The domestic and international terminals at Ho Chi Minh City’s airport are separate buildings, but they are located in the same vicinity. They are spacious, modern and clean. As it is very close to the city, getting to and from the airport is affordable and quick. It takes about 30 minutes, depending on traffic.
Generally, check-in at the international terminal is quick and efficient, with a number of check-in desks. There is a large display that indicates which check-in desk to go to. We generally find that they do not open until two hours before departure.
Baggage can be wrapped at the dedicated facility.
Sometimes the security control and immigration areas can be rather slow and the area gets congested. In particular, the security control space is very limited and we’ve never seen any more than two lanes operating.
It’s worth noting that a few airlines operating internationally (including Lao Airlines) fly out of the domestic terminal, but check-in is at the international terminal! After check-in, you go to the designated gate and a bus will transport you to the aircraft.
If you need to post a letter or use the ATM machine, both are available on the landside. Several ATM machines are located outside the international terminal.
Shopping and Eating
Dining options are somewhat limited and a little on the pricey side. However, they are generally very clean and the food is well displayed.
Free Wi-Fi is widely available at the airport and in the dining areas.
A range of duty-free goods and souvenirs are available in the airside area after clearing customs and security checks. This shopping section is particularly good for buying those last minute souvenirs, lacquered goods, coffee, tea, nuts and tasty Vietnamese biscuits.
Arriving at the International Airport
Perhaps we’ve been fortunate but, during numerous trips in and out of the airport, the arrival process has been extremely smooth. Several times after arriving, there have been only a few minutes delay before going through immigration (when we already have a visa) and by the time we’ve reached the baggage claim area, the luggage has arrived. All goods leaving the terminal go through customs screening.
We’ve also used the ‘Visa on Arrival’ service and it has worked efficiently with minimal waiting time. However, other travellers have reported long delays getting a visa so, if connecting to a domestic flight, it would be wise to allow a few hours. Sometimes, we’ve noticed that travellers do not have a photograph or money for the visa, and so that, naturally, contributes to some of the delay, but there could well be other reasons.
There are hotels close to the airport but, as the city is only or six kilometres (four miles) away and taxis are cheap, travellers may choose to go into the city to experience Vietnam.
There is also a Parkson department store opposite the entry to the airport. It has an excellent range of goods, a small supermarket and a food hall that serves very tasty, quick meals. A shuttle service from the department store to the airport is available and television screens display flight departure and arrival information. It is very handy.
In front of Parkson is a Highland Coffee outlet with outdoor seating. They serve very good coffee and cakes, rather than the usual menu offering.
Getting from the Airport into the City
To arrange a hassle-free taxi from Tan Son Nhat International Airport into the city, once you have completed immigration and exited customs, look out for the small booths. Vinasun taxi company has a booth there and they are one of a handful of taxi companies unlikely to cheat travellers, so we recommend that you utilise their services. Note also that many other companies are set up with names similar to the more reliable operators.
At the booth, advise them of your destination (they usually speak some English) and pay the fee directly to them—USD and Vietnamese Dong are accepted. They will then lead you outside the building, through the masses of people, and ensure that you get into the right taxi. The journey from the airport into the centre of the city should cost around US$5-6 (as at February 2012). This will reduce your stress on arrival and, as no more money is paid to the driver, it is possible to relax and enjoy the ride into the city. Although it is possible to save a few dollars on this price, we recommend first time travellers use this method, rather than taking your chances out on the chaotic streets just outside, where there is every chance of being ripped off.
Overall, this is a good airport with a reasonably relaxed vibe.
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