The Best Ways to Get Around Vietnam
Plane, private car, train, boat, or cycle – there are many ways to get around Vietnam’s breathtaking landscapes and exciting cities, other than using your feet. No matter where you plan to go within the country you will want to familiarize yourself with the local transportation.
For short- to middle-distance travel most customers choose the comfort of a private car. Longer distance travel can be done via one of the country’s many regional airports or on a train. The shortest trips can be accomplished on a rented bike, a cyclo, or a boat, depending on your destination.
Come to Vietnam to lose yourself in exploration, not in exhaustion.
Vietnam is served domestically by three major airlines.
If you travel with Asia Highlights this is the airline you will predominantly be using. As Vietnam’s flagship national airline (since 1951) and the most frequently used by travelers, this is a name you can trust.
Vietnam Airlines runs a full fleet of Boeing Airbuses, on which you will find complimentary entertainment, drink and snack services. Check in at least 50 minutes before departure.
As a bonus, Vietnam Airlines will text you any updates about your flight.
Jetstar pacific airlines
Jetstar Pacific became a budget subsidiary of Vietnam Airlines after being bought in 2012. It occasionally offers lower prices than Vietnam Airlines, but such prices come with a decrease in on-board comfort and amenities.
Due to Vietnam Airlines’ reputation and class, they are typically recommended over Jetstar.
Vietjet has only been on the scene since 2012 and is the smallest of the three airlines. Their limited fleet size means limited flight options and long delays if something goes wrong.
This can be an okay choice if you really want to save, but especially during peak season savings are minimal, compared to the potential for inconvenience.
Getting in by air
The most common way to enter Vietnam on a plane is via the city of Hanoi at Noi Bai International Airport, followed by a visit to Halong Bay or Hanoi itself.
After Hanoi comes Da Nang for a stop in Hoi An or Hue and then on from there to Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City for visits in HCMC or to the Mekong Delta.
Noi Bai — Da Nang — Tan Son Nhat
This is the typical itinerary; although, of course, it can be reversed.
If you travel with Asia Highlights our trips also include stops at smaller airports such as Dalat, Nha Trang and Phu Quoc Island, as flying is the fastest and most comfortable way to travel between these places.
Flights from Hanoi to Da Nang run hourly from 6:30 am until 11:30 pm. The cost of a single passenger ticket with one bag varies according to the season and time of booking, and can range from $60-150 US.
Traveling with Asia Highlights can minimize this cost, as our knowledgeable staff will book the best tickets for you.
Da Nang to Tan Son Nhat will cost around the same as the above and prices are equally dependent on factors such as type of seat and time of year.
If you are not traveling through Da Nang you can opt to fly from Noi Bai International directly to Tan Son Nhat International, for between $60-200 US. Again, expect a wide range of prices. Flights leave every hour and the trip takes around 4 hours gate to gate.
- Trains run from Hanoi to Da Nang every 45 minutes. It costs $45 US for a soft seat (cheapest) to $70 US for a soft sleeper.
- Trains from Da Nang to Ho Chi Minh City run every 40-50 minutes. It costs $50 US for a soft seat or $75 US for a soft sleeper.
- There are only four trains a day from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi. It costs $65 US for a soft seat or $90 US for a soft sleeper. Travel time can exceed 30 hours.
While the facilities on Vietnam’s extensive train system are passable, the time one must spend on the trains can be rather hard to pass. If you take a train ride, try to book the nicest ticket possible (soft sleeper or better), as having a little extra room can make a long journey more bearable.
The main advantage of train travel is the lower cost, but most western travelers find flying to be almost as inexpensive, and worth the savings in time.
Travelers heading to Sapa can only reach their destination by train and therefore this train ticket is included with your Asia Highlights tour.
Asia Highlights trips to Halong Bay, Hoi An, and the Mekong Delta region all include prearranged boat tours and these are highly recommended.
Highlights and what to expect
Boating and boat-making have been an important part of Vietnamese culture and life and riding in a boat truly unlocks feelings of cultural appreciation. No matter where in Vietnam you step onto a boat, you can expect a cultural experience, combined with close encounters with nature.
On a Halong Bay Cruise you will come face to face with the limestone karst scenery that has made the areas one of the natural wonders of the world. As your vessel slides through the steam rising from the warm waters, you will be absorbed in the natural beauty around you.
In the Mekong Delta region you will be able to take large boats as you might buses in other cities, and you can explore the narrow channels between the river islands on much smaller personal craft. Nothing compares to floating through a lush green jungle, just like the locals, on a traditionally-made boat.
Cycle or cyclo
Vietnam is a popular destination for bike rentals as well as for cyclos, the three-wheeled bicycle carts that have been a popular way of getting around the cities for years. Recently, cyclos have become outdated, but they still make for a fun novelty-ride for tourists.
- Vietnam’s countryside is a beautiful place to ride a bike
- Bikes can be rented cheaply, but a guide is always recommended
- Bikes can be purchased if you intend to stay longer-term in Vietnam
- Asia Highlights arranges easy biking tours that focus on relaxation
- Traveling by bike is healthy and lets you go at your own pace
- Cyclos wait for passengers at busy corners. For the novelty, take one for a few blocks, but not for long trips.
Riding a bike around the countryside is not only healthy and fun, but allows you to explore at your own pace. Rentals are cheap (around $3-10 US a day depending on the bike) and most rental companies offer guide services. ALWAYS ride with a guide when possible, to remain safe and well-informed for your whole adventure.
Bike tours range from adventurous to leisurely, so there is something for everyone. Depending on where you ride, the road conditions also vary, increasing the importance of riding with a guide.
Local day trips
This is the best way to travel locally in Vietnam. Private cars provide a knowledgeable driver and air-conditioned comfort (not always an option in taxis) and Asia Highlights is happy to arrange car-hire as part of our tours.
Private cars serve short- to middle-distance trips and are easy to book at affordable prices. Drivers are required to be licensed, insured, and maintain modern and safe vehicles.
Vietnam’s cities are famous for their sprawl so having a comfortable and reliable way to get around becomes very important.
A quick ride in a taxi can be tempting on a hot day in Vietnam, as you will see many taxis around the cities. BE WARNED, however, that Uber, Grab, and other private car services are beginning to replace conventional taxis for a number of reasons. For foreigners this improves convenience and protection.
Taxis can be the source of scams in any country. If you are unfamiliar with the distances you are traveling you can find yourself spending LOTS of money, or sitting in a non-air-conditioned taxi for a long period of time.
When possible, avoid taxis, especially for anything other than short-distance travel.
Tips and Tricks
- Download Google Maps so you always know where you are
- Carry your hotel’s card, address, and phone number in two different places
- Use Uber or Grab to book rides
- If you do enter a taxi, make sure the meter goes down to zero before the driver takes off
Visit Vietnam with Asia Highlights
Our knowledgeable staff can help simplify your journey from the moment you step off the plane. If you are interested in experiencing Vietnam, then browse what Asia Highlights has to offer below.