Quick Tips for Travel to Vietnam
My wife pointed out that my recent post (The Problem With Tourism in Vietnam) highlighted major complaints for independent travelers, but didn’t actually give any tangible advice. So here it is:
Visa: If you have the time and it matches your itinerary, wait until you arrive in Southeast Asia to process a visa to Vietnam. In Cambodia, any travel agent can get you a single entry or multi-entry Vietnam visa in 4-8 hours for a nominal service fee. If you do it independently at local consulates, it often takes 1-3 days depending on the backlog. I always used KO Travel on Monevong Blvd near BKK1 in Phnom Penh. The service fee was just $5-10 and I could often receive my 3-month multi-entry visa in less than a few hours.
Flights: Vietnam largely restricts its airspace, so prices to travel from elsewhere into the region to Vietnam are extremely high. A one-way flight from Phnom Penh to Hanoi, for example, might set you back as much as $200-300 depending on the season. A one-way for the short hop between Phnom Penh and HCMC is often over $100. One option is to fly Air Asia into Danang, which is more reasonable than flights to Hanoi or HCMC. Overall, if you have the time, I recommend heading overland (next section). Once you are in HCMC, you can catch cheap domestic flights on Vietnam Airlines, Air Mekong, or one of the domestic value carriers.
Overland: I’ve crossed the Vietnam border near Kampot/Kep (Ha Tien) and Bavet (Moc Bai) a dozen or so times since 2005. Buses from Phnom Penh are $8-15 (opt for Mai Linh) straight to HCMC with about an hour to cross the border. You’ll typically leave at 6 or 7AM and arrive in HCMC shortly after 12. Another option is to enjoy a few days down in Kep or Kampot, hire a moto or shared taxi to the Ha Tien border, and then explore Phu Quoc or the Delta region of Vietnam en route to HCMC. This website has a full breakdown of Cambodia’s border crossings.
In-Country Transportation: Never ride a taxi unless it is one of the following – ABC, Hanoi, CP Group or Mai Linh. Mai Linh is my go-to. Look carefully as some taxi companies try to fool you with similar looking names or branding/colors.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of advice – just the basics. Like I wrote previously, if you can arrive and depart in a positive manner, your trip will be a lot more enjoyable.