My impression of Vietnam's largest airport: frustrations and exhaustion

By NDT   December 27, 2022 | 05:12 pm PT
My impression of Vietnam's largest airport: frustrations and exhaustion
People wait in line to perform procedures at HCMC's Tan Son Nhat Airport, January 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran
Immigration procedures are complicated and slow. Waiting for luggage is tiring and time-consuming. And airport taxi fares are unreasonably expensive.

There was a time when I traveled frequently between Ho Chi Minh City and Singapore. Although I am a Vietnamese and thus know my country all too well, I still can't help but feel frustrated with immigration procedures at Tan Son Nhat airport. If you’ve ever experienced the service at the Ho Chi Minh City airport immigration areas, you have to admit that it leaves a lot to be desired and even local travelers find it unsatisfying and frustrating. Let alone foreign tourists who come to Vietnam with their own standards.

To be clear, I would like to list all of the procedures I had to go through after my flight from Singapore to Ho Chi Minh City:

During immigration procedures, long lines of dozens of people crowded the room and there was a 2-5 minute wait time between each customer. Thus, just waiting to get the counter cost me more than half an hour. When it was finally my turn to check in, it took a long time because I have a common name and the computer needed to load data for a while. The computer the official was using was old and obsolete, which explained some of the long waiting time.

After completing immigration procedures, I then faced the "fetching your luggage" nightmare. Waiting for my luggage was so taxing. This is probably not uncommon for those who have flown in Vietnam (both on domestic and international flights). In general, everyone has to wait and there is no use wishing for the process to be faster.

When I finally got out of the airport, I couldn't catch a break because I still had to get a taxi to travel into the city. This is an unfortunate affair for those with a lot of luggage because drivers charge double for extra suitcases. This is such a disappointing situation. I travel a lot, so I know how much the ride should cost and have experience "acting tough" to avoid being charged unreasonable prices. But for tourists who travel to Vietnam for the first time, what will they think when they realize they are being "scammed" as soon as they arrive in this country?

Being aware of airport taxi rip-offs, I often walk to the domestic terminal to catch a ride-hailing car. If I only have a backpack, I call a motorbike taxi to save money. However, sometimes drivers are not allowed to pick up passengers directly at the airport, so I have to walk to the main street outside Tan Son Nhat to catch a ride. And even this part of the journey is unpleasant as moto-taxi drivers stalk me the whole way no matter how much I refuse their services.

After finally getting in a cab and catching my breath, I then get stuck in traffic jams. Let’s just say that by the time I reach home I’m completely exhausted.

But on the contrary, when I fly from Ho Chi Minh City to Singapore, all I have to do when I arrive is fill out the Singapore Immigration Declaration (SG Arrival Card) and smoothly exit the airport. All the processes there are very convenient, which makes me feel comfortable and relaxed.

Generally speaking, anyone who travels for fun and relaxation does not want to feel tired. But when the beginning of their journey is already filled with troubles and frustrations, how can tourists coming to Vietnam maintain a positive attitude? How can we persuade them to come back to our country?

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