Airport - Ho Chi Minh City
Built by the French during the 1930’s and then expanded into a military airbase by the USA during the war in the 50’s, following the free-market changes that Saigon underwent following the war, Tan Son Nhat airport became the 1977 acre hub of Vietnam-- able to support close to 20 million passengers per year.
Ho Chi Minh City’s Tan Son Nhat International Airport, located north of the main city center of District 1, it lies in the Tan Binh District’s Southern end. It is the largest airport in Vietnam. It is the usual destination for those coming to the South of Vietnam. If you are flying from the USA or Europe, your flight probably involves a stop-over in Asia or the Middle East- oftentimes Seoul, Singapore, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Dubai. Be prepared for a long haul and rest assured knowing what to expect once you land in the arrivals terminal. The airport is separated into two completely different terminals-- domestic and international.
There are signs pointing you to a 5 minute walk in between each terminal.
While not overly impressive, the airport is clean and efficient and has all the features a traveler needs: an information center, ATMs, currency exchange booths, duty-free shopping, bookstores, fast food and regional food restaurants, internet cafes, bars and storage lockers service.
To get to the airport, a taxi should cost roughly the same as it does coming from it (around 150,000 - 170,000 VND from District 1). The airport fee of 10,000 VND is not paid upon arriving to the airport (only when leaving) so if the driver happens to ask for it just say that you already paid it when you arrived.
If you are going solo to the airport from District 1 and want to use a slightly cheaper method, there is a shuttle minivan service at a fixed price of 105,000 VND per person with pick-up only in the backpacker streets of Pham Ngu Lao and Bui Vien. They will come to your hotel for one of the 5 scheduled times each day: 7:00 am, 10:00 am, 1:00 pm, 3:00 pm and the last, 5:00 pm. Travel time to airport will be around 30 minutes or so. Contact: 0918414949 at least 30 minutes before departure or email email@example.com at least 5 hours ahead of time to schedule.
Check in: The first thing is customs, then immigration and then security check. When you are through the security check process, you will can go upstairs to use the free WiFi courtesy of Illy Cafe (expensive, but tasty) or Burger King has free WiFi both upstairs and at their location outside of the terminal.
Tan Son Nhat airport is comfortable, but fairly small, and as for the duty free shopping- it is okay, but limited. Definitely do your shopping while in the city if you can. Also be careful of carry-on limits (especially liquids), especially if you have a connecting flight in another country. Nothing is more frustrating that purchasing gifts or personal items at a duty free and then being forced to leave them in the trash at a security check! Certain countries prohibit you from carrying on certain goods, foods, etc. that you may not expect.
More food options: Outside of the departure hall, two fast food outlets, Domino's Pizza and Burger King, have a decent menu selection and normal prices in VND and an outdoor eating area. At the departure gate you can go to the top floor to find another restaurant and yet another Burger King, but these places only accept payment in USD. If you would really prefer different food choices, you will need to get to them before going through customs. You can find the Parkson CT Plaza nearby- it is opposite both terminals, about a 5 minute walk away from the airport. They have a food court full of different options. This could also be a good place to go if your flight is unfortunately delayed. In this case, you can check any luggage at the storage service.
When you arrive at the Immigration desks, you will need to show your incoming flight number, your passport and (unless you are exempt), your visa. You may already have your visa if you received it from a Vietnamese Embassy before arriving, or most likely you will need to obtain your visa at the airport (so please read our Visa Information page to prepare this). As per normal, if you have anything to declare to customs, you will fill out that form and declare the items when you go downstairs before being allowed out of the airport.
If you are travelling from within Vietnam, you will of course arrive to the domestic terminal, which, at Tan Son Nhat airport, is quite small and simple. There is only one cafe that offers free WiFi if you’re looking for a snack. And if you are arriving via a domestic flight, you can find taxis right outside or you can walk over to the international terminal for more options.
In the international terminal there are many more facilities. There are 4 floors to the terminal, which are:
G. Arrival level - This is where you’ll find taxis and buses.
1. Greeter Level - A place for greeters to eat and rest.
2. Departure Level - Sort out departure needs and get ready to split.
3. Well Wishers Level - The best spot in the terminal to sit and eat, drink coffee, and access free WiFi.
When you are walking out of the International terminal building, you can find several ATMs on the ground floor if you go to the right side (facing the street from outside the terminal) and walk around the corner. The official currency in Vietnam is the VND or the Dong, in 2015, this trades at approximately 21,000 VND to 1 USD. Don’t be alarmed if only about half of the ATMs work, and some have a maximum withdrawal of 4,000,000 VND. If you already have cash of a different currency to exchange, it is a pretty safe bet to use the currency exchange counters- sometimes they are even better than some banks- just make sure to check with their current conversion to make your decision. You can also wait until you arrive in town to find a bank, hotel or exchange shop- but you will want to have minimum 200,000 VND to pay for the taxi (and this is just the price to get to District 1, it could be more if you are going somewhere else). And you may be hungry and need some cash to eat immediately after you arrive!
Local Tip: You can also find a helpful information desk where the staff communicate well in English.
When eating at the international terminal, as noted above, the Well Wishers level is the best. There are really nice seating areas overlooking the departure level, and there are great cafe options. You can otherwise wander around the other levels to find many Star Cafes, Domino’s Pizza, Popeye’s Chicken, and Burger King. Or wait to eat once you arrive in town, and dine at one of our many suggested eateries.
Transportation (To and From Airport)
It is recommended that you contact your hotel or hostel before you fly in to set up transit from the airport. This is simply the most reliable and easy way anywhere you may go. But, if you don’t arrange this and you need to get transport after you land, it’s not difficult. Here are your options:
The easiest way is to taxi, and the cost to most places in District 1 is about 150,000 VND to 170,000 VND, which, compared to many airport transportation costs around the world, is not bad at all! To District 1 should take from 20 - 40 minutes depending on traffic.
- It’s important that you stick to the two main, commercial taxi services in Saigon. They are Vinasun and Mai Linh. They always use meters and are legitimate. You’ll see their respective logo on the sides of their taxis, and their drivers always wear a uniform. At most times of the day, there will be a cue for these taxis right outside of the arrival doors, and this is your best bet for a simple transaction. The taxi manager usually magically appears to those with taxi wandering eyes, and he will ask your destination and relay you to the next available ride. Your driver will likely not speak too much English, yet as he knows the destination, there won’t be much of a need for communication anyway. The airport exit toll fee is 10,000 VND, so don’t be surprised if the driver adds this at your arrival.
- Yes, as in many cities, there are the horror stories of taxi drivers taking a ridiculously long way to your hotel, overcharging you after they drive you to the destination, and even taking you to the wrong hotel (claiming that your place is closed). But you shouldn’t run into any of these shenanigans if you stick to Vinasun and Mai Linh.
- Just ignore the touts who may try and hassle you to their taxi, and give you a rate of 250.000/500.000 VND. Don't do it; you’re aware of the price now, so get a metered cab instead! You will also see the option to pay in advance at the ‘taxi counter’ on your way out of the airport, but it is not cheaper, since the regulated rates they offer are estimated higher than your metered rate ends up being.
Vinasun 84 8 3827 2727
Mai Linh 84 8 3838 3838
If you’re really on a budget you can always catch the public bus between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. The bus number is 152 and it’ll cost no more than 10,000 VND. (To be exact: 6,000 VND + 6,000 VND if your luggage weighs 10kg or beyond). This bus runs every 20 minutes and it will take you into downtown District 1 (the main tourist area in Saigon) to the bus stop around the roundabout from Ben Thanh market. Chances are your accommodation isn’t far from there, or if you need to you can walk into a hostel or hotel… there are tons of them in this downtown District.
You probably can’t rent a car to drive in Ho Chi Minh City, unless you have a Vietnam driver’s license. If so, you can head to the counter for the Southern Airport Corporation. It is possible to rent a car with a driver on a per day basis, usually for 1.5 million VND or so. Unless you have a specific list of places you want to see all in one day, just stick to taxis and walking!
Although there is a car park near the international terminal, as a traveler you probably won’t end up driving a car. Plus Ho Chi Minh City is a motorbike town, and you’d be pulling your hair out in a minute if you try to get around by driving a bulky automobile.
Visa On Arrival Check out the Visa On Arrival info page for more information.
You’ll get your visa sorted out at the immigration window, which you can’t miss… it’s the area with the first set of seats on your left that you’ll see after you walk off the plane.
Citizens of these countries are exempt from needing a Vietnam visa, but only for the number of days indicated. Important: They all require an on-going plane ticket though!
30 days maximum—Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Laos, and Cambodia.
15 days—Japan, South Korea, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Russia, and Finland.
14 days maximum—Brunei and Myanmar.
Airport Main Number: 08 3848 5383
There are elevators, stairs and escalators at the end of the building to get to the ground floor to find the Lost & Found and also the Storage Locker Service:
Lost & Found: located on the ground floor of the arrivals level of the international terminal, next to Popeye’s, just inside the door on the left.
Storage Locker Service Also on the ground floor of the arrivals level of the international terminal, you will see this locker service on the opposite side near Burger King. As you exit the international terminal, turn right and walk towards the end of the building. You can store your baggage for as long as you need, cost is around 23.000 VND per hour.