Tan Son Nhat International Airport (airport code SGN) in Saigon is Vietnam’s busiest airport serving almost 40 million passengers in 2018. Passenger traffic at Tan Son Nhat Airport has increased 10 to 20% in each of the last 6 years making the airport heavily congested.
The congestion at Saigon’s international airport, and the infrastructure around the airport, has caused lots of travelers problems and has given the airport its reputation as being one of the worst airports in the region. Expansion of the airport has been delayed due to discussion among city officials whether or not to expand the airport in its current location, or build a completely new one in a different location in Ho Chi Minh City.
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Tips for traveling through Tan Son Nhat International Airport
- Expect long queues. You will need to queue up for visa, immigration and security checks. And you even have to queue up for immigration when you exit the country.
- Keep baggage tag with you when you exit the terminal as you may have to show it to match the bag with the tag.
- Take care of your belongings when you exit the facility as the airport has been plagued with pickpockets.
- Keep an eye on the gate number as it may change several times between you checking inn and the aircraft departing.
- Arrive at the airport no less than 2 hours before international departures.
- Wifi is available throughout the airport but connection speed is sometimes very slow.
Tan Son Nhat Airport has 2 terminals, Terminal 1 (domestic) and Terminal 2 (international). Be advised that when you are connecting between the domestic and international terminal, you will have to exit the arriving terminal and enter into the exiting terminal with immigration and security checks as applicable. This usually means taking your bag and re-checking it inn, unless you’re connecting with the same airline. There is a 5-minute walk between the domestic and international terminals.
Arrivals at International Terminal (Terminal 2) at Tan Son Nhat Airport
Visa and Immigration
Once the aircraft arrives, the passengers are guides directly to the immigration hall. Do not go into the immigration queue if you need a visa, even though you get on-arrival visa.
The visa processing is on the left hand side when you arrive into the immigration hall. If you have your visa approval letter, you fill out the application and queue up. It can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours to get the visa processed, depending on the workload.
Once you get the visa, you can join the immigration queue. Usually you’ll get through the immigration in less than 30 to 60 minutes once you’ve received your visa.
When you get through visa and immigration, the baggage claim area is down the escalator on the ground floor. You may be required to have your bags scanned by the x-ray machines, depending on whether they are in use or not. Keep you airline baggage receipt or tag with you as they may ask for it when you exit the baggage claim hall.
There is baggage / luggage storage desk after you exit the baggage claim area.
Getting a SIM Card on Arrival
We highly recommend you getting a local SIM card when traveling in Vietnam. We recommend Viettel as it has the best coverage of the Vietnamese network providers. For convenience, the best option may be to get the SIM card at the airport, even though you pay a bit more than in the city.
There are vendors selling SIM cards both in the baggage claim hall itself, but also on both side of the exit gate when you exit the baggage claim. Make sure to have the vendors setup the SIM card up for you to make sure it works. Check out our guide to tourist SIM cards in Vietnam
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There are ATMs in the baggage claim hall. But they will only dispense a maximum of VND 2,000,000 (USD 85) and charge a very generous commission for it. Best option is the HSBC that is on your left hand once you exit the arrival hall, between Star Coffee and Popeyes.
Getting from the Airport to the City
There is a taxi line on your left hand side as you exit the terminal, in front of Popeyes. There is a single queue for all the taxi companies but only take Vinasun or Mai Linh Group taxis. Taxi drivers at the airport at notorious for taking advantage of tourists so be careful. You may be quoted up to VND 1,000,000 for a short ride to District 1. Don’t get fooled. A taxi ride from the airport to District 1 (city center) should cost between VND 130,000 to 160,000. Never pay more than VND 200,000 (USD 8.5) and insist they use the meter. Additional VND 10,000 will be charged on top of the meter to cover the airport exit fee.
The airport is close to the city center but due to traffic, the journey may take you anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours.
Hotels near the Airport
There are several hotels, hostels and airbnb’s around the airport. The Ibis is the only name-brand hotel near the airport and is located only short walking distance from terminal 2. Other good and cheap hotel options near the airport include La Saigon Hotel and The Airport Hotel.
Departure from International Terminal at Tan Son Nhat Airport
Checking inn and Immigration
The departure hall is located on 2nd floor. All the airline check in counters are in the same hall. After checking in you will need to queue up for the immigration, even though you’re exiting the country. The immigration area can get very busy so make sure to allow for enough time to pass through. Immigration and security may take as long as 1 hour during peak hours. Business class passengers do not get you fast track through the immigration queue.
After immigration, you need to go through security check. The security check is fairly relaxed but you need to remove your shoes and separate your laptop.
Shopping and Duty-Free
There are duty-free shops at the airport but selection is limited and many of them are selling similar things such as souvenirs, coffee, and local snacks. There are souvenir stores along the corridors leading up to the gates. The price is fixed, so there is no need for bargaining.
Eating and Drinking
If you want western food, we recommend eating in front of the departure hall where you have Dominos Pizza, or one-floor down in front of the arrival hall where you got Burger King and Popeyes Chicken. It will also be cheaper than eating inside the terminal. Starbuck is located in front of the domestic terminal, a five-minute walk from the international terminal.
If you decide to eat inside the terminal you will have plenty of options, most of them local but there is a Burger King there. Most of the restaurants can be found on level 3. You get there by taking the stairs immediately after the security check.
There are small shops at every gate selling snacks and drinks to bring on the flight.
There are 4 different lounges at the international terminal at Tan Son Nhat airport; Le Saigonnais Business Lounge, Vietnam Airlines Lotus Lounge, Rose Business Lounge and Orchid Lounge. Le Saigonnais and Lotus Lounge are located on 3rd floor, near Burger King but Rose and Orchid lounges are located near gates 10-12.
Tan Son Nhat International Airport statistics
- Over 100,000 people pass through the airport each day.
- 52 airlines fly in and out of the Saigon’s international airport.
- There are almost 500 weekly flights between Saigon and Hanoi
- Tan Son Nhat serves as a hub for Bamboo Airways, Jetstar Pacific, VietJet and Vietnam Airlines.