You have decided to come to Vietnam! Well you are in for a treat. This is one truly amazing place and you will love every minute of it. It is chaos, culture and cuisine all merging together in this hotpot of a city.
Like every city, and in particular South East Asian cities, there are a lot of Do’s and Do Not’s that every traveler should have an idea about.
Here is a quick and HONEST guide about what you should (and should not) be doing once you arrive in Ho Chi Minh City (Hanoi coming up).
Arriving in Ho Chi Minh City
You will be landing at Tan Son Nhat International airport.
Rules are constantly changing on this as government is adjusting to tourist climate of Asia. You can get a visa on arrival but you need a pre-approval letter first. Also you can be waiting several hours at the airport as their system is not known for efficiency.
OUR TIP – get a travel agent to do it from your home country. There are plenty around that will do it at the normal fare + commission.
UPDATE – Many countries can now get an EVISA!!! No more full pages being taken away and so easy to do online!!!!
There have been a few times when I have told a friend to message me when the get off the plane so I can come pick them up. Unfortunately, the internet when going through Arrivals at the airport is no good. Our tip on SIM cards.
OUR TIP– Buy a SIM card outside the arrival gate or; if your friend is picking you up, get them to look at this site for flight details – FlightView.com/flighttracker is a good one.
Compared to other airports, there is not much to offer here. There are no good waiting area, no food or drink so just get out once you get past the customs area. As you walk out, there are a few places to exchange money, but I have found I get a good rate withdrawing money off my debit card from home (provided your bank has low international withdrawal fees). There are also a few taxi stalls, you don’t need them as there are plenty outside.
As you walk out, you will be greeted by hundreds of locals just staring at you, waiting to meet their friends and family. You will walk and be forced to choose left or right. When you get out, you will be at the door 7, that’s where you usually have to tell your Uber driver to stop and spot you! (Yeah use Uber instead of taxis! Let’s talk about that later 😛 )
Burger King, Cheap SIM Card, Bottle Water, Domestic Terminal 300m walk
Fast Food and Taxis’ line up
You will be hassled by unlicensed taxis. Please ignore as they will charge you an arm and a leg.
Our personal favorite mode of transport is an UBER. If you have internet connection or have purchased a SIM Card at the airport, use your Uber app for ridiculously good prices and exceptional service (We confirm it’s cheaper than taxis!). If you have never used it before, enter our promotion code MIMIVN – which will give you an extra 100,00 VND (5 dollars) off your already low fare – this only applies if you never used the app before!
NOTE – Now that Uber does not exist, you can try GRAB as this is even cheaper and equally as effective.
This is the first scam that you will unlikely encounter. There are only 2 Taxi groups that us “expat locals” use Mai Linh or VinaSun.
Here is a picture of what you should be looking for. DO NOT get another type of car/taxi. Every other person I know that did not listen fell victim and paid too much.
How much is too much?
Of course it depends on where you are going. We live in District 2 – approx. 20 mins from airport on a good run, and it costs 180-240K Dong. This is about 8-11 USD. Going into the center of town, District 1/3 should cost you in the 100-150K range. District 7 is the other side of town and I would expect to pay 250-300K.
These are pretty loose estimates, however the taxi scammers will be asking for 600-900K – which is absolutely ridiculous. If this happens, I would be taking pictures of drivers face and number plate so we can identify for future reference.
Ok, so hopefully we have got you to your hotel. Happy and relaxed for a great holiday in awesome Vietnam. We’re happy to chat further about all this, so please contact us and read our blog for more things to do around!
OUR TIP– Remember, never take any different cars. Our friend got scammed and asked a man for Vinasun taxi and he showed an ID saying he is a Vinasun driver. DO NOT BELIEVE IT, He will overcharge you and require money in advance before driving you. Never pay in advance.
Beware – If you are unlucky, sometimes some Vinasun or Mai Linh taxis have a scam switch on their meters. Make sure when you enter a taxi the base fare is at 10k to 12k. Scammed switch on starts around 45k. What you do is that you point at their meter, say “no no”, get out of your taxi close the door and tell him to reset it to the real price. That’s why make sure to never put your luggage in right away, have a peek at the meter. This rarely happens at the airport with Vinasun & Mai Linh, it happens mostly in the Pham Ngu Lao Backpacker area.
Arriving in Ha Noi
You will be landing at Noi Bai International airport, approximately thirty miles from downtown Hanoi.
For sim cards there is the SIMM card shop. Both far ends of the arrival area, BUT they are a rip off.
OUR TIP– Buy a SIM card in town, don’t do it at the airport. If you do, don’t bargain anything over 100,000 VND. Some people we know have been quoted 500,000 VND (25$USD), which is RIDICULOUS!
Our guide for SIM cards in Vietnam.
Not as nice as TSN airport, we didn’t find it great when we were there. It might have changed. Comment if you have any extra tips about Noi Bai Airport!
UBER also operates in Hanoi. Don’t forget to use our promotion code MIMIVN – which will give you an extra 100,00 VND (5 dollars) off your already low fare – this only applies if you never used the app before! Don’t forget that the airport is very far from town, it might be possible that no Uber cars are around.
Same, trust only the 2 Taxi groups that us “expat locals” use Mai Linh or VinaSun. By meter, expect it to go up to around 400,000 VND (20$USD). The airport is much further compared to Saigon. Make sure that if you grab a taxi to share it. If you deal with a fix price, try to pay no more than 350,000 VND!
It is known that taxi drivers take passengers to different hotels than instructed. Be wise and have your hotel arrange transportation for you upon arrival at the airport. Price again shouldn’t be over 350,000 VND (17$USD).
Again, please arrange for fixed prices by Hotels that are around 250,000 VND-350,000VND (From 10$USD to 12$USD). Prices has gone up since last time we went to Hanoi. Expect raises from 350k to 450k.
OUR TIP– Remember, never take any different cars. Our friend got scammed in HCM and asked a man for Vinasun taxi and he showed an ID saying he is a Vinasun driver. DO NOT BELIEVE IT, He will overcharge you and require money in advance before driving you. Never pay in advance.
Do not hire cars from inside the airport quoted at 25$USD-35$USD. That is overpriced.
4-Cheapest way to get to the Old Quarter
From Noi Bai airport to Hanoi – You can take the shuttle bus of Vietnam Airlines. The tickets are sold in the building in front of the minibuses park, but you can give the fare directly to the driver. The fare is 40,000 VND (2$USD). It is possible that the driver will be stingy about your additional bags, but if you push, you will get the same rate. For the bus, from the new terminal, it’s at the right if you are facing the entrance. Advice from a local “As it is Vietnam, drivers are sometimes not willing to pick you up because there are no other passengers sharing the same route at that time, so expect them to ask a higher price (especially at late evening).”
Beware – If you take the shuttle, once you arrive at the Vietnam Airlines office (1 Quang Trung streeet, near the southern end of Hoan Kiem Lake, a bit south of the Old Quarter.). Some drivers will try to scam you there as well to bring you to your hotel. They will overcharge claiming the Old Quarter is 5km from the office, NO.
From Hanoi to the airport – We suggest you to share a fixed car with other travellers and split the fixed fare to make sure you arrive in time at the airport.
There is the shuttle bus of Vietnam Airlines that runs from 5am-10pm for 40,000 VND that goes from 1 Quang Trung streeet, across from Vietnam airlines office (It’s down near the southern end of Hoan Kiem Lake, a bit south of the Old Quarter.). The other cheapest way is by public transit. You take the City bus #7 bus finishes at the domestic terminal and the new international terminal. The #17 doesn’t stop at the terminals so beware if you have red on the internet about it.
Beware – It is said that the shuttle bus go to the airport hourly, but they will only leave when the bus is full (This might have changed, but we’d be unsure!). If you have any experience using the shuttle, please share your experience!