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Commercial flights yet to resume, overseas Vietnamese return via Cambodia

Flying to Cambodia and taking a long-distance bus to the border gate to enter Vietnam is now the option chosen by many overseas Vietnamese.


Overseas Vietnamese return to Vietnam via Cambodia on December 3


One Viet Kieu (overseas Vietnamese) woman told her story: “On November 29, I booked a Korean Air ticket to fly from Los Angeles to Phnom P enh at $1,140. On December 4 morning, I got onboard. There were nearly no vacant seats on the flight. I guessed that 35-40 percent of passengers were Vietnamese, because I heard the Vietnamese language.

The aircraft landed at Phnom Penh Airport at 10.50 m. After receiving luggage, passengers queued up to have samples taken for Covid-19 test, which lasted 30 minutes. Those who tested negative were allowed to go.

I finished the process at 0.20 am. Cambodia seemed to be enthusiastic towards travelers. There was the phrase ‘nothing to pay here’ at a desk. I hailed a taxi and paid $15 for the trip. Cambodian people accept the US dollar, so people always prepare small change in dollar for payment. I think Euros were also accepted.

I booked a room at a 5-star resort in the capital city, $45 per night, including a breakfast. At 10am, a Vietnamese driver carried me to the border gate and charged $80. At 2pm, I arrived at the border gate.

I hailed a tuk tuk and paid 1,000 Riel, or VND55,000, and tipped $2. I also gave $10 to a Cambodian officer at the border gate. They stamped my passport and then allowed me to pass. As I used passport and made a medical declaration, the procedure was very simple, while others had to queue up and pay fines.

When I was following procedures to enter Vietnam, border gate officers collected my passport and medical workers took samples for testing. My passport was kept and then given to the hotel where I finished the quarantine process.

As I did not book a hotel bus, I had to hail a taxi and pay $150 for a four-seat car to carry me to the hotel. The hotel charged VND1.2 million a day and I had to have samples taken on the seventh day for a PCR test. So, the total cost for returning to Vietnam was $1,800 or $1,900, or VND44 million.”

This woman is still at a hotel in Tay Ninh. The forum where she shared her story now has 10,000 members. They are from countries all over the world and they share their experiences on how to return to Vietnam. They say no to ads and to chartered flights. They help each other find the way to return home and many have successfully returned to Vietnam.

Meanwhile, Luong Hoai Nam, an aviation and tourism expert, said one of his friends was not as lucky as the woman. He had to spend VND150 million to return to Vietnam. Another friend of his had to spend VND240 million. The costs are 3-6 times higher than the amount people had to spend to take rescue flights provided by Vietnam Airlines in March and April 2020.

The question is where the money goes - airlines or accommodation facilities.

Many other regional countries have resumed international routes.

Saigontourist CEO Nguyen Huu Y Yen pointed out that many Viet Kieu want to return to Vietnam, but there are just 20 repatriation flights a month. As a result, they have to fly to Cambodia before entering Vietnam at road border gates. The flights just profit small groups of service providers. If international air routes are opened soon, the economy will get benefits.

Tran Du Lich, an economist, said that Vietnam won’t be able to reopen if it only accepts chartered flights, which are very costly.

Vietravel’s Chair Nguyen Quoc Ky said now is the time for Vietnam to reopen international flights and learn experiences from Cambodia, which has succeeded in reopening. It’s the right time to end rescue flights and replace them with international commercial flights.

Deputy Head of CAAV (Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam) Vo Huy Cuong noted that anti-pandemic measures need to be considered when reopening international air routes. How should they deal with fully vaccinated people, recovered Covid cases, and unvaccinated people with negative testing results? Should they quarantine, and if so, how long?

If state agencies require quarantine, agencies will have to negotiate with partner countries to adjust flight frequencies, depending on the quarantine and medical facilities in localities. If arrivals are not required to quarantine, there will be no need to negotiate. 

Tran Chung

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