have to fill in an application form and we'd still have to get passport photos taken and take them with us for when we obtained the visa on arrival.
Two factors ultimately led to our decision to obtain visas before our trip:
i) The visa on arrival fee had been increased from $US 25 to $US 45 at the start of 2013. It was still cheaper than getting visas in advance, but the incentive wasn't as great as it had previously been.
ii) More importantly, we had read that the process of obtaining visas on arrival could be a lengthy one. We could easily find ourselves waiting for a couple of hours for our visas to be processed. Apparently, the process can be quite haphazard and visitors aren't necessarily dealt with in the order that they submit their passports. We'd be arriving on a busy flight from Paris and we didn't want to take the chance that we'd find ourselves in a long queue waiting for our visas. It would be frustrating at the best of times, but even more so after a 12 hour flight.
We decided that it was worth paying a little extra and ensuring a smooth passage through the airport upon arrival.
The process of obtaining our visas in advance was indeed simple. The application form contained the usual standard questions (name, contact details, occupation, passport number, reason for visit...) and our passports (complete with visa stickers) were returned to us within a week of us posting them down to London.
When we arrived at Ho Chi Minh City airport we simply passed through passport control and obtained entry stamps in our passports. There was no queue and no forms to be filled in. It couldn't have been quicker or easier.
So, what if we had decided to get visas on arrival?
It's difficult to say. We were amongst the first passengers off the plane and when we passed the visa-on-arrival desk there was no queue. There were no passengers from other flights waiting for visas. However, a significant number of passengers from our flight formed a queue at the desk and a flight from London arrived shortly after ours. If it's true that visas aren't necessarily issued in the order that passports are submitted, then it's possible that we'd have faced a long wait for our visas. But that's all speculation; we were collecting our luggage from the carousel and making our way into the city within minutes, so it's anybody's guess what was happening at the visa-on-arrival desk!
At the end of our stay, our visas were stamped with the word "used" to indicate that we had used our single entry validity.
If you have a long lay over for a connecting flight or just want to hang around and relax while waiting for your flight and more so if you have a Diners Club Credit Card, then you can enter the Apricot Executive Lounge in the Departure Area of Than So Nhat International Airport for FREE! maximum stay is 3 hours and they allow you up to two guest of free entrance.
Location International Terminal
Airside - after the first Security Checks on the 2nd Floor take the elevator next to the Duty Free
Shop down to the 1st Floor where the Lounge is located midway between the boarding gates.
Hours 06:00 am - 11:00 pm daily.
Lounge closure may vary and is dependent on the last daily scheduled flight departure.
Conditions Maximum 3 hour stay - Two children under 12 years admitted free per adult - Separate smokingarea available.
There are free newspapers, magazines, books to read, free wifi and desk stop computers for internet access. Free unlimited drinks like bottled water, beer, soft drinks, fruit juices, coffee and more. free light meals like pho noodles, dumplings, fried foods, snacks, junk food and more.
Sinh Cafe is one the most famous tour agencies for backpackers in Vietnam. You can book cheap day tour package for less than US$10 including transportation to visit attractions, lunch, and tour guide. And they provide comfortable sleeper buses to travel to other destinations in Vietnam. With its arrangement, you still can have the flexibility to travel to places with your own interest.
Now, they even have upgraded their website to book for buses and tour packages online.
Sinh Cafe (Ho Chi Minh City-Head Office)
248 De Tham Street, District 1,
Ho Chi Minh City.
I booked and paid all my Vietnam packages for HCMC, Nha Trang, Hoi An , Hue on the above address in 2009. I departed all my tours from their respective offices in each city.
Ho Chi Minh City is easy to explore on foot, mainly because there are so many tourist destinations within easy walking distance from each other. Having to cross the road, however, confounds many tourists to this wonderful city!
Saigon has about four million motorcycles and 500 000 automobiles thronging the roads, and it often feels as if all these vehicles are converging on the same road you wish to cross! We did notice a few traffic lights and even vehicles stopping for pedestrians crossing on green. However, the most common method of crossing the road is roughly the following:
It is best to wait for a thinning in traffic before entering onto the roadway. Once you have stepped onto the road, walk steadily and slowly directly across the road without stopping, pausing or changing direction quickly. In fact, avoid any sudden movement!
Miraculously, traffic will flow around you like water dividing around a protruding river rock! Keep eye contact with oncoming drivers and you will usually notice they will either change direction to pass in front or behind you.
Crossing a busy road in HCMC is not merely a chore - it’s an adrenalin-pumping experience!
Many Asian airlines have a rather dodgy reputation. I last flew Vietnam Airlines in 1993, and, yes, I said a few prayers on take-off. I was lucky enough to fly Vietnam Airlines again in 2008 and WOW ... what a difference. On the international leg from Sydney we had a brand spanking new Boeing 777. Spacious, comfortable, and great service from those lovely Vietnamese stewardesses. I also did a couple of domestic flights with Vietnam Airlines which were fine.
As a travel writer I've flown half a billion kilometres around the world and I would say go on, fly Vietnam airlines if they service your country. It puts you in the right mood for visiting a fantastic country.
Le Quoc Hung is a professional licensed tour guide/operator whom we met at a guest house in Saigon. A very educated man with a pleasant personality whom we enjoyed talking to on occassion. He speaks excellent English and can guide you anywhere in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. He has many references and is well traveled himself, having been to Europe.
Cellphone: (0084) 0903925482
In the Pha Ngu Lao area you will find hundreds of backpackers travel agencies offering hop on- hop off buses for other cities, local tours to Mekong Delta, CuChi Tunnels?
I guess at the end they are all the same, but the one I tried was this ?Happy Tours? (139 Bui Vien St, near the Post Office. Tel: 848 8379567). They are open till late, and offer a free breakfast for every tour you buy. They also have a minib?s hop on-off that goes all the way along the coast up to Hanoi for 20 USD.
By Air : Most routes that travel into Vietnam are from K.L., Bangkok, Singapore, Taipei and Manila. Vietnam Airlines (VN) operates a regular service between Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Da Nang. The international airport, Tan Son Nhat (SGN) is around 7kms from Ho Chi Minh City. Buses and a few taxis are available.
By Rail : HCMC is the main connecting point for trains. The Thong Nhat express connects the city to Hanoi, stopping at various towns along the way taking anywhere from 32 to 42 hours.
By Bus: Services are poor and overcrowded.
By Taxi : Taxi's are available in Saigon, make sure they have a meter before you start off. Cyclos or Trishaws are a great way to get around the city area. Ask the hotel what an approximate cost of the trip should be.
By Bus : There are local bus services in Ho Chi Minh City which also has a tramway.
8 km away from the center of Ho Chi Minh City is Tan Son Nhat Airport (a.k.a Saigon Airport).
Airport code: SGN
City name: Ho Chi Minh City
Airport name: Tan Son Nhat Airport
Country code: 791
GMT timezone: +07:00
A young, efficient and knowledheable travel team: they will help with everything, if you want to go by bus to Phnom Penh (at only USD 5 single), a 2-day Mekong Delta Tour (USD 15), open a/c tourist bus daily to Hue (USD 14) and Hanoi (USD 21), hotel reservations or book or with a flight ticket. Price NOV-04). Most honest agent I found.
It's a breeze going to Ho Chi Minh from Singapore. You can choose from among these direct flights. Here's the prices when it doesn't coincide with a school or public holiday..
1)Garuda Airlines ( Indonesian ) - Daily flights@11am, $265
2)Vietnam Airlines - $290
3)Lionair (Indonesian ) - $290
4)Singapore Airlines - $450
Click http://www.zuji.com.sg to book your air tickets if you're Singaporean.
In case you're wondering, Tan Son Nhat Airport is not too far from HCMC. It cost about USD5 by taxi to get to town . Upon arrival, you'll also be given these things:
1)Arrival/departure card - white/blue duplicate form (complete this on the plane, the immigration officer will take the white copy and return the stamped blue copy to you) - when you check into hotels they will want to see the blue form.
2)Baggage declaration - white/yellow duplicate form (complete this on the plane and hand to the custom's officers who will stamp it and return the yellow copy to you). If you are bringing any CDs or video tapes you must declare them and may have to hand them over for 3 - 4 days "cultural approval"
3)Visa application - you should already have a copy of your visa application form (white A4 size with your photo on the top right hand corner). If for some reason the travel agent has not returned this to you, take another copy from the airline staff and complete it. Hand the form to the immigration officer with the photo attached, who will keep it and stamp your passport. Note that the visa application is only needed if this is your first visit on a new visa. For subsequent arrivals on the same visa, you do not need to complete the application form.
4)Health declaration - yellow form. You may not receive this as it is not given out consistently. Fill it in and have it in your hand as you enter the immigration hall. If someone asks for it, hand it over. However, they rarely ask for it and while you are rummaging around for it, everyone else is rushing ahead for the immigration queues.
Unless you're planning to stay here forever, prepare 12USD to get out of HCMC. Yes, they will also accept the local currency (dong) if you run out of those greenbacks.
It makes sense to count all those dongs before you make your way to the customs, espcially if you're dong-challenged like me. An angry queue of people were behind me as I dug up those dongs. Thank God they were cursing in a foreign tongue.
There are many ways to get to HCM city.
From Cambodia, we went by road from Phnom Penh, arriving some 6 hrs later in HCM. It was smooth across the border. And quiet! There are many buses, vans, open lorries that make the journey. Go with a reliable company.
We also found out later, that the train journey is far cheaper and you see more, albeit a tad longer than by road.
It's easy to get around HCM. The only annoying thing is the chorus of street kids tugging at your pants or skirts going 'Madaa-am, U buy!' and u feel like shaking everyone off your body. Then no sooner have you shaken all foreign elements off, comes another round of touts selling the 'best' postcards of Vietnam.
And oh there are heaps of Bob marley types lying low in street corners.
Watch out for used syringes, needles and while walking in dimply lit streets around Pham Ngu Lao Street, the backpacker haven.
A lot of drug activity by the roadside happens in the dark alleys and i didn't feel all that safe walking alone or even with one other female.
To Vietnam you can go by air from Thailand, Singapore, Hong-Kong, Cambodia and other. you Just have to plane your trip. By train from Thailand Malaysia and Cambodia. I can't to adwise to select this way, because in 1996 it was not possible to get a Chinise or Malesian visa for israeli people. I selected the easier and, i think, not so expensive way. The price of flight ticket from Singapore was about 110$ (very sheap if i compare with prices in Israel).
The best way to travel in Vietnam is travel bus. There are a lot of tourist centers or restaurants, where you by planed trip. You start the trip with little bus or minivan and you can continue it on boat.