International flights to/from Vietnam arrive and depart from three airports: Noi Bai Airport in Hanoi (north), Da Nang Airport (central), and Tan Son Nhat Airport in Ho Chi Minh City (south). Few international flights service central Vietnam, other than those from Singapore and Cambodia. Most visitors fly into Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City and then travel by train, bus, or domestic flight to their desired destinations. Throughout the country are dozens of smaller airports serviced by domestic carriers like Jetstar and Vietnam Airlines. The latter has domestic flights to more than 20 destinations. Domestic flights are surprisingly affordable, especially when booking directly from an airline’s website.
It is recommended to avoid public buses since they are crowded, uncomfortable, make multiple stops, and usually arrive/depart on the outskirts of town. The only benefit of using the public bus system is that it is the most affordable way to travel. Catering to travelers, the “Open Tour” option has comfortable buses that run between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, with stops in most cities along the way. Ticket price is based on the route, but fees are reasonable and cost about half the price of a train ticket. About a dozen tour operators offer bus service, but the most reputable are Mai Linh, Phuong Trang, and Sinh Cafe.
Traveling by boat in Vietnam is generally reserved for those who want to explore the Mekong Delta, Halong Bay, or the Perfume River. The slow pace, limited routes, and high costs make it an inconvenient way to get from point A to B. The best way to explore the Mekong Delta is by joining a river tour. In Ho Chi Minh’s backpacker district (Pham Ngu Lao), nearly every third storefront is offering full-day tours to the Delta. The same applies for Hanoi-based agencies selling tours to Halong Bay. In Hanoi’s Old Quarter, there are loads of agents offering a variety of tours that vary in price. Be sure to visit several agents to compare quotes and services before making a decision. For travel along Hue’s Perfume River, hop aboard one of the dragon boats near the bridge on Le Loi Street. A one- to two-hour round-trip costs around 209,000 VND, traveling nonstop toward Thien Mu Pagoda. Boat trips booked through hotels have inflated rates.