Country Overview > Tourism > Getting around

Shop around and it is possible to find a good deal to Vietnam. If there are no obvious bargains to Hanoi or HCMC, then consider buying a discounted ticket to Bangkok or Hong Kong and picking up a flight or travelling overland from Thailand on to Vietnam. Discounted flights are available into Vietnam, but Vietnam Airlines will not allow foreign carriers to sell cheap outbound tickets from Vietnam. A ticket from Bangkok to Hanoi or HCMC costs almost half the price of a Vietnam Airlines' flight, if it’s purchased in Bangkok. This also means that for anyone planning to purchase a long-haul flight in the region, Vietnam is not the place to do it with Bangkok just a short hop away. It's hard to get reservations for flights to/from Vietnam during holidays, especially Tet, which fails between late January and mid-February. If you will be in Vietnam during Tet, make reservations well in advance or you may find yourself marooned in a regional airport along the way. The chaos begins a week before Tet and can last for about two weeks after it. Be aware that Vietnam is not the only country to celebrate the Lunar New Year, as it falls at the same time as Chinese New Year, Many people hit the road at this time, resulting in overbooked airlines, trains and hotels all over Asia.
It is possible to cross into Vietnam by bus from Cambodia or Laos. The most popular way from Cambodia is a cheap tourist shuttle via the Bavet-Moc Bai border crossing. From Laos, most travellers take the nightmare bus from Vientiane to Hanoi via the Cau Tree crossing or the easier route from Savannakhet in southern Laos to Hue in central Vietnam via the Lao Bao border crossing.
Car & Motorbike
It is theoretically possible to travel in and out of Vietnam by car or motorbike, but only through borders shared with Cambodia and Laos. However, in reality the bureaucracy makes this a real headache. It is generally easy enough to take a Vietnamese motorbike into Cambodia or Laos, but very difficult in the other direction. It is currently not possible to take any sort of vehicle into China from Vietnam. Drivers of cars and riders of motorbikes will need the vehicle's registration papers, liability insurance and an International Driving Permit, in addition to a domestic licence. Most important is a cornet de passage en douane, which is effectively a passport for the vehicle and acts as a temporary waiver of import duty.
Several international trains link China and Vietnam. The most scenic stretch of railway is between Hanoi and Kunming via Lao Cai, but the mammoth Journey from Hanoi to Beijing via LangSon is also a possibility. There are no railway lines linking Vietnam to Cambodia or Laos.
There is a river border crossing between Cambodia and Vietnam on the banks of the Mekong. Regular fast boats ply the route between Phnom Penh in Cambodia and Chau Doc in Vietnam, with a change at the Vinh Xuong-Kaam Samnor border. There are also two river boats running all the way to the temples of Angkor at Siem Reap in Cambodia.
Package tours to Vietnam are offered by travel agencies worldwide. Nearly all these tours follow one of a dozen or so set itineraries. Tours come in every shape and size from budget trips to ultimate indulgences. Tours booked outside Vietnam are not bad value when you tally everything up (flights, hotels, transport), but then again it's a cheap country for travelling. It's easy enough to fly into Vietnam and make the travel arrangements after arrival. The main saving through booking before arrival is time, and if time is more precious than money, a pre-booked package tour is probably right for you. Almost any good travel agency can book you on a standard mad-dash minibus tour around Vietnam. More noteworthy are the adventure tours arranged for people with a particular passion. These include speciality tours for cyclists, trekkers, bird-watchers, war veterans, culture vultures and gourmet travellers.