By Cynthia Drescher. Photos: Getty.
It changed Anthony Bourdain's life and is home to one of the best coffees in the world, but Vietnam isn't always a destination with affordable airfares. Until now. Several airlines, like ANA and China Airlines, have round-trip flights between the U.S. and Vietnam on sale for under $600 right now, knocking a few hundred dollars off the usual price. Travelers will find the sale tickets available from Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, and Seattle to either Ho Chi Minh City, in the south, or Hanoi in the north.
The deal only gets sweeter, too: Airfares, like $530 roundtrip from Chicago to Hanoi, or $515 from SF to Ho Chi Minh City are available for travel from the end of August clear through late February, 2018. Hanoi is the nearest major city to the scenic must-do destination of Halong Bay, which we think is best visited in the winter anyway.
Before fantasizing about all the bánh mì sandwiches and steaming bowls of phở you're going to devour, keep in mind that visiting Vietnam requires a little extra preparation both in advance of travel and when you finally land, in the form of securing an on-arrival visa which takes up an entire passport page.
How to book: Head over to Google Flights and search your preferred departure airport to either Ho Chi Minh City (SGN) or Hanoi (HAN). Keep in mind that deals to Vietnam are best found for travel this upcoming autumn and winter, so using the Google Flights "flexible dates" calendar view can help you narrow down your trip to the lowest possible airfare, which will appear in green.
Once you're all booked, you'll still need to secure the aforementioned tourist visa to Vietnam. Luckily the country backed away from raising their visa fees earlier this year, and it's still possible to pre-arrange for your visa online and order the mandatory "approval letter" through the Vietnam government's on-arrival-visa website. Fill out the form with basic information about you and your trip, pay $17 for a single-entry, one-month visa or $25 for a single-entry, three-month visa online, and a digital copy of your approval letter to visit Vietnam will arrive in your email in a few days.
Then, prior to your trip, have passport photos taken, as you'll need two to complete your visa. Finally, have a printed copy of your approval letter, your two passport photos, your passport (with at least one completely blank page), and $25 cash in American dollars as a "stamping fee" ready to hand over at the visa-on-arrival counter, which is located just prior to going through immigration at Vietnamese airports. Costs vary for larger groups and if you need a multi-entry visa, but all of that information is also spelled out on the official visa website.
Race you to an icy glass of Cà Phê Sữa Đá (that's Vietnamese iced coffee) on the terrace of the Hotel Metropole?
This story originally appeared on Conde Nast Traveler.
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