Disclaimer: The below suggestions, opinions, and experiences are my own. Double confirm with your airline and hotel for your own personal travel needs and advice.
The fully vaccinated population of Ho Chi Minh City is over 80%, while it is 70% in Hanoi, and COVID-19 restrictions are loosening day by day across the country. Increasingly, more destinations in Vietnam are opening up for domestic travel and after a good chunk of the year spent under lockdown, I craved nothing more than to jump on a plane and enjoy some sun, sand and sea!
The good news for green pass holders (people are considered green pass holders 14 days after their second COVID-19 vaccination) is that there are many destinations that you can now travel to. For me, my partner and I visited Danang, Hoi An and Phu Quoc in November.
At that time, information was uncertain and scarce, and I had little idea of what to expect – so hopefully this article will give you that peace of mind. This is about my experience and some suggestions on how and what to prepare!
Though Da Nang, Phu Quoc and Hoi An allow quarantine-free travel, a negative test taken 72 hours needs to be presented check-in at the airline counter. For domestic travel, a hospital-verified antigen-rapid test (ART) is required.
This can be done conveniently on Vietnam’s government health app (https://vnkm.yte.gov.vn/) where you book an appointment at a hospital near you and pay online or via cash at the hospital. Alternatively, you can also enquire about ART at any one of these hospitals. After you have done the test, your status will be updated on the app.
Below are some helpful screenshots from the app which comes in both English and Vietnamese!
Double-checking with the hotel and airline
On top of getting tested, I double confirmed with our hotel and airline, at last, a week before to check the latest travel requirements. I also made sure my contact details were up to date in case they needed to get in touch with me.
At the airport
I arrived at the airport an hour and a half prior to account for any potential delays. While there, I had to present my (1) health declaration form (2) negative Covid-19 test taken 72 hours prior and (3) fully-vaccinated status on the PC Covid app. I also recommend taking photos of your vaccination papers just in case! As long as you have these 3 documents, you are good to go!
Fortunately, the airport still had much food and drink souvenir options available for those looking for a quick snack before their flight.
Boarding the flight, no documents were required. There is also no social distancing in the bus that transports you to the plane as well as inside the plane. Hence, I would recommend wearing your mask and even a face shield at all times, especially in the bus. I personally was quite uncomfortable with how close we were (shoulder to shoulder) inside the bus and was trying as much as possible not to face anyone directly.
Travelling in Danang, Phu Quoc and Hoi An
Upon arrival, things were as per normal and there were no real protocols or measures implemented (phewf!). There are still taxis aplenty waiting outside that you can quickly hop on to your accommodation of choice or book a Grab.
Staying at the Salinda Resort and Spa
In Phu Quoc, my partner and I had the pleasure of staying at the Salinda Resort and Spa in Phu Quoc. Upon arrival, we presented our ‘green pass’ to the staff the reception and were warmly greeted starting with a welcome drink, tour of the resort and personal escort by the resort manager to our villa. Seeing we checked in on a Monday and the number of guests (and tourists) on the island were very low, we basically had the entire resortand beach to ourselves.
Not only this, we also managed to get an extremely attractive deal. Our friend who also stayed at the Salinda Resort in Phu Quoc was very luckily upgraded to a villa. During this time, I also had the pleasure of enjoying a massage, breakfast and dinner at the resort’s Sicilly-inspired Italian restaurant, Il Muro, helmed by true-blue Sicillian Chef Simone.
Compared to before the pandemic, Phu Quoc is definitely a lot quieter now (unsurprisingly). Many of the restauants and local street side destinations and seafood jaunts were closed when we arrived. Hence, it is recommended to call ahead to ensure the place you want to visit or dine at is open.
Visiting Starfish Beach
From the Salinda Resort Phu Quoc Island, we visited Starfish Beach located approximately 30km away (50 minute bike ride). We had left at approximately 4pm and got there at 5pm, just in time to watch the sun set atop the stilt houses by the sea and looked at starfishes in the water. Please be mindful not to take starfishes out of the water as being out of water for even 30 seconds will kill them!
The beach itself is pristine, clean and empty. We were the only ones there. Many of the houses on stilts are restaurants so feel free to stay for dinner, enjoy some fresh seafood and coconuts after watching the sunset.
Eating and Drinking
In Phu Quoc, I highly recommend visiting Bittersweet Cocktail Bar, a trendy speakeasy bar with creative and delicious cocktails as well as Number 1 for some karaoke, poker (you play for drinks!) and fun cocktails. On the food front, do visit Hien Charcoal and Kitchen, number 39 and even Il Muro Italian at Salinda Restauant for a romantic dining experience.
Similar for Da Nang, they only required (1) fully-vaccinated ‘green pass’, (2) negative Covid-19 test taken 72 hours prior and (3) online health declaration form, in order to fly. Upon arrival in the Da Nang airport, my partner was taken to the police station to register his place of residence in the city so don’t be alarmed if this happens! It’s a standard protocol.
In Da Nang, my partner and friends stayed in an Airbnb and upon booking were not asked to show any proof of vaccination or health status. I highly recommend Airbnb, especially if you’re travelling in a big group.
In Da Nang, unlike Phu Quoc, street food jaunts, local markets and stores are aplenty and open although quieter than the city’s pre-pandemic state. Beaches are empty and best part? No 9pm curfew unlike Saigon and bars and nightlife destinations were even open till the wee hours of the morning.
Head to An Thuong, the expat area, if you’re keen to try out some of the best international restaurants and bars.
Eat in the seafood restaurants
Visit Marble Mountains
If you’re looking to stretch your legs, take a trip to the marble mountains, situated just to the south of Danang. There are tranquil temples and caves you can check out - just be careful as some of the caves can get quite slippery.
After this, have a pit stop and buy a drink from one of the stalls, then spend time in the areas sheltered by the mountain cliffs and trees. When you’re ready to go again,as you make your way up to the summit to enjoy panoramic views of towards central Danang and its beautiful beaches. All in all, about 1-2 hours is a good amount of time to spend in the marble mountains..
From Da Nang, my partner did a day trip to Hoi An, and while he did not face any difficulties or issues entering the UNESCO Heritage town, he did have to produce a negative Covid-19 test taken within the last 72 hours on the way back. So, if you want to take a day trip to Hoi An, but don’t want to have the hassle of another covid test, make sure you get there within 3 days of your test.
Like Da Nang, many stores, cute cafes, restaurants and activities are also open. So, find With almost no tourists, you will never see Hoi An like this.
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