First Surf Trip to Vietnam After 2-Years of the Covid Pandemic

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May 2022 Travel itinerary

05:28 Departure from Ofuna Station, Narita Express

07:15 Arrive at Narita Airport Terminal 2 Station

09:30 Depart from Narita Airport Terminal 2

13:25 Hanoi – Arrival at Noi Bai International Airport

16:10 Departure from Hanoi – Noi Bai Domestic Terminal 1

17:10 Arrival in Da Nang

Up early at the morning at 4:00 am and head to Narita Airport Terminal 2. On a cool morning with a northerly breeze, I took the first express Narita Express train from Ofuna Station at 5:28 am, arriving at Narita Airport Terminal 2 at 7:15 am and headed to the departure lobby on the 3rd floor of the International Terminal.This time, I took Vietjet Airline to get to the flight to Vietnam, VJ933 at 9:30 am from Narita and arriving in Hanoi at 1:25 pm. Then, from Noi Bai Domestic Terminal 1, I will transit to Vietnam Airlines, VN165 Hanoi to Da Nang at 4:10 pm to reach my destination at 5:10 pm.

5’8 surfboard hard case bag made in Bali, internally reinforced with cardboard

Large suitcases were shipped in advance from Fujisawa City to Narita Airport at a total cost of 2,520 JPY for a 160-size suitcase. This reduced the amount of luggage carried on the day and on the morning of departure, the surfboard bag was placed on top of a small suitcase and wheeled easily to the airport with the help of the small suitcase. It would be difficult to carry a large 20kg suitcase on a train if there were even more so.

A one-way ticket on the Narita Express to Narita Airport Terminal 2 from Ofuna Station costs 2,310 JPY and a limited express ticket costs 2,390 JPY for a reserved seat (in this case, seat No. 1A in car No. 9). The total one-way fare is 4,700 JPY.

Seats can be purchased in the last row in the direction of travel. Surfboards can be placed behind the seat; up to two objects that do not exceed 250cm in total length, width and height (up to 2 metres in length) and weigh up to 30kg can be carried on JR East.

Arrival at airport.

Although vacant, international travel is still on the move.

My luggage consists of one large 20kg suitcase as checked baggage, one 15kg board bag containing two surfboards of 180 cm long x 60 cm wide x 21 cm thick, and one small 7.5kg suitcase as cabin luggage.

The large suitcase has already been shipped to Narita Airport by Kuroneko Yamato in the evening two days before departure, and its arrival at the airport has already been confirmed, so it can be picked up at the GPA Courier Service Counter (Green Port Agency Counter) on the 3rd floor of Narita Airport Terminal 2 on the same day.

In this Vietjet Air flight, most of the passengers are Vietnamese in their 20s. Among them were a few Japanese on business trips in their 50s to 60s and a few young Japanese travelling. Many of the Vietnamese had exceeded the baggage weight limit, crowding the check-in counter.

I have flown Vietjet Air several times on domestic flights in Vietnam, but this is my first time on an international flight. The plane ticket costed 880 USD for a round trip, and even after deducting the surfboard charge of 40 USD, it totaled to 840 USD (approximately 110,000 yen at the exchange rate at the time), which felt rather pricey for an LCC. The 880 USD breakdown is 7kg baggage and 20kg checked baggage for the outbound trip, plus an additional 20kg oversized checked baggage for surfboards. For my flight back to Japan, I only opted for hand baggage of 7kg and checked baggage of 20kg. Maximum surfboard length limit is 200cm x 119cm x 81cm. (As of 17 July 2022, round-trip tickets from Narita to Vietnam are available from around 300 USD).

At airport check-in, I was told that I would need to pay extra for a surfboard bag. I presented my email receipt to the ground staff and this issue was resolved.

Even just before boarding, ground staff were reviewing the limited allowance of 7kg and one item of hand luggage per person, and many people were forced to combine several pieces of luggage into one or pay excess baggage charges. This delayed the departure of flights.

I could feel the Vietnamese culture already in the cabin. I arrived in Little Vietnam before entering Vietnam. It’s an international flight, but the environment felt like a Vietjet domestic Vietnam flight.

Arrived at Noi Bai International Airport through the international terminal in Hanoi. About 2:00 pm, half an hour later than scheduled. Long queue at immigration. The immigration conditions were the same as before the pandemic. Immigration did not ask about medical certificates, health declarations, travel insurance, return tickets for the return flight home, etc.

Japanese nationals do not need a visa for up to 15 days. Therefore, I did not need to prepare any documents and waited in the immigration queue with my passport for my turn. It took 40 minutes to go through immigration.

From the date of my entry into Vietnam, PCR and rapid antigen tests for covid-19 were temporarily no longer required. Therefore, people can enter Vietnam as they did before the pandemic outbreak. No health declaration or negative covid-19 certificate is required. What you need is travel insurance with coverage of at least 10,000 USD which covers any bills related to the covid-19 infections. The overseas travel insurance for this trip was purchased from H.S. Insurance’s ‘Net Overseas Travel Insurance Tabitomo’ for 5,480 JPY for the period of 14 days.

However, there was no confirmation of travel insurance upon entry to the country. I had also downloaded the Vietnamese health system app called PC-Covid on my smartphone, just in case, but this was not necessary either.

Took the escalator downstairs and waited for checked baggage at the front of the conveyor belt. The surfboard was already on display at the end of the line, but it took one hour and ten minutes from arrival in Hanoi for the suitcase to appear. I had two and a half hours to prepare for my connecting domestic flight in Hanoi.

The 30-minute delay of the international flight and the 1 hour and 10-minute wait for the suitcase have already resulted in a loss of 1 hour and 40 minutes of time. There is only 50 minutes left before the domestic flight transfers.

As I left the Noi Bai International Terminal, I waited for the free shuttle bus to the domestic terminal on the pedestrian walkway at the ‘median strip’ on the right side of Noi Bai International Terminal, number 16, where the taxis are lined up. I was the only one who didn’t get on the first bus because there were already people waiting for the bus.

I then waited for the shuttle bus to go round and come back. I was convinced that I would not be able to catch my scheduled flight to Da Nang here. I then boarded the free shuttle bus which came back and took me to the domestic terminal.

The domestic Vietnam Airlines ticket cost 5,800 JPY + LOTUSMILES 9,800 miles + 1,500,000 VND for large surfboard luggage, for a total of approximately 14,800 JPY + 9,800 miles for a one-way flight. From the beginning, this ticket included 12kg of cabin baggage and one checked baggage item up to 23kg. In addition to this, a prepaid baggage allowance of 280,000 VND + VAT (1,620 JPY at the exchange rate at the time) for one piece of luggage for a surfboard bag up to 23kg was purchased online in advance. On the day of the flight, passengers pay a large baggage fee of 1,500,000 VND + VAT (8,990 JPY at that time) at the airport counter.

Oversize baggage fees cannot be paid in advance. So, I pay at the airport counter on the day of the flight. Additional baggage fees can be paid online in advance for a significant discount, so buy pre-paid baggage according to the weight in advance from the Vietnam Airlines website. The oversize baggage size is the sum of the three dimensions of the baggage, which is between 203cm and 330cm.

Arriving at Noi Bai domestic terminal. The domestic terminal in Hanoi was the busiest ever. A huge crowd. There was only about 20 minutes to my scheduled flight already and I knew I wouldn’t be able to get on.

Ten minutes later, a crew member announced at one point to say to the waiting crowd, ‘You can’t board.’ I had to go to the ticket counter to change my flight.

At the Vietnam Airlines ticket counter, I was able to change to a flight that was delayed by one hour. Paid the difference of 654,000 VND.

I then queue up in a line where I don’t know where the end of the line is. The Vietnamese would sidle in and I would tolerate it, and the Vietnamese behind me would tell me that I shouldn’t let them sidle in.

I was in the queue for about 40 minutes, but time was running out and I was shown to the priority check-in counter.

After that, I was accompanied by Vietnam Airlines ground staff. At the priority security check gate, I was given priority by skipping all those in waiting. They were then urged to the boarding gate to run.

And as a result, the last one to board the plane. In a crowded case like this one, it is calculated that it takes four hours to change planes.

Domestic flights were flown from Hanoi to Da Nang by Vietnam Airlines, arriving in Da Nang for the first time in two years.

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