There & Away
Chi Minh City's (Saigon) Tan Son Nhat Airport is Vietnam's
busiest international air hub, followed by Hanoi's Noi Bai
Airpot. A few international flights also serve Danang. Bangkok
has emerged as the principle embarkation point for Vietnam
but it's still possible to get direct flights from a number
of major Asian cities and a few Australian cities. Buying
tickets in Vietnam is expensive. Departure tax is US$10,
which can be paid in dong or US dollars.
are currently six border crossings for travellers coming
to Vietnam, but more may open soon. All crossing points
suffer from heavy policing and often requests for 'immigration
getting to/from China, it's become very popular to cross
the border at Friendship Pass, or Dong Dang, 20km (12mi)
north of Lang Son in northeast Vietnam, to get to/from Nanning.
There is a twice-weekly international train between Beijing
and Hanoi that stops at Friendship Pass. The other popular
border crossing with China is at Lao Cai in northwest Vietnam,
which lies on the railway line between Hanoi and Kunming
in China's Yunnan Province. There's also a seldom used crossing
at Moi Cai.
possible to enter Laos from Lao Bao in north-central Vietnam;
there's an international bus from Danang to Savannakhet
(Laos). The other crossing is at Keo Nua Pass/Cau Treo,
west of Vinh. The only crossing to Cambodia is via Moc Dai;
an international bus links Phnom Penh with Ho Chi Minh City.
Airlines has a near-monopoly on domestic flights, which
are relatively expensive. The departure tax on domestic
flights is about $US1.50, payable in Vietnamese dong only.
buses and minibuses criss-cross the country in an impressive
network of routes but you should think long and hard before
taking one. Apart from being ramshackle, extremely slow
and hugely overcrowded, the notion of safety on Vietnam's
roads is a loose and hazy concept that doesn't bear too
much investigating. There are 'express' buses, but even
these rarely average more than 50kmh (31mph). The alternative,
used by many foreigners, is to charter a minibus. They cost
more but are much more comfortable; ask at budget hotels
and cafes for details.
sometimes train travel can be slower than bus travel, it
is safer, more relaxed and you're likely to have decent
legroom. There are several types of train, including the
famous Reuinification Express; but think twice before
you take a crowded, snail-paced local train. Petty theft
can be a problem on trains, especially in budget class.
Children throwing things at carriages, everything from rocks
to cow dung, is another problem, and you're advised to keep
the metal shield on the window in place.
cars and drivers are available at reasonable prices. You'll
still be stopped by the police to pay all sorts of 'fines',
but at least you'll have a local with you to do the negotiating.
You can hire a motorcycle to drive yourself if you have
an International Driver's Permit endorsed for motorcycles,
but you'll need nerves of steel.
through Vietnam, and around the towns and cities, by bicycle
is worth considering, though the traffic is still a hazard
on highways without wide shoulders. Trains and buses will
carry your bike when you want a break.
than a few ancient and infrequent buses, local transport
is by taxi (some metered, some not) or cyclo (pedal-powered
vehicles that are cheap and plentiful). If you're in a hurry
and have nerves of steel, try flagging down any passing
motorbike. Many people will be happy to give you a lift
for a fee a little higher than the equivalent cyclo fare.