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Immigration protocols at the Tan Son Nhat airport are the most streamlined. At the plane the only card that is issued to be filled up is the Immigration card. Past the immigration courtesy check booths and directly in front, baggages are claimed at the lower level via the escalator. Then they are put to x-ray screening. If they are released (done in 30 seconds), then off you go. No customs card to fill up and turn over to an officer, unless one brings complicated items. This is only applicable for tourist on 30 day visa and bringing simple stuff.
Exchange rates at the airport are competitive with the current rates outside and it is preferable to change money here than at the backpackers area which have touristy rates. But ask first if there's a commission fee because initially the rates are attractive but they charge 1% commission ending up what first looks like a good catch but end up the same as banks outside offer, still it is a good deal.
Tan Son Nhat (Tân Sơn Nhất) (IATA: SGN | ICAO: VVTS) is Vietnam's largest international airport. You can fly direct to SGN from Seoul, Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, Vientiane, Pakse, Bangkok, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Bandar Seri Begawan, Manila, Hong Kong, Taipei, Kaohsiung, Taichung, Nanning, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Beijing, Shanghai, Kunming, Busan, Tokyo, Osaka, Fukuoka, Nagoya, Doha, Frankfurt, London-Gatwick, Paris, Moscow, Perth, Darwin, Sydney, Melbourne, Yangon and Istanbul. There are two terminals: the shining, very pleasant new international terminal, which took over all international flights in 2007, and the old but functional domestic terminal 200 m away. The airport is conveniently located about 8 km from the heart of the city. The international terminal used to offer duty free shopping after you landed, but that ended in early 2010. Duty free items that you want must be purchased at your departing airport if you are coming into Vietnam. Both terminals have limited food offerings at double prices once you get past immigration on your outbound journey.
As of November 2011 there is a Burger King located on the upper level (departures) of the International building. They have everything priced in US Dollars and prices appear to be similar to an outlet in the US. For example a tender grill meal was $7.90. A second location outside on the departure level (pre-security) was also under construction.
When you clear customs and are about to leave the international terminal, there is a very inconspicuous ATM on the right which probably offers the best exchange rate compared to all of the staffed conversion booths that tout for your business. The withdrawal fee is 20,000 dong.
By bus from the airport
The recently introduced No. 152 non-air-conditioned airport bus is the cheapest and safe way for backpackers heading to Pham Ngu Lao St. from the airport. For 4,000 dong per person (as at Jan 2012) plus a 4,000 dong fee for bags, it will drop you off at east end of the Pham Ngu Lao area or at the bus terminal on the southwest side of the Ben Thanh Market roundabout. Upon exiting the international airport terminal, turn right and you will see the bus waiting there. If not, walk down to the domestic terminal - about a 3 min walk. Try to have exact change or you will be given coins in return which is legitimate currency but many places will not accept it.
In front of the domestic terminal across a small road, you will see the bus waiting there. There is no signage indicating where the bus stop is. If you ask any of the taxi wardens (in uniforms) they will point out the spot to stand and wait.
Note: Ignore taxi drivers that may tell you there are no more airport buses. However, the bus is only available until 6PM.
By taxi from the airport
Read carefully: Taxis at HCM airport is the worst scam, and one of the worst experiences about visiting Vietnam. By reading below and taking the best of cautions, hopefully you will not have your visit ruined right from the start!
The Saigon airport authorities have tried various systems over the years to raise money by offering a monopoly or quasi-monopoly to particular taxi companies (which of course results in higher fares for travelers.) The Vietnamese hate being gouged, however. (Probably 90% of landings at the domestic terminal and a majority at the international are Vietnamese.) Complaints and work-around resistance have tended to undermine whatever monopoly system was attempted. The result is a slow-motion cat and mouse scenario which could change over time.
When the international terminal was first opened, a company called Saigon Airport Taxi had a total monopoly, and quoted fixed triple rates to everyone (not just foreigners). That system faded within a year, and lately, all the major companies can pick up at the terminal, though a 10,000 dong airport tax is added to the fare.
At the ground floor (arrival floor) of international terminal, recommend to go upstairs 2 floor by elevator (departure floor) and can find Vinasun taxi stand at right-end terminal. or if you are light on your feet, and the options look dodgy, you can always turn right out of the terminal and walk 200 m to the domestic terminal parking lot for better selection. From airport to district 1 (downtown), the metered taxi fare around 100,000 dong and plus toll fee 10,000 dong will be added. This brings the total fare from the airport to a hotel in District 1 to about 5 USD as of September 2011.
At the domestic terminal, a company called Sasco has the airport taxi concession and is the only company allowed to pick up directly adjacent to the building. Their cars are the first you will see by the curb as you exit customs. Less expensive rivals, however, can be found usually in abundance 100 m out into the parking lot, usually they have uniformed taxi wardens who will try to capture your business as you approach. Taxi rates are very reasonable in HCMC, as long as you get a reputable company and the meter is used. Vinasun ☎ +84 8 3827 2727 and Mai Linh are the largest fleets in the city and reliably honest, with meters that start automatically after the car has moved about 5 m. See the main taxi section below for other reliable companies. When in doubt, make sure the driver agrees to use the meter, and turns it on before you get in. Choosing carefully is important, since various over-price scams target foreigners in particular, usually involving eager touts who will try to get a hold of your luggage. A dishonest driver might start driving without starting the meter, and demand a high fare or try to negotiate for a fixed price at a location where it's difficult for a tourist to hire another cab. Recomend to use taxi Vinasun or Mai Linh. If can not find these taxis at outside of domestic terminal, across road and go to right corner of parking lots (just 1 minute by foot). The airport and official airport taxi "Sasco" does not allow another taxis to pick up customers.
In lighter traffic periods (which only happens between 10PM-6AM or on a hot Sunday afternoon), the ride to the city centre takes as little as 15 min. More typically, taxis can creep along in near-standstill traffic for up to an hour. The fare from the airport to the city should range from 85,000 to 140,000 dong (not including airport tax) depending on time of day and exactly where you are going. Historically, taxi companies did not charge for time, only distance, but the dramatic worsening of traffic in recent years has caused time charges to creep in. The policy varies between companies and over time. From airport to district 1 (downtown), the metered taxi fare is generally around 100,000 dong and plus a toll fee of 5,000 dong.
In general, use caution and common sense when hiring a taxi in HCMC. When locals avoid a particular taxi service/driver, you should sense something is wrong as well. Blindly queuing for taxis may cost you, so look for the taxi wardens usually standing around the queue line (Mai Linh wardens are in green shirt green tie, Vinasun warden are in dark green shirt maroon tie), and they will radio the taxi for you. Major taxi companies are fairly honest, but if you want to avoid all stress, you could simply buy a "taxi coupon" at one of the counters after the custom declaration and x-ray at international airport terminal, next to the exchange counter.
Be cautious of taxis which resemble the above mentioned reputable companies, yet are actually scam artists. A lot of gangster taxis exist and some very closely copy names and markings of the more reputable taxi companies with very minor differences, e.g. VinasOn or VinasuM instead of VinaSUN, MEi Linh or Mai Lin or M Taxi instead of Mai Linh) To the unsuspecting visitor, they will charge outrageous fares. There have been instances of the fake cab services/drivers running off with unsuspecting, overly trusting visitor's belongings still in the taxi trunk/boot.
Caution; there are some taxis mimicking VinaSUN, even copying their phone number (written as 38 27 27 27) but omitting the prefix, that have meters that run three times as fast. This one is VinaMET. Also the same scam is going on with copiers of Mai LINH. Do not use these scammers.
Watch out for taxi touts who also dress in white shirt uniforms and brandish laminated "fixed prices" cards at 4,400,000 dong per car to the city hotels. They will be prepared to drop the price to 2,600,000 dong but it is still a rip-off. Ignore them, and stick to the metered taxis.
If you are to take metered taxi, you should change just enough amount of money (usually around US$10 is sufficient) at the airport. The exchange in the airport may charge a commission as high as 3%. Taxi drivers earn commission by taking customers to certain hotels, so be explicit about exactly which hotel you want to be driven. To trick visitors into staying at other (commission paying) hotels, drivers may come up with any kind of excuses, e.g., "no vacancy", "the circus is in town", "that hotel burned down recently" and similar stories.
Car rental service and drivers
Recently, Budget car rental became the first international car rental company in Vietnam. They offer English speaking drivers and new model vehicles. One trip to the city costs a fixed price of 140,000 dong.
Airport pick up by private car (Your Local Booking ), Vietnam Transfer Service, Saigon tourist, SATSCO counter right at Tansonnhat arrival terminal.
Departure / leaving HCMC
When you going to the airport, be specific which terminal you want to go to. International flights go from the newer international terminal (go straight). Domestic flights (to Hanoi, Danang, Nha Trang, etc) are from domestic terminal (turn left).
If you get dropped off at the wrong terminal, you'll have to dash your way to the right terminal via pedestrian walkway link 600 m away. This is not recommended, especially if you're already late for boarding.
When entering the airport, taxi drivers will add an entry fee to your total meter. This is for the airport entry fee of 5,000 dong. Don't confuse this entry fee with the "Airport Departure Tax" as international departure taxes should have been included in the price of your flight ticket. As of May 2011, going from Ben Thanh Market to the airport at noon, the total fare is 100,000 dong using the green and white metered taxis (VinaSun and Mai Linh).
If you take a bus, you will end up at one of the following bus stations:
Cho Ben Thanh Bus Station - This is right in the centre of HCMC, in walking distance of the tourist sites and accomadation
Mien Dong Bus Station - Buses heading north leave and arrive here. You can take bus No.19 from Cho Ben Thanh Bus station to here.
Mien Tay Bus Station - Take bus 139 from Tran Hung Dao Street to get here.
Cholon Bus Station
From these stations, public buses in around the city will cost you about 3,000 dong.
The multitude of private tour company buses usually drop passengers off on Pham Ngu Lao just west of De Tham, giving easy access to accommodation in the backpacker area. Of course, this means that you'll have at least 40-odd people shopping for the same rooms, which can be daunting as the nearby spots get snapped up. Patience will reward those who dig deeper into the tiny alleys, which have a life of their own. The French and German embassies warn of taking Open Tour buses.
As you hop out of the bus, taxi drivers will surround you with questions "where you go?". You might be confused about your location in the city and the taxi drivers will probably try to benefit from that. You'll most likely already be in Pham Ngu Lao and when you tell taxi driver to head to the same place, he'll just go zigzag around few blocks getting easy money from you.
Bus travel is available from Phnom Penh via several different companies, at approximately US$12 per person. Visas to Vietnam cannot be obtained at the border, so have one organised before you arrive (see Cope). Capital Tours operates a popular bus line from the Capital Guest House in Phnom Penh that takes passengers to the border, then after securing visas, passengers board a partner Vietnamese bus to continue travel to HCMC
The train station GA Sai Gon  is on Cach Mang Thang Tam (CMT8) northwest of the city centre, and is a short taxi or public bus ride away from the main hotel districts. An official train ticket office is located in the "backpackers district", at 275C Pham Ngu Lao.
There are five daily departures from Hanoi along the Reunification line. Altough several of the trains are called "express", all journeys take 30-35 hr. The fastest train is SE3 departing from Hanoi at 11PM and arriving at 5AM two nights later. However, SE5 with a departure time of 3:45PM (arriving 4:40AM) has higher-quality tourist carriages run by private company Livitrans  attached to it. Ticket prices are from 1,008,000-1,547,000 dong for standard carriages and double that for the tourist ones.
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