We just got back from another incredible Vietnam visa run/birthday trip to Taiwan and it really got us thinking about making the most of the expat situation here in Vietnam.
Chances are that if you are currently living in Vietnam as an expat, you may be doing so on some kind of short term work visa that requires you to leave the country every few months. Now, we see most people simply book a flight to Bangkok (the cheapest flight option) and then return the very same day, having not left the airport. Most people claim to do this to save money which, quite frankly, is a pretty boring excuse.
Teaching in Hanoi is a lucrative means of employment and living costs are still extremely low, so why not make the most of this, and your proximity to the rest of Asia?
Here are some ideas for Vietnam visa runs. Or, more specifically, Hanoi visa runs. All these destinations are accessible via direct flights on low cost airlines from Noi Bai International Airport and cost between $100 and $200 return airfare, sometimes less. Please remember that flight prices are dependent on time and flexibility, so it will totally depend on when you need to do your visa run.
Vietnam Visa Run to Bangkok
You can find guesthouses and hostels in Bangkok for less than $10 a night – so why not stay at least 1? We recently stayed at the Adventure Hostel which you can literally see from the Saphan Kwai BTS station gates, making it extremely convenient to get to from the airport.
Our recommendation for Hanoi expats travelling to Bangkok for a visa run is to stay near this end of town and visit on a weekend. This means you can spend your 24, 36 or 48 hours visiting Chatuchak market and Chatuchak park. Both of these places are free to visit and food in the market is cheap, varied and delicious. Plus, the shopping is fantastic with plenty of opportunities for bargains.
There are obviously a thousand and three other things to do in Bangkok but I think these tips make for a really chilled and cheap trip. Plus, there aren’t any markets of this kind in Vietnam!
Vietnam Visa Run to Ayutthaya, Kanchanaburi or Khao Yai National Park
For our July visa run and Oli’s birthday we took advantage of the cheap flights to Bangkok but then headed out of the city immediately to see more of Thailand. Within a few hours of Bangkok, on simple transport routes (bus and train), you can reach the ancient capital of Ayutthaya, the historic town of Kanchanaburi and the stunning Khao Yai National Park.
We headed to Khao Yai and enjoyed a few days of elephant spotting (unsuccessful), mountain motorbike riding and even a vineyard visit! It was so amazing to get into such a beautiful area of Thailand so easily from Hanoi.
Vietnam Visa Run to Hong Kong
Our first visa run back in May 2016 was to Hong Kong and we absolutely loved it. We only stayed for 2 nights but we fit so much in.
The one drawback for Hong Kong is that accommodation options are weak if you are on an extreme budget. But, if you travel with friends you can often find affordable (but tiny) dorm rooms and Airbnb apartments to share costs.
Our favourite cheap things to do were to take the Star Ferry between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon, watch sunset from the Kowloon Public Pier , hike up to The Peak and enjoy all the delicious food at small family run restaurants and cafes.
Did you know that Hong Kong also has one of the cheapest Michelin star restaurants? Tim Ho Wan’s is a fantastic Dim Sum restaurant with a few outposts around the island.
Vietnam Visa Run to Myanmar
This was one of the most unexpected trips we took from Hanoi. During Tet 2017 we found round trip flights to Yangon with Emirates for only $100 so we immediately bought them. We went for 2 weeks and fit in Yangon, Bagan, Inle Lake and Kalaw, but you could easily do a shorter trip for a visa run and not worry about spending too much.
Yangon itself is an amazing place to explore and if you do have a little more flexibility, then adding a couple of days in Bagan will be more than worth it.
Now that Vietjet fly to Yangon direct for as little as $80, it is even easier to explore magical Myanmar from Hanoi.
Vietnam Visa Run to Kuala Lumpur
This isn’t a visa run we’ve done ourselves but Oli did fly back from the UK via KL for 24 hours. We’ve been before but he loved exploring and eating his way through the city again.
Kuala Lumpur is fun to visit from Hanoi because it is such a huge contrast, culturally. The islamic architecture is incredible, the food is some of the best and most diverse in Asia and it is still very inexpensive. Kuala Lumpur is known as a melting pot and you can easily take in Chinese Temples, Hindu Temples and skyscrapers all in just a few days.
We’ve stayed in Reggae Mansions before which is in a great location near Petaling Jaya.
Vietnam Visa Run to Siem Reap
If you haven’t been to Cambodia then this is a visa run I seriously recommend. In just a few hours you can travel from the bustling streets of Hanoi to the temples of Angkor Wat in Siem Reap! Flights are more expensive than places like Hong Kong and Bangkok, and the entrance fees for Angkor Wat aren’t the cheapest either, but this is one of those must-see places that truly is that special.
If you only have a few days, time your flights right to make sure you can plan both a sunrise and a sunset within the Angkor complex.
Other Vietnam Visa Runs
When I checked Skyscanner’s ‘Everywhere’ feature, I also found direct flights to Jakarta and Singapore for under $200 in October.
Then, of course, there are the random deals you find when low-cost airlines have a sale. We found our Vietjet flights to Taipei for just over $120 and had an amazing time visiting 4 places in Taiwan. I’ve also seen similar deals for Seoul and Busan in South Korea.
I hope this list has shown you that your Vietnam Visa Run doesn’t have to mean watching movies and sleeping in Bangkok airport. There is a whole region of amazing destinations to explore, so start saving up a little extra cash for your next 3-month break from Hanoi.
A Da Nang guide may be coming soon…