Most regional airlines connect with Ho Chi Minh City, including Malaysian Airlines, Thai Airways, Bangkok Airways, Silk Air/Singapore Airlines, Lao Aviation, Garuda Indonesia, Philippine Airlines, United, and Cathay Pacific (from Hong Kong). Vietnam Airlines usually has the best fare, thanks to government controls. If you're flying to Vietnam directly from North America, check with United flights or with Cathay Pacific for good fares and itineraries. Domestically, Saigon is linked by Vietnam Airlines flights from Hanoi, Hue, Danang, Hoi An, Nha Trang, and Dalat.
At the airport in Saigon, you can change foreign currency for VND, but taxi drivers to town don't mind payment in U.S. dollars. Arranging a hotel limousine to greet you will certainly make life a bit easier, but taxis are aplenty outside the arrivals hall. You can also book a taxi at the airport taxi booth just beyond the baggage claim area; the trip to town is around 180,000 VND for a regular taxi or 200,000 VND for an SUV/van taxi. There is a small tourist information booth near the airport exit, but for now it has just a scant few hotel pamphlets. You can contact the airport lost and found at tel. 08/3844-6665, ext. 7461.
In town, the Vietnam Airlines office is at 116 Nguyen Hue, District 1 (tel. 08/3824-4482), or call their reservations office, which is at 49 Truong Son St., Tan Binh District (tel. 08/3832-0320). Just about everyone in town, from the many traveler cafes to hotel front-desk staff or concierge, can book your onward domestic flights on Vietnam Airlines.
To get to town from the Tan Son Nhat airport, taxis wait in front of the arrivals area. If you didn't book a taxi at the taxi booth , stick with established companies. For a fun ride in style, look around at the airport for the few old white Peugeot taxis that still roll around town; the price is the same, but the ride is slow and you'll feel like a khaki-clad colonial. The ride to most locations in District 1 should be no more than 90,000 VND. To get to the airport from town, contact any hotel front desk to arrange the fixed 80,000 VND fare from most locations in District 1. Departure taxes are included in the price of air tickets. Below is the contact information for all airlines in Ho Chi Minh City: Air France, 130 Dong Khoi, District 1 (tel. 08/3829-0981); Asiana Airlines, 34 Le Duan, District 1 (tel. 08/3822-2622); Austrian Airlines, 9 Dong Khoi, District 1 (tel. 08/3829-7117); British Airways, 170-172 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia, District 1 (tel. 08/3822-2262); Cathay Pacific Airways, 115 Nguyen Hue, District 1 (tel. 08/3822-3203); China Airlines, 37 Ton Duc Thanag, District 1 (tel. 08/3911-1591); China Southern Airlines, 21-23 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, District 1 (tel. 08/3823-5588); Eva Air, 19 Nguyen Hue, District 1 (tel. 08/3822-4488); KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, 130 Dong Khoi St., District 1 (tel. 08/3823-1990); Korean Airlines, 34 Le Duan, District 1 (tel. 08/3824-2878); Lufthansa, 14/F 19-25 Nguyen Hue, District 1 (tel. 08/3829-8529); Malaysia Airlines, 37 Ton Duc Thang, District 1 (tel. 08/3829-2529); Qantas, 170-172 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia, District 1 (tel. 08/3930-2944); Singapore Airlines, Ste. 101, Saigon Tower Building, 29 Le Duan, District 1 (tel. 08/3823-1588); Thai Airways, 29 Le Duan, District 1 (tel. 08/3829-2810); United Airlines, 29 Le Duan District 1 (tel. 08/3823-4755); and Vietnam Airlines, 116 Nguyen Hue, District 1 (tel. 08/3832-0320).
Warning: Scam Alert -- If you go with a taxi driver, even a metered one, from the airport in Saigon, watch out for the hotel bait-and-switch scam. Drivers get commissions for leading tourists to one hotel or another, and they commonly insist that the hotel you're going to is full, has closed, or has some other problem. The driver will pull a dour face and even sound pretty convincing as he tries to take you to his friend's hotel. Sit tight until you're at your intended destination. It might help for you to agree in writing where you're going before setting out. Important: Go with established companies when going by metered taxi (choose yellow Vina Taxi, red Saigon Tourist Taxi, or white Mai Linh Taxi), as many small operators have rigged meters.
Saigon is the hub of transport in the south, and all bus lines pass through here. Saigon is the terminus of the "Open Tour" Ticket for budget bus tours, and Saigon's many traveler cafes that line the streets of the Pham Ngu Lao budget travel area are your best bet for convenient onward travel by road, whether by air-conditioned bus or minivan.
Tourist buses also connect Saigon by road via the Moc Bai border crossing with nearby Cambodia. The all-day ride leaves daily in either a minibus or a large air-conditioned coach from the De Tham-area tourist cafes. From Cambodia to Saigon, contact the likes of Capitol Tours in Phnom Penh (or any other budget tour office).
Local buses are, as anywhere in Vietnam, a bit harrowing, but Saigon's bus stations are the most organized and offer myriad routes out from this central hub. Also be sure to leave from the correct bus station (there are three) for your destination.
Mien Dong Bus Station (292 Dinh Bo Linh Rd., Binh Thanh District; www.vexe24h.com) has services to the north of Vietnam, including to the Central Highlands and Phan Thiet. Mien Tay Bus Station (395 Kinh Duong Vuong Rd., Binh Tan District; tel. 08/3877-6594) serves the Mekong Delta to the south. Cholon Bus Station (84 Trang Tu Rd., District 5) connects with nearby towns in the Mekong Delta, as well as west toward Cambodia and the town of Tay Ninh.
For safety reasons alone, if you're renting a car, I suggest that you book a minivan with a tour or arrange a car with driver. Self-driving is possible, but chaotic roads and shoddy insurance can mean some major hassles. Contact any hotel front desk for arrangements. Many of Saigon's hotels are run by the massive government-run Saigontourist, and they offer lots of affordable in-town and regional tour options by private car.
Saigon is the southern terminus of the Reunification Express, Vietnam's north-south rail connection. Ga Saigon, or the Saigon station, is in District 3 at 1 Nguyen Thong St. Bookings can be made at the convenient Saigon Railway Tourist Service Co. in the backpacker area at 275C Pham Ngu Lao St. (tel. 08/3931-2828). The office is open from 7:30am to 8pm, and they're a pretty surly bunch, but you should find English-speakers in the group. Most popular from Saigon is Nha Trang (about 6 1/2 hr.; 316,000 VND), Danang (13 hr.; 665,000 VND), Hue (14 1/2 hr.; 753,000 VND), or all the way to Hanoi (31 hr.; 1,125,000 VND). Prices above are for the fastest trains and comfortable, air-conditioned sleeper berths; budget options are the hard-berth sleepers with six to a car or the masochistic hard seat. Vietnamese trains are quite efficient and a good way to meet locals.
Check out the unique options to connect by boat from Phnom Penh or Chau Doc in the Mekong Delta. One option is the weeklong cruise between Angkor Wat and either Can Tho or My Tho in the Mekong Delta aboard one of the luxury, shallow-draft Pandaw Cruise Boats (www.pandaw.com). Shared rooms on the vessel start at $1,034. Check with budget tour cafes in your departure city.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.