During my time in Vietnam, I had the privilege of experiencing each of the three largest airports in the country, Hanoi, Da Nang, and Ho Chi Minh City. First a disclaimer: I have spent a lot of time in airports, and I have definite opinions about them. With that out of the way, let me say, Vietnam’s airports are not making any “best of” lists. Here’s a brief on them, from most bearable, to least.
Ho Chi Minh City: it almost isn’t fair to lump this in with the other two. The international terminal has all the modern accommodations of any other. You can get your duty free shopping done, connect to free wifi, have a burger or a latte, exchange money, etc. There’s nothing special about it, but there’s nothing wrong about it either. The domestic terminal is a little less spectacular. It’s cheaper and dirtier, but it still functions smoothly. Generally, not an unpleasant airport experience
Da Nang: this small airport in the middle of the country is mostly for domestic traffic. I flew from here to HCMC. The terminal is small, and you have to bus to a plane, but seating is ample, wifi is available (albeit spotty), and coffee and food places abound. Security is efficient. It’s not bad, it just feels old and small.
Ha Noi: my opinion of this airport cannot help but be tainted by my truly dreadful experience here. After arriving in Hanoi, one must first get a visa. Provided you have your paperwork in order, this should be a simple task. But it isn’t. Signs are misleading; lines nonexistent. One must shove through a mob of people to get to the drop-off window (far further from arrivals than the pick-up window), then push back to join the mob. While visas are theoretically processed in order, in actuality yours may be done whenever. Your name won’t be called when it is though, instead your passport will be held up to the window for all to see, in the hopes that you’re the first one to claim it. After getting your visa (which will take a while), you proceed to actual immigration. This too is a slow process. Once you’ve waited through that you can finally get your luggage. There are two baggage claims, but no signs saying which flight is on which carousal. If you’re lucky like me, your suitcase won’t appear on either. After two hours of waiting, my bag was finally found: someone else had randomly pulled it off, carried it around, and then left it by lost and found. I did a thorough inspection of the contents before taking it through customs, the one part of the airport that was mercifully quick.
In conclusion, when coming to Vietnam, fly through Saigon.