You have three popular choices for flying into Vietnam: Saigon, Hanoi, and Da Nang.
Before arriving at one of Vietnam’s three major international airports, you’ll have to have a travel visa already in your passport or a Visa Approval Letter to receive your visa on arrival at the airport. If you arrive without a visa, you will be denied entry into the country.
Should you fly to Saigon or Hanoi?
Obviously, your trip itinerary and plans should be taken into account, however, most people wishing to see the entire country start in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City).
For different reasons, flying into Saigon (airport code: SGN) is almost always cheaper than flying into Hanoi (airport code: HAN). In fact, Saigon’s Tan Son Nhat Airport handles approximately 75% of all international traffic in and out of Vietnam. If you intend to see the entire country, consider starting in the south and then applying the difference in flight costs to take the scenic Reunification Express train from Saigon to places of interest in the north, including Hanoi. When leaving Vietnam to fly home, structure your trip so that you can fly out of Saigon.
The cheapest flights to Vietnam typically originate from Bangkok, Singapore, and China. The state-run Vietnam Airlines handles international flights to Australia, Europe and the United States.International flights depart from Terminal 2 at the airport in Saigon.
Vietnam Airlines is a member of the SkyTeam alliance; with a little luck you’ll be rewarded with Delta SkyMiles when flying with them.
Airports in Vietnam
The airports in Saigon and Hanoi are functional and very easy to navigate.
Because the Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Saigon is located within the city and cannot be easily expanded, construction on a new international airport is already underway. The new Long Thanh International Airport will be located around 31 miles northeast of Saigon and is expected to start handling flights in 2020.
Vietnam Departure Tax
An international departure tax of US $14 for adults and US $7 for children is levied when you fly out of Vietnam. Some airlines include the tax in the price of your ticket. If the departure tax is not included in your ticket price, you’ll need to go to a counter to pay before you get to your gate.
A very insignificant tax (less than US $1) is added to domestic departures.
Tip: Spend all of your Vietnamese dong before exiting the country. Exchanging dong outside of Vietnam is nearly impossible. The airport in Hanoi does not have money-changing facilities once you pass through the immigration checkpoint.
Getting around Vietnam
Getting around Vietnam has its challenges, however, fares are still surprisingly cheap for the distances covered. Vietnam’s unique shape means that most tourist stops are strung out along the north-south route between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).
Aside from the most expensive option of hiring a private driver, you have three primary options for getting around Vietnam: flights, buses, and trains. Foreigners are not allowed to rent or drive cars.
While foreigners can get away with driving scooters in Vietnam without a license, make sure you’ve got what it takes to contend in the famously congested streets of Saigon or Hanoi before renting one. Scooters are a great way to reach the sights in smaller places such as the sand dunes in Mui Ne.