It is a common myth among tourists that most developing countries are unsafe, with outdated means of transportation such as rusty trains and unequipped airport. There is an element of truth somewhere in the myth but in Vietnam, that myth is far from reality. Over the years, to adapt to both the rapid rise in number of tourists and the rate of socio-economic development, Vietnam trains, airplanes, cars, buses, motorcycles and you name it have grown in both quality and quantity. Here is a quick guide how to get into Vietnam and around Vietnam.
Getting to Vietnam:
Border Crossing: One can cross the border with a number of ways.
– From China, you can take bus or train to Vietnam. There are three main routes of China – Vietnam border crossing: Kunming – Lao Cai; Nanning – Lang Son; Nanning – Mong Cai – Halong.
– From Cambodia, the most popular route is through Moc Bai – Ba Vet border. One can catch bus from Phnompenh, Siemriep to Ho Chi Minh City easily.
– From Laos, there are 6 border gates, most of which will bring you to the North Central region of Vietnam. You can choose to head to Hue (3-4 hours) or Hanoi (9 hours).
Flight: Vietnam is well served by extensive network of flights, which mostly land in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City.
– From Australia, one can fly Melbourne – Hanoi/ Melbourne – Ho Chi Minh City or Sydney – Hanoi/ Sydney – Ho Chi Minh City. Vietnam Airlines operate direct flights from Australia to Ho Chi Minh City, which takes only 9 hour one way.
– From Europe, Vietnam Airlines already has direct flight from Frankfurt and Paris. In December 2011, there will be new flight route: London – Hanoi/ Ho Chi Minh City. The new round trip is now on sale for as low as $599 one way.
– From Asia destinations, there are many airlines operating direct flights to Vietnam such as from Bangkok ( Air Asia, Thai Airways ), from Singapore (Tiger Airways, Singapore Airlines), from Japan (Asiana Airlines, Japan Airlines) and from Hong Kong (Cathay Pacific, Vietnam Airlines).
Getting around Vietnam:
There are currently 3 international airports: Hanoi Airport (HAN), Ho Chi Minh City Airport (SGN) and Danang Airport (DAD). There are also provincial airports which serve domestic flights such as Nha Trang Airport, Dalat Airport, Vinh Airport, to name a few.
Flights in Vietnam are operated mainly by Vietnam Airlines and to a lesser extent, Jetstar Pacific (low cost airline), Air Mekong and VASCO Air. Ho Chi Minh City – Hanoi flight ticket costs around $120 and this is also the most popular route.
There are bus terminals in all major cities, some big cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City even have 2-4 bus terminals to serve different directions. You can purchase bus ticket directly at the station. But it is recommended that if you want to travel safe and hassle free, go with the Open Tour bus, such as Sinh Cafe or Hanh Cafe.
Within the city, there are also city buses, running past almost all attractions. Hanoi Bus and Ho Chi Minh City Bus are both in good condition with cheap tickets (15 cents/ticket).
Train is a special treasure of Vietnam tourism that not every knows how to appreciate. Trains in Vietnam run North South (Hanoi – Hue – Danang – Nha Trang – Ho Chi Minh City) and vice versa. There are also special trains from Hanoi to Sapa with excellent service and affordable price. All trains on this route are overnight trains.
There are plenty of motorbikes in Vietnam, more than you have ever expected albeit all the notoriety in foreign press. In fact, travelling with a Motorbike is fun. Using Xe-om (motor-taxi) is a must-try experience for all tourists, regardless of age and gender. Read Tips about taking a Xe-om to maximize the fun.
Travelling by taxi in Vietnam is rather cheap, costing about 75 cents per km travelled. Be aware of the scams (taxi du in Vietnamese) who may rip you off with the many tricks they have been practicing.
With all the information equipped, you will sure have a great time in Vietnam!