Enter the Land of Opportunity
|City Sights: Ho Chi Minh City Hall (PhotoDisc)|
All international air travel from the U.S. to Vietnam will require a stopover of some sort at an Asian hub like Seoul, Tokyo, Hong Kong, or Bangkok. United (www.united.com) operates code-sharing services to Ho Chi Minh City with Japan's All Nippon Airways and Thai Airways, departing from San Francisco or Los Angeles. Malaysian Airlines (www.malaysiaairlinesusa.com) flies to both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, via Kuala Lumpur, from Los Angeles or New York's Newark. Cathay Pacific currently has an offer on round-trip fares to Ho Chi Minh from North American hubs via Hong Kong that applies to travel during the October 2006 shoulder season ($1,299; http://www.cathayusa.com/offers/aap/offer.asp).
Flights to and from Europe are more frequent, particularly through the major travel hubs of London, Paris, or Frankfurt. Consider also multi-stop round-the-world tickets that will allow you to combine travel to Vietnam via Europe, Southeast Asia, and beyond.
Traveler's cafés in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi are excellent places to organize day tours and longer trips throughout Vietnam, as well as overland excursions into Cambodia, Laos, and beyond. Both Kim Café (www.kimcafetravel.com) and Sinh Café (www.sinhcafetravel.com) operate out of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.
Hanoi (Noi Bai Airport) and Ho Chi Minh City (Tan Son Nhat Airport)
A tourist visa (single, 30-day permit or multiple entry) is required to visit Vietnam, and should be applied for in person or by mail at the nearest Vietnamese consulate in your country of origin (www.vietnamembassy-usa.org). Many travelers organize entry visas in Bangkok, either through the Vietnamese embassy or local travel agents.
When to Go:
Vietnam is hot and wet much of the year. Rainy season in the south runs May to November; November to April in the north. It's best to avoid major holidays, particularly the annual Tet celebration, usually late January/early February, when many shops, restaurants, and hotels are closed. Prices can also almost triple in high season over low-season rates.
Domestic airlines link the major towns and cities. The north-south rail service is a cost-effective and efficient way to go. Travel by bus is the cheapest mode of transport, although roads in the country are generally chaotic and badly surfaced.
None required to visit Vietnam, although cholera, polio, typhoid, tetanus, and hepatitis A/B shots should all be current, as necessary. Travelers are advised to take malaria medicine, especially if traveling into the country's more rural areas. Please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's website (www.cdc.gov) for more in-depth info.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication