Vietnam Travel Guide
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Looking for cheap flights to Vietnam? Make sure you read our Vietnam Travel Guide which includes flight deals, insider info, when best to fly and more ...
Flights to Vietnam
From the UK and Ireland
There are as yet no non-stop flights to Vietnam from the UK or Ireland. Instead, most people fly with a Southeast Asian carrier such as Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways, Malaysia Airlines or Cathay Pacific from London via the airline's home city. Alternatively you can fly direct from Paris to Hanoi or Ho Chi Minn City with Air France, which has connecting flights to Paris from regional airports such as Dublin, Edinburgh and Manchester. Vietnam Airlines offers code-share flights from Paris with Air France or Frankfurt with Lufthansa. Scheduled low-season fares from London start at around £450, rising to £750 or more at peak periods.
A good place to look for the best deals is the travel sections of the weekend newspa-pers and in regional listings magazines. Students and under-26s can often get discounts through specialist agents such as STA (see p.34) or USIT in Ireland (®www .usit.ie). Whoever you buy your ticket through, check that the agency belongs to the travel industry bodies ABTA or IATA, so that you'll be covered if the agent goes bust before you get your ticket.
From the US and Canacte
In 2004 United Airlines became the first American carrier to resume direct flights to Vietnam since 1975. The airline operates a daily service from San Francisco to Ho Chi Minh City via Hong Kong; standard return fares start at around $1100. As yet, no other American or Canadian carriers offer direct services, which means you'll either have to get a flight to San Francisco or catch one of the many flights to a regional hub, such as Bangkok, Singapore or Hong Kong, and continue on from there. Scheduled flights start at around $1300 from New York, $1100 from Los Angeles, CAN$2000 from Vancouver and CAN$2500 from Toronto.
Note that some routings require an overnight stay in another city such as Bangkok, Taipei, Hong Kong or Seoul, and often a hotel room will be included in your fare - ask the airline and shop around since travel agents' policies on this vary. Even when an overnight stay is not required, going to Vietnam can be a great excuse for a stopover. Most airlines will allow you one free stopover in either direction. From Australia and New !
A reasonable range of flights connects Australia and New Zealand with Vietnam, with Qantas, Vietnam Airlines and Jetstar offering direct services from Australia. The alternative is to fly to another Asian gateway, such as Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore or Hong Kong, and then either get connecting flights or travel overland to Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City.
By far the cheapest flight from Australia is the daily Jetstar service to Ho Chi Minh City from Sydney (AUSS390 one-way) via Darwin (AUSS240 one-way). Both Vietnam Airlines and Qantas operate direct flights to Ho Chi Minh City from Melbourne and Sydney; low-season scheduled fares start at around AUS$1300 with Vietnam Airlines, and slightly more with Qantas at AUSS1400. If you want to stop off on the way, there are good deals to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City with Malaysia Airlines via Kuala Lumpur, Singapore Airlines via Singapore, and Thai Airways via Bangkok, all costing around AUS$1 100 to AUS$1500. Cheaper still are the fares offered by Tiger Airways, a discount airline operating daily flights between Perth and Singapore: one-way fares start as low as AUSS200. From Singapore you can get an onward flight to Hanoi (from around AUS$1 00 one-way) or Ho Chi Minh City (from around AUS$55 one-way).
From New Zealand, low-season fares with Malaysia Airlines, Thai, Qantas and Singapore Airlines are all around NZ$1 500 to NZ$2200, with a change of plane in the carrier's home airport.
How to get a visa to Vietnam ?
Easy way to enter Vietnam?
Mow much for Visa to travel Vietnam?
Red tape and visas
All foreign nationals need a visa to enter Vietnam, with certain exceptions: citizens of Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Japan and South Korea do not need a visa if they are travelling to Vietnam for less than fifteen days, have a passport valid for three months following the date of entry and hold a return air ticket. Citizens of certain ASEAN-member countries, including Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore are also exempt for stays of up to thirty days. Tourist visas are generally i/alid for thirty days and for a single entry, though some embassies issue visas for three months or longer and may also issue multiple-entry visas. A standard thirty-day visa costs the local equivalent of US$30-"! 00, depending on how quickly you want it processed.
The majority of visitors apply for a visa in their country of residence, either from the embassy direct, or through a specialist visa agent or tour agent. Processing normally takes around a week, though many embassies now also offer a more expensive "express" service. To be on the safe side, it's best to allow several weeks as delays and mistakes can occur (check the details carefully on receipt). For people travelling via neighbouring Asian countries, Bangkok is still the most popular place to apply for a Vietnamese visa, since It's relatively straightforward (1-5 working days; around USS55-80), though Cambodia has a reputation for being quick, helpful and cheap. At the time of writing, the embassy in Phnom Penh was issuing thirty-day tourist visas in two days for $30, while the consulate in Sihanoukville did them on the spot.
To apply for a tourist visa, you have to submit an application form with one or two passport-sized photographs (procedures vary) and the fee. The visa shows specific start and end dates indicating the period of validity within which you can enter and leave the country. The visa is valid for entry via Hanoi, Ho Chi Minn City and Da Nang inter¬national airports and any of Vietnam's land borders open to foreigners.
Business visas are valid for one month upwards and can be issued for multiple entry, though you'll need a sponsoring office in Vietnam to underwrite your application.
One-year student visas are relatively easy to get hold of if you enrol, for example, on a Vietnamese language course at one of the universities; you'll be required to attend a minimum number of classes per week to qualify. It's easiest to arrange it in advance, but you can enter Vietnam on a tourist visa and apply for student status later - the only downside is that you may have to leave the country in order to get the visa stamp.
Special circumstances affect overseas Vietnamese holding a foreign passport: check with the Vietnamese embassy in your country of residence for details.
Most major tour agents in Vietnam are now authorized to issue visas on arrival at Hanoi, Ho Chi Minn City and Da Nang international airports. It's not necessarily any more expensive (prices range from US$25 to US$90 for a one-month tourist visa, depending on your nationality and how quickly you need the application processed), but check carefully to make sure you're quoted a price including the visa and not just the handling fee. There's also an element of risk since you are reliant on the agency completing the paperwork in time for your arrival. However, it can be handy if there is no Vietnamese embassy in your home country. The agency will need a photocopy of your passport, your full name, date of birth, proposed dates of stay, flight details and a fax number or email address to which they will send an "invitation letter" saying you have approval to enter the country. While some agencies are able to process the application in one day, allow at least one week to be on the safe side. If you follow this route, look out for the Visa on Arrival desk at the airport before you pass through immigration.
On arrival In Vietnam, you'll need to fill in an Arrival and Departure Card, which has to be submitted when you leave the country, so it's a good idea to staple it into your passport while travelling.
Thirty-day extensions are issued in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minn City, Nha Trang, Da Nang, Hue and Hoi An. Some people have managed to obtain second and seven third extensions, usually in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Applications have to be made via a tour agent. In general they take three to five days to process and cost $25 for the first one-month extension.
Holders of business visas can apply for an extension only through the office that sponsored their original visa, backed up with reasons as to why an extension is necessary.
Incidentally, overstaying your visa will result in fines of between US$10 and US$50, depending how long you overstay and the mood of the immigration official, and is not recommended.
A nice category of photos collection by travellers
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