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Vietnam has international airports at Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and Da Nang. It has good domestic flight connections, with new routes opening up all the time, and very affordable prices. Traveling by plane is cheap and fast. For longer distances it is probably the best way to get around. Vietnam Airlines is probably the best and most comfortable airline in Vietnam.
The railway is the least developed transportation infrastructure in Vietnam. Most of the network was built during the old time and since then it has not been expanded. There have been various programs for rehabilitation but the network still has many deficiencies. But, trains are undoubtedly the most comfortable way to travel overland in Vietnam, although prices are more expensive than buses. The network currently has 7 lines in operation, the main railway line is the North-South line, also known as the Reunification Express, connecting Hanoi with Saigon station in Ho Chi Minh City.
Vietnam has an extensive network of buses that reach the far-flung corners of the country. Long-distance bus services connect most cities in Vietnam, most depart early in the morning. It is important to note that average road speeds are typically quite slow, even when travelling between cities.
Boats can be taken from Phnom Penh to the Vietnamese border town of Chau Doc. Such a journey takes roughly 5 hours and includes brief stops both to exit Cambodia and enter Vietnam. Make sure you carry a few US dollars to tip the boat porters with, so as to avoid losing your luggage in the Mekong when alighting or changing boats.
Public Buses travel between the cities’ bus stations. In bigger places, you often have to use local transport to get into the city centre from there. Buses are generally in reasonable shape, and you have the chance to interact with locals.
Taxis with meters, found in most major cities, are very cheap by international standards and a safe way to travel around at night. Average tariffs are about 10000d to 15000d per kilometre. The xe om is a motorbike taxi. Getting around by xe om is easy, as long as you don’t have a lot of luggage. Fares are comparable with those for a cyclo, but negotiate the price beforehand. There are plenty of xe om drivers hanging around street corners, markets, hotels and bus stations.
Bikes are a great way to get around Vietnam, particularly when you get off the main highways. Long-distance cycling is popular in Vietnam. Hotels and some travel agencies rent bicycles for US$1 to US$3 per day, better-quality models cost around US$10. Cycling is the perfect way to explore smaller cities such as Hoi An, Hue or Nha Trang. There are innumerable bicycle repair stands along the side of the road to get punctures fixed and the like.
You will be missing a big part of Vietnamese life if you do not spend some time on a boat. Do be careful though because many boats, although seaworthy, are not designed to first world standards. Tour boats can be chartered for around US$20 for a day’s tour, but beware of safety issues if you charter a boat. Make sure the boat is registered for carrying Tourists and has enough life jackets and other safety equipment on board.
International driving licences are not accepted in Vietnam. The concept of renting a car to drive yourself is almost non-existent, and when Vietnamese speak of renting a car they always mean hiring a car with a driver. Most travel agencies and tour operators can hook you up with a vehicle and driver, but most of whom will not speak English.
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