Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) Airport lies 7km northwest of the city.
Arriving in Asia can be quite a culture shock for travellers who haven’t visited the region before. However, on arriving at Ho Chi Minh City Airport for the first time I was pleasantly surprised at how modern the airport terminal is and how the ground vehicles all looked new and efficient. This country was not going to be as poor as I’d anticipated.
A Vietnam Visa is required so we had arranged ours in London before flying to HCMC. However, it is also necessary to fill in an arrivals-departure card. On some incoming flights this card is distributed onboard otherwise you’ll need to get hold of one in the arrivals lounge before joining the queue to pass through immigration.
The immigration officers are all dressed in full military uniform with their green caps lying on the desk as you approach. They are quite meticulous in checking your paperwork so make sure you’ve filled in the arrival-departure card correctly. If everything is in order they’ll stamp your passport and you can then proceed to collect your luggage. Any mistakes and they’ll send you back to correct them. Strangely your luggage will then be x-rayed before you pass through to the public arrivals area. I’ve never had my luggage x-rayed on entering a country before.
To our surprise (and relief) this public arrivals area is empty as non-travellers aren’t allowed inside (a flashback to arriving in Kathmandhu a few years back terrified me!). This gives you time to exchange money at the foreign exchange desk where the official rate was $1US = 15,900 Dong (in fact this was the rate everywhere including the hotel reception). Another excellent service allows you to book a taxi into the city from an official taxi desk. This couldn’t be easier. You tell them where you want to go, they charge you 80,000 Dong ($5US) and someone takes you to a waiting taxi outside. No hassle at all.
If you want something even cheaper there’s an airport bus which runs into the city every 15 minutes from outside the international and domestic departure lounges.