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Vietnam: Destinations and Transport

Are you contemplating moving to Vietnam? Then read the InterNations Expat Guide on Vietnam for more information on important topics for expatriates, such as visa categories, geography and climate, expat-friendly destinations, and getting around in this fascinating country.

Vietnam has a lot to offer to its visitors: urban centers and beautiful landscapes, large mountain ranges and long stretches of coastline. The majority of expatriates, however, are drawn towards the cities, where foreign companies open their branch offices and where jobs are easier to find.

Ho Chi Minh City: The Largest and Busiest City

Once known as Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City is the country’s largest city, providing a home for over 7.3 million inhabitants. Ho Chi Minh City is located in the country’s south and is the focal point of Vietnam’s unfolding vibrant urban life. It is a cultural and commercial center full of energy.

The city’s rich past is reflected in its architecture. Old pagodas and traditional markets define Ho Chi Minh City’s historic character while skyscrapers and malls show the developments the city has undergone in recent years. Two worlds, the old and the new, meet and blend effortlessly in this Vietnamese metropolis.

Hanoi: The Elegant Capital

Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi, is located in the North of the country. While Ho Chi Minh City is the beating heart of Vietnam’s urban life, Hanoi provides a complimentary calm. Here, elegance and exotic chic are prevalent. Surviving the war, Hanoi was spared from American bombs and the influence of Russian planners. Thus, it maintains some markers of its colonial past, and a quaint French charm permeates the city.

The city used to be the center of commerce for thousands of years, a fact which is still obvious in some corners of Vietnam’s capital. Today, it still combines ancient and colonial history with a modern new appearance. When you walk through the old quarter of Hanoi, make sure not to be run over by one of the many motorcycles roaming the streets, though!   

Transportation: More Varied Than Anywhere Else

Vietnam has unique variety of transportation options, and most of them give a lot of value for the money. Whether you are a risk taker or a more prudent person, young or more seasoned, there will always be an option available.

Air Travel: Low-Cost Companies Are Emerging

There are seven Vietnamese airlines operating domestic flights. The most popular is Vietnam Airline, the state-owned airline. There also are low-cost companies like Air Mekong and Jet Star Pacific, which connect the main cities together. The most popular flight route is Ho Chi Minh City-Hanoi, and the price of a ticket is around 100 USD. If you need to make a reservation, there are a few recommended websites like Vietnam Airfare, or Vietnam Airlines.

Train Travel: Perfect Option to Enjoy the Countryside

Taking the train in Vietnam is a good option if you want to save money, and enjoy the beautiful scenery the country has to offer. The interiors of the trains are quite rustic, since the network is a century old and the train cars have only been renovated sporadically. Unless you want to experience it as a local, it may be better for you to book a soft berth ticket, which means you will have your own bed, in an air-conditioned room shared with three other people. A trip from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh costs around 80 USD in a soft berth cabin, and takes around 30 to 35 hours.

Bus Travel: Cheap and Efficient

In Vietnam, the bus infrastructure is well developed, and each province has its own terminal, which makes it easy to travel anywhere in the country. So far, it is still difficult to book a trip using the internet, and only the most important (and thus expensive) companies use this system. If you do not want to use the internet, you just have to buy tickets from registered booths inside the terminal, and show it to the driver. Hoang Long is one of the few companies that let you book a trip by internet. For a 37-hour trip between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh, you will pay around 35 USD.

Taxi Travel: Learn to Tell the Difference!

When it comes to taxis, it is really important that you can differentiate between “official” and “unofficial” taxis. Official taxis are owned by a company; they all have a meter, and generally drive safely. Unofficial taxis belong to individual drivers; they generally do not have a meter, and will try to make you pay a lot more than a local person.

Taxi Hanoi, Vinasun Taxi, and Mai Linh Taxi are three reliable companies that work in big cities. Finally, you should remember that there are a lot of traffic jams, so could stay stuck in a taxi for as much as two hours.

Xe Om: If You Feel Adventurous!

Xe Om is a local transportation service using motorcycles. They are a very interesting way to experience the country, are very cheap, and do not get stuck in traffic. It is, since 2007, compulsory for them to give you a helmet for the duration of the ride. If you feel brave enough to use their services, do not forget to agree on the price before jumping on the motorcycle!


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