Though Vietnam still has a reputation of being something of a third World country, its air transport is surprisingly well developed and offers a way for savvy travellers to fit in more destinations than they would if they depended on bus and train to get around.
There are currently three international airports, in Saigon, Hanoi and Da Nang, though there are plans to extend international status to the airports at Phu Quoc and Nha Trang, two of the country’s most popular beach destinations. This would likely give a boost to the numbers of tourists visiting these destinations.
Tan Son Nhat Airport, located seven kilometres north of Ho Chi Minh City, recently opened a new international terminal, which is certainly impressive for first-time visitors. It has all the facilities you might expect of a big international airport, such as left-luggage facilities, hotel booking desks and duty-free shops…more on Saigon Transport.
Hanoi’s Noi Bai Airport is further from the city (about 35kms), but the modern terminal is also very impressive for new arrivals. The airport also has all facilities that air passengers might need, but it also has a permanent crowd of scammers outside, waiting to make a killing from unsuspecting newcomers who are not familiar with the city. Visitors arriving here should make sure they get taken to their hotel of choice and not an inferior alternative with the same name…more on Hanoi Transport.
In order to avoid being cheated at the airport, select a hotel before arrival and contact them to arrange pick-up at the terminal building. Most hotels, whether they are budget or luxury standard, can provide this service for about the same fee as taxi drivers should charge (about US$12-$15), but without the hassle.
Domestic flights are especially useful to certain destinations in the country that are otherwise difficult to access. A few examples are Phu Quoc in the Gulf of Thailand, the Con Dao Islands in the South China Sea and Da Lat in the Central Highlands. A short, one-hour flight from Ho Chi Minh City to these places is far preferable to a long, bumpy bus ride or slow ferry across the sea.
Apart from the national carrier (Vietnam Airlines), domestic flights are also operated by Jetstar and Mekong Air. While rates for Vietnam Airlines flights are not at all expensive, the other domestic carriers are often even cheaper. Of course, the best deals are reserved for those who book well in advance.