Vietnam: accommodation and transport


Flights to Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi and beyond, airport guides, key destinations, trains, buses, car hire, accommodation, tours and more.

Getting there and around


Getting from Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City airport to your hotel, and the best sites for booking trains, buses and accommodation - download the Vietnam travel guide.

Flights

Flight time from Australia: 7.5+ hours

At the airport

You'll need a visa to enter Vietnam. Immigration officers are likely to check your paperwork quite thoroughly, so make sure you have everything in order and your arrival-departure card filled in correctly (this will be given to you on the plane or will be available at the airport when you arrive).

Scam alert: Politely turn down anyone who approaches you at the airport offering you a lift. If they're not an official taxi driver, you run the risk of paying too much or even getting deliberately taken to the wrong hotel (where they'll score a commission).

Tip: Make sure you have the name and address of your hotel written down in Vietnamese. Many hotels share the same name.

  • 6km north of the CBD.
  • Taxis are available outside the terminals. Make sure your driver turns on their meter, or an easier (but not necessarily cheaper) option is to simply pay a flat fee for a voucher at one of the official taxi desks in the airport arrivals area.
  • Public bus 152 is the cheapest way to get to the city centre. It runs to the central bus station near Ben Thanh Market.
  • Private cars and vans can be booked in advance through your hotel or through companies such as greenpathtransfers.com and vietnamairporttransfer.com.
  • Note: Cars can be hired at the airport but they aren't available to foreigners unless you have a Vietnamese licence.
  • Airport website: hochiminhcityairport.com
  • 45km north of the CBD.
  • Taxis are available outside the terminal. The fares should be a fixed rate, so make sure you have a mutual agreement with your driver before you set out.
  • Public buses are the cheapest way to reach the city centre. Bus number 7 runs to the Kim Ma bus station and number 17 runs to the Long Bien bus station.
  • Mini-buses can take you directly to your hotel. They charge a higher rate for foreigners and they only leave when full.
  • Private cars and vans can be booked in advance through your hotel or through a company such as hanoitransferservice.com or greenpathtransfers.com
  • Note: Cars can be hired at the airport, but they're not available to foreigners unless you have a Vietnamese licence.
  • Airport website: hanoiairportonline.com

Departure tax is included in air ticket prices so there's no need to set cash aside before leaving the country.

VAT refunds of 85% can be claimed for certain goods when departing Vietnam.

Key destinations and their airports

Getting around

Car hire

You need a local licence to drive in Vietnam, so self-drive holidays aren't possible for most visitors. However, you can hire a car with a driver, which doesn't cost as much as you might think. Try to find a driver who speaks a little English. Travel agencies and hotels can find someone for you, or better yet, ask other travellers for a trusted recommendation. If you're happy with your driver's service, make sure you tip them.

Tip: Don't get too annoyed if your driver makes a pit stop at their "favourite" shop. They're probably being paid a commission to bring you in, but you should never feel obliged to buy anything you don't want.

Trains

One of the best ways to see Vietnam is from the window of a train. A railway line nicknamed the 'Reunification Express' runs from Ho Chi Minh City all the way up the coast to Hanoi and across the Chinese border to Nanning. Ticket classes include hard seat, soft seat, hard sleeper and soft sleeper. Some carriages will be air conditioned and some won't – check seat61.com for a detailed description of every service.

Tickets can be bought at stations, but it's best to book at least a day in advance – or even earlier if you want a sleeper berth or if you're travelling during a peak time. It's not possible to buy tickets via the Vietnamese Railways website unless you have a Vietnamese credit card (and a working knowledge of the language). The best option is to buy your tickets through a booking agent such as vietnamimpressive.com or internationalrail.com.au. See seat61.com for more ticketing options.

Tip: Private companies Livitrans and Golden Trains attach first class carriages to some regular train services, and the Victoria Express offers luxury trips between Hanoi and Lao Cai.

Buses

Buses are cheaper than trains and they connect all major towns and cities in Vietnam. You can buy tickets at bus stations or through an online booking agent such as vietnambustickets.com. 'Open Tour' buses offer a hop-on-hop-off service throughout the country that's very popular with backpackers. Operators include Sinh CafeHahn Café, Phuong Trang and many more. (Tip: Avoid TM Brothers – many travellers have given their tours terrible reviews.) Comfortable overnight sleeper buses are also popular with travellers on a budget.

Domestic flights

Flying between cities is a good option if you're too short on time to take the scenic route. Vietnam Airlines, VietJet and Jetstar are the main domestic airlines. Tickets are usually quite competitively priced and can be booked online.

Bicycles

Vietnam is a great place to ride a bike – particularly along the flat roads of the coastline and the Mekong Delta. Bikes are available to hire or buy, but they aren't always the best quality. If you're travelling long distances, consider bringing your own wheels or booking through a specialist cycle tour company.

Transport tip: rome2rio.com is a great resource for working out how to get from A to B by any means of transport, anywhere in the world.

Short distances around towns and cities are best done on foot, by bicycle, by taxi, by xe om (motorbike taxi) or by cyclo (three-wheeled bicycle taxi).

Tip: It's unlikely your travel insurance will cover you for riding on the back of a motorbike taxi, particularly since most won't offer you a helmet.

Stress-free taxis

Taxis in Vietnam should be cheap, but tourists often report getting taken for a ride (literally) with highly inflated fares. Your driver may claim to have a 'broken' meter, quote you one price then demand another, short-change you or deliberately take you to the wrong hotel to earn a commission.

Lonely Planet recommends Mai Linh and Vinasun taxis as the most reputable companies. But beware of impersonators pretending to be members of these fleets!

Tip: Always make sure you have plenty of small change with you. If you try to pay with a big note, chances are your driver will say they don't have change.

Tip: Motorcycle taxis and bicycle rickshaws are unmetered, so you'll need to negotiate a price.

Accommodation and tours

Accommodation

Accommodation in Vietnam can vary from basic hostels to beach bungalows to five-star resorts. Prices are generally cheaper than almost anywhere else in South East Asia, so Vietnam is a great place to grab a bargain.

Plenty of Vietnamese accommodation providers accept reservations through online booking sites, or through their own websites. Hotels, resorts and hostels are easy enough to book using sites such as wotif.com, lastminute.com and hostels.com and you can check customer reviews on Tripadvisor before you book. However, if you're looking for bespoke accommodation like homestays, beach shacks or B&Bs, it's less likely you'll find them easily online.

Check Airbnb for homestay options, as well as guide books and review sites such as Tripadvisor and Lonely Planet. Sometimes you'll find great recommendations that won't show up at all in booking site searches.

Tip: Hotels need to register your presence with local police. They'll need your passport to do this, but make sure you get it back. You should never leave your passport as a deposit.

Tours

Tours can be booked through a travel agent or online through a major tour operator before you go (try travelvietnam.com, footprintsvietnam.com, intrepidtravel.com and geckosadventures.com or look for recommended tours on Tripadvisor). If you're only interested in taking day trips, you're likely to have more choice if you wait until you're on the ground. You'll probably get a better rate, too. Bus tours aren't really necessary in Vietnam unless you're on a very tight budget. Private drivers and taxis should be relatively affordable for day trips.

Package deals are a low-stress option for travellers who don't want to organise their flights, accommodation and ground transport separately. Check airline sites for special offers, as well as booking sites such as Expedia and local travel agents.

Got a travel tip about Vietnam? Or spotted something in our guide that needs updating? Please add a comment below. 


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