Vietnam's days as a pariah state, cut off from the rest of the world are long gone. Today the country boasts numerous land crossings with all of its neighbours and international flight connections to Australia, Cambodia, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Laos, Malaysia, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and the USA (among others). You can also enter by boat from Cambodia and by train from China.
You'll need a passport with at least six months validity to enter Vietnam.
The vast majority of foregn tourists enter Vietnam on a tourist visa. This visa must be issued before arrival and the typical visa is valid for 30 days. Depending on the consulate that issues the visa it begins to expire from the day it is issued, so it is a good idea to get your visa as close as possible to your intended arrival date. Extension of Vietnamese visas is possible once you are in Vietnam.
Nationals of Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand do not require a visa if they plan to stay no longer than 30 days in Vietnam.
Nationals of Denmark, Finland, Japan, Norway, South Korea and Sweden do not require a visa if they plan to stay no longer than 15 days in Vietnam.
Vietnam has two hub international airports, Noi Bai Airport in Hanoi and Tan Son Nhat Airport in Ho Chi Minh City. A third airport, Da Nang Airport, in Da Nang, accepts a far smaller number of international flights. Over a dozen other domestic airports are scattered across Vietnam.
Vietnam Airlines is Vietnam's national carrier. It has a comprehensive domestic network and a growing international one. Jetstar is the second domestic carrier with a more limited network.
You'll almost invariably get a better rate for a long haul fare shopping around online, but traditional agents are still worth a try -- if you haven't already, give our story on getting a cheap airfare to Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam a read.
While a lot of international airlines fly into Vietnam, Bangkok and Singapore remain the main gateways. If you're coming from further afield, for example Europe or North America, it often works out more cost effective to purchase a long-haul ticket into one of Southeast Asia's hubs and then continue on to Vietnam with a budget carrier.
Air Asia flies from Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok to Hanoi, while both Tiger Airways and Jetstar fly to Ho Chi Minh City from Singapore. If you're checking with online agencies like Kayak.com, the airport codes you'll be needing are below, though note very few international airlines serve Da Nang:
Da Nang: DAD
Ho Chi Minh City: SGN
There are two crossings in Vietnam which involve trains, both with China, but only one of them has a train on each side of the border. The Dong Dang crossing, just over 160km from Hanoi can be reached by train from Hanoi, with the trainline continuing on into China, running north eventually to Beijing. There is a thrice weekly train between Hanoi and Beijing. The Chinese side of the border is the town of Ping Xian. While you can buy a through ticket to Beijing in Hanoi, it is cheaper just to buy the ticket to Dong Dang, take a xe om over the border and buy a new ticket in China (at a reduced rate).
The second train crossing is at Lao Cai (near Sapa) in northwest Vietnam, the Chinese town of Hekou is on the other side of the border. There is no train on the Chinese side though, so you need to arrange alternative transport onwards into China.
The budget travel & cheap tours in Vietnam 2007 - 2013