Travel to Ho Chi Minh City
Flying to Ho Chi Minh City
There are no direct flights to Ho Chi Minh City from the UK, but you can fly to Hanoi with Vietnam Airlines and take a connecting flight from there or change at other cities in the region, such as Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Frankfurt or Hong Kong. Travellers flying from the USA also need to change planes at least once. The best time to travel is during the dry season between December and March, though you may find cheaper deals at other times of year.
From London - 14 hours 35 minutes (including stopover); New York - 20 hours (including stopover); Los Angeles - 19 hours (including stopover); Toronto - 21 hours (including stopover); Sydney - 9 hours.
Travel by road
The road network throughout Vietnam is reasonable but the standard of the roads varies dramatically from good to appalling. In theory, traffic drives on the right but in practice drivers take the most direct path to avoid obstacles and oncoming vehicles. As car hire is non-existent, visitors to the country tend to go for the easiest option of hiring a car with a driver.
Emergency breakdown services
Highway 1 travels the length of the country from the very south to Hanoi. Major towns in the south of Vietnam on Highway 1 are My Tho, Can Tho, Phan Thiet and Nha Trang. Dalat is reached by Highway 20, Vung Tau by Highway 51 and the Cambodian border (Moc Bai) by Highway 22.
Buses throughout Vietnam range from fairly good to ramshackle. Some express services to Phnom Penh (Cambodia) and Hanoi are offered in relatively modern air-conditioned buses. It is not possible to book tickets over the telephone; you should go to the relevant bus station the day before to check the schedule and buy your ticket.
Buses to Dalat, Buon Ma Thuot, Nha Trang, Danang, Hue and Hanoi depart from Mien Dong Bus Station, on Xo Viet Nghe Tinh in Binh Tan District. Call 1080 for English-speaking operators who can provide information on coach timetables.
Regular buses to Cambodia, operated by Saigon Passenger Transport Company (tel: +84 28 3854 6110; www.saigonbus.com.vn), depart from 309 Pham Ngu Lao Street for the seven-hour journey to Phnom Penh.
Time to city
From My Tho - 1 hour 30 minutes; Vung Tau - 2 hours 10 minutes; Cambodian border - 2 hours 30 minutes; Phan Thiet - 4 hours 20 minutes; Can Tho - 3 hours 20 minutes; Dalat - 6 hours 30; Nha Trang - 8 hours.
Travel by Rail
Travelling by train on the route north from Ho Chi Minh City is picturesque, but trains are the slowest form of transport, with express services not living up to their name. As yet there are no rail passes available and it is advisable to book tickets as far in advance as possible. Soft class has seats with padding and four-berth cabins with thin mattresses, as opposed to hard class, which has wooden slatted seats and six-berth wooden berths.
The Vietnamese railway company is Duong Sat Vietnam (tel: +84 024 3942 5972; www.vr.com.vn). It is better to go to the station however, at 1 Nguyen Thong, District 3, to buy rail tickets. There is one major route in Vietnam from Ho Chi Minh City, via Nha Trang, Danang and Hue, to Hanoi.
From Hanoi - between 32 and 36 hours; Hue - between 18 and 21 hours.