The upcoming National Reunification Day – May Day holiday (April 30-May 1) this year falls right after the weekend, so most people will have four whole days off work, prompting many families to either go back to their hometowns for a family reunion or travel to kick off the summer.
Out of seats
Having expected the rocketing demand for travel in the long holiday, transport providers tried to expand their services to prepare, but the situation is close to breaking point.
Saigon Station Director Do Quang Van told the Thanh Nien (Young People) newspaper on April 26 that the station increased the number of trains by 30 percent, or 13,000 seats to the same period last year. However, trains running from HCM City to tourist destinations like Phan Thiet, Nha Trang or Quy Nhon on April 27 and 28 had only few dozens seats left as of April 26.
Hanoi Station was in no better condition. A quick check on the online ticket selling site of the Vietnam Railways showed that four out of five trains bounding for HCM City were fully booked while there were just a dozen seats still available on the last remaining. Trains heading to Lao Cai province, where Sa Pa is located, were completely out of tickets.
This has occurred despite the fact that Hanoi Station is running an extra of 29 trains, providing an additional 6,804 cabin beds and 8,368 seats.
Ho Chi Minh City’s Western Coach Terminal Deputy Director Dang Nguyen Nguyen Huan said that the two biggest coach companies in the city – Phuong Trang and Thanh Buoi – have so far sold more than 55,000 inter-provincial bus tickets for the three supposedly busiest days from today to Sunday.
The number did not take into account smaller coach companies also operating at the terminal.
“Passengers won’t be able to find a vacancy online now, but if they come to buy the tickets directly at the terminal, there might be some left,” he said.
There are yet reports on how Hanoi’s coaches are coping, but the city’s Department of Transport has already prepared some 600 stamp licences for extra coaches running specifically for the holiday. Accordingly, Giap Bat Station is expected to have an additional 230 coaches, while Gia Lam and My Dinh stations will add 70 and 225 coaches, respectively.
Aviation traffic is also reaching its utmost capacity. Air tickets to tourist hotspots like Phu Quoc and Nha Trang almost ran out of seats this week, with some particular flights by the flag carrier Vietnam Airlines selling all but business class seats.
A representative of the low-cost carrier Jetstar Pacific said that the airline has increased the number of flights by about 30 percent compared to the same holiday period last year, but is far from meeting demand.
Jetstar’s flights from HCM City to Phu Quoc, Da Nang or Quy Nhon are only a few seats short from being full, he said.
“It is extremely difficult for passengers buying tickets at the moment,” a Jetstar Pacific representative said.
Car rents surge
Many families tried to steer clear of the overwhelming mass transport, opting to rent their own cars instead.
But with demand for car hire skyrocketing ahead of the holiday, prices in HCM City and Hanoi have shot up.
In HCM City, car rental companies such as Gia Dinh Viet in Tan Binh district and Huy Thang Auto in District 1 have raised their daily rates from 700,000–800,000 VND (31-35 USD) to 1–1.2 million VND, depending on the size and model.
Many customers began scouting for cars as early as March.
“We have a lot of customers placing orders with us two weeks in advance, since many want to go on a four-day trip. We prioritise frequent and regular customers, but we do try to provide for everyone,” an owner of Auto Huy Hoang Car Rental said.
Many operators have no more cars to let out.
Others have put customers on a waiting list without a guarantee that they will receive a car, and are urging them to put down deposits sooner rather than later, warning rates could increase further.
Some car rentals in Hanoi are only allowing customers to rent cars for all four days of the holidays, and some customers have had to do so despite only traveling for two days.
As families look forward to visiting relatives or sightseeing, most have had to pay higher rates to avoid traveling on crowded buses.
Some are even choosing to travel by taxi. Dang Le Minh said he has booked a seven-seat taxi for 1.8 million VND to go from Hanoi to Thanh Hoa province.
While it is more expensive than renting, he said he does not have to worry about driving or looking after a rented car.
Several tourism companies reported that most of their tours during the holiday are fully booked, with beaches in Da Nang, Phu Quoc, Ha Long and Nha Trang being the most attractive destinations besides cooler mountainous places like Da Lat and Sa Pa.
Without booking at least a month in advance, last-minute tourists will struggle to find decent accommodation at those destinations for the holiday. Five-star resorts in Phu Quoc or Nha Trang all announced full reservation, as did several cheaper hotels, motels and homestays in Da Lat, and beaches close to HCM City such as Vung Tau and Mui Ne.
Thanh Nien newspaper also reported a spike in hotel prices, particularly in Da Nang where the much-awaited annual firework competition is set to open on April 30. Hotels and resorts of four to five stars are now charging between 5.5 million VND and 8 million VND per night, an increase of two to three times compared to normal prices.
Two-star hotels, meanwhile, had their prices rise from the usual 500,000 VND to 1.2-1.5 million VND a night.
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