Da Nang is somewhere we had never heard of let alone thought of visiting; however given the fact Nigel’s daughter had moved there between Christmas and New Year we wanted to take the opportunity to visit her, check out where she was living and experience some Vietnamese culture. We hadn’t had the chance to visit Vietnam whilst in nearby Cambodia previously and with a couple of weeks off work, we took to researching the best and most affordable way to get there.
First stop was the trusty flight search page Skyscanner to check out flight prices to Vietnam. To fly to Da Nang directly for the dates and times we wanted to get there were in excess of £800 each which was just too much so time to search for alternatives! Searching various routes it appeared the cheapest flights to the area were from Heathrow to Bangkok with Air China; we had flown with them before it was ok, food wasn’t great but it got us there in one piece! After quite some time of searching looking at combinations of flight times, layovers and connection times we eventually found one which was reasonable at £316 each; this involved a 5-hour stopover in Beijing on the way out and a 15-hour layover overnight on the way back in Beijing. We had gone a very similar route to Phuket a couple of years ago and were now more confident that we would figure out how to leave the airport!
Prior to booking the Air China flights, we needed to check it was doable to get to Da Nang from Bangkok and it was! Air Asia flew from Bangkok to Da Nang for £50 each including bags and seat selection which was quite reasonable. Unfortunately, flights back were not so cheap; it was unclear exactly why but it was nearer £150 each to fly back to Bangkok so playing around with dates we decided to check out Ho Chi Minh to break up the trip and see a little more of Vietnam. It was £40 each with bags to fly to Ho Chi Minh from Da Nang with Vietjet and we could get an Air Asia flight back from Ho Chi Minh to Bangkok for £40 also. So far this was looking like a lot of flights but with the smaller flights between Bangkok and Vietnam and within Vietnam these only took on average 1-2 hours so not so bad..We had also been through Bangkok before but never actually left the airport so decided to try and incorporate a couple of days there somewhere in the trip.
I would be lying if I said the above was a quick process..it wasn’t. We had a lot of different routes and times to decide on which got very confusing but eventually we came up with a schedule and went ahead and booked. For our Air China flight it was actually cheaper through Opodo so we booked it through there. A final schedule booked and this is what our trip looked like:
Day 1 – Departing London Heathrow on an evening flight
Day 2 – Arrive in Beijing 5 hour layover and then on to Bangkok arriving just before midnight – Overnight hotel in Bangkok
Day 3 – Fly from Bangkok to Da Nang arriving at 6pm.
Day 4 to 10 – Da Nang
Day 10 to 13 – Ho Chi Minh
Day 13 to 16 – Bangkok
Day 16 – Return flight from Bangkok to Heathrow via Beijing
Our return back to London Heathrow had an overnight stop in Beijing. I asked Air China for a transit hotel which they provided free of charge with no questions. Due to the fact we were arriving early hours of the morning with a flight the next afternoon, this would give us a chance to do some sightseeing if we wanted to. In total we booked 7 flights however we hoped we had enough of a break at each destination it wouldn’t feel too rushed.
For each destination, we booked accommodation through Booking.com. In Vietnam, it was very reasonable at less than £20 a night. It was slightly more in Bangkok at £25 per night. For all of the accommodation options, we selected payment on arrival which allowed us to spread the cost. All of the accommodation we chose had excellent reviews and except Ho Chi Minh and our first night in Bangkok had swimming pools; a welcome addition with temperatures expected to be around 30 degrees. We also booked places with breakfast included for all our stays.
With each leg, we checked with the accommodation whether or not they would provide airport transfers or how they advised we could get there. The majority organised transfers for us except for Da Nang who advised that a taxi could provide a cheaper service.
Vietnam uses the Dong (VND) for which £33 is around 1 million dong!! From the advice given we decided to take some currency with us to Vietnam; it appears that money is used more than card payments and ATM’s are not easy to come by, and when you do find one it doesn’t always work.
Thailand uses the Baht (THB) with £1 approximately 40 THB. We also took some currency for Thailand but were more hopeful we would be able to locate somewhere that would take a card or an ATM due to previous experiences!
China’s currency is the Yuan (CNY) and 1 Yuan is approximately 11p. We also took a small amount of Yuan with us for incidentals but felt that we would also be ok to draw money out here.
We did not need to purchase any visas for Vietnam, China or Thailand for the amount of time we spent there. We knew from our previous visit to China that we could get a transit visa which would allow us to leave the airport. Both Vietnam and Thailand allowed us to visit visa-free although you are required to provide details of landing and departing at the borders. We checked all this out on the following pages:
Immunisations and Vaccinations
We checked out the areas we were planning to visit and all were classed as malaria-free. There were recommendations for typhoid and yellow fever and being up to date with tetanus and polio however we were up to date with everything we needed. I also checked out this site which tells you the latest information:
So with a rigorous itinerary and military planning, we were set! follow the next few posts to see how things work out…
Carol & Nigel