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Vietnam | The Ultimate Travel Guide

When to go, where to stay and what to do in this Southeast Asian gem.

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Ninh Binh, Vietna,

Ornate temples spear skies, rising from sprawling cityscapes while traditional boats float down calm lily-padded rivers and rice paddies overgrow rolling hills in the countryside. Whichever way you turn in Vietnam, there's always a thing of beauty to catch your eye.In the north, the city of Hanoi commands with its ancient architecture and mix of Chinese, Southeast Asian and French influences while in the south, the historic city of Ho Chi Minh City, formally Saigon, bears the marks of its role in the Vietnam War and its French-colonial history.

North, south and everything in-between, you won't miss a beat with our guide on this incredible nation.

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Getting around in Vietnam

There are many methods of transport you can choose from to journey around Vietnam. The train is the most comfortable, flying is the fastest and buses are the cheapest.

Car and motorbike taxis offer an easy way to travel around major cities. As visitors find taxis cheap, they tend to choose these over public transport. Car rental is uncommon, though it is common for tourists to hire a car and driver. Many travellers also buy and sell or rent motorbikes to travel through the country. However, traffic in the cities is very chaotic, so it's probably a good idea to stick to taxis or private car hire for city sightseeing.

Travelling between cities in Vietnam

  • Sleeper and overnight trains: Experiencing trains in Vietnam is considered a must, and they stop at all major tourist spots between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. They're more expensive than buses but much more comfortable as sleeper cabins are available. You should book trains in advance, especially during peak season.
  • Internal flights: If you have limited time, flying is your best option. Budget airlines such as Jetstar Asia and Air Asia offer affordable flights to all the major cities.
  • Bus: Travelling by bus is the cheapest option. They run daily from all major tourist spots, and you can book one at the last minute. Many are overnight sleeper buses, which have seats that can be fully reclined.

Using public transport within major cities

  • Types of transport: Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City are both serviced by buses. In Hanoi public buses can be recognised by their red, white and yellow colour. In Ho Chi Minh City they are white and green.
  • Paying for transport: Bus fares must be paid for in cash. In Hanoi a single ticket costs VND5,000–10,000 depending on how far you are traveling. In Ho Chi Minh City it costs VND3,000–10,000.
  • Getting to and from the airport:
    • From Hanoi International Airport (Noi Bai) catch the number 7 bus to Kim Ma station, or the number 17 bus to Long Bien station. Tickets cost VND5,000 and it takes an hour to get into the city centre. Mini buses are available and cost VND32,000–64,000 to take you to the city centre or directly to your accommodation. They depart once they are full.
    • From Ho Chi Minh City Tan Son Nhat International Airport take the 152 bus if you are arriving between 6am and 6pm. The stop is located directly outside the international terminal. The more luxurious 109 bus is also available and departs from Column 15 at the international terminal, and Column 18 at the domestic terminal.
  • Best apps for getting around: There are no apps for public transport, but Grab is great for finding taxis and motorbike taxis, and Uber is also available.

Taxis and Uber

Taxi: Car and motorbike taxis can be hailed from the side of the road. Both hire cars and taxis can be booked in advance.

Rideshare. Grab is the most popular rideshare app in Vietnam. Uber is no longer operating in the country.

Airport transfers in Vietnam

If you're looking to avoid public transportation or hailing a taxi upon arrival, you can pre-book airport transfers that will ferry you from the airport to your accommodation hassle free.

Private airport arrival transfer in Ho Chi Minh
Private airport arrival transfer in Ho Chi Minh

Viator

Airport to hotel private transfer in Ho Chi Minh
Airport to hotel private transfer in Ho Chi Minh

Viator

Vietnam car hire

Hiring a car to drive around Vietnam is not common for tourists and is illegal without a Vietnamese driver's licence.

A popular alternative is to hire a car and driver, which is negotiable and affordable and can be hired per day.

Frequently asked questions about Vietnam

Does Vietnam require a visa? Does Vietnam have visa on arrival?

Every Australian passport holder must apply for a visa prior to their travel in order to enter Vietnam. Getting a Vietnam visa for Aussies has been made easier as there are two different ways to go about this matter. Travellers can apply for a visa at the Embassy of Vietnam, on arrival with Vietnam-Visa.com.

In order to obtain a visa to Vietnam, you can choose either of the two options. Bear in mind that the two options are very different in terms of application procedure and applicable applicants.

Aussie travellers should note that while visa on arrival is more convenient and less time consuming, it is only applicable for those flying to Vietnam. So, if you're planning to travel by land border or sea, you will need to apply for a visa at the nearest Vietnamese embassy.

There are two offices of Vietnam embassy in Australia – one in Canberra and one in New South Wales.

With visa on arrival, the Vietnam Immigration Department will issue a visa approval letter with your name on it stating that you are allowed to enter Vietnam on a specified date. Then, the visa will be stamped onto your passport at the arrival airport. If you apply for visa at Vietnam embassies, the visa stamp will be on your passport when they send it back to you.

Is Vietnam safe for tourists?

Vietnam is considered to be very safe for travellers and holidaymakers. Reports of muggings are incredibly low, and crime against tourists is rare. That said, there are a number of things you should be on the lookout for to avoid any issues while there.

  • Sealife. If you plan to spend your time swimming, snorkelling or scuba diving in the waters be aware of dangerous sea creatures. These include jellyfish, stonefish, scorpion fish and stingrays. As some of these can be spotted in shallow water, it would be a good idea to wear plastic shoes when paddling or wading.
  • Landmines and explosives. Cities, cultivated areas and well-travelled rural roads and paths are safe for travel. We would advise against straying from these areas as you could end up in danger. Don't touch rockets, artillery shells, mortars, mines or other relics of war you encounter.

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