Cam Ranh airport makes bad first impression on visitors

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Tourists at Cam Ranh airport in central Vietnam

A US$9 hamburger at Cam Ranh international airport in central Vietnam has been ranked by visitors as the most expensive among airports worldwide.

Vietnamese tour guides say both Viet Kieu and foreign tourists have said that the burger, which costs around $2 at shops in Ho Chi Minh City, could set a world record.

The visitors have also complained about the prices of other food items including a bowl of instant noodle soup with an egg that costs VND60,000 or nearly $3.

Nguyen Duy Phuc, a tour guide usually stopping by Cam Ranh with his customers, said people tend to think that food prices at airports is a trivial matter while traveling, but they are not.

"Such 'trivia' make visitors uncomfortable as soon as they arrive.  They make very strong (negative) first impression that lasts very long," Phuc said in a recent report by news website VietNamNet.

Many visitors also complain about the absence of chairs in the check-in area and having to pay to sit at a nearby café.

"When the first impression is bad, it's hard to change their feelings," Phuc said.

Cam Ranh, named after a coastal town in Khanh Hoa Province, was built by the US and used as a military air base during the Vietnam War, and for many years after that by the Soviet and Russian Air Force under a rent-free treaty.

It received its first commercial flight from Hanoi in 2004 and has been serving as an international airport since 2009.

But as it is not included on any official international route, the airport gets little business apart from charter flights from Russia that started in late 2011 and seasonal flights from Seoul. Vietnam Airlines earlier this year announced plans to open a direct flight between Cam Ranh and Moscow.

The airport received 1.2 million passengers last year and many consider that this is on par with Da Nang, Vietnam's third largest airport after Noi Bai in Hanoi and Tan Son Nhat in Ho Chi Minh City.

But Da Nang airport has been enjoying more stable business with many official international routes connecting to Hong Kong, Singapore, Seoul, Guangzhou, Shanghai and Laos, besides seasonal and charter flights to China, Japan and South Korea.

Cam Ranh airport receives domestic flights from Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Da Nang, but some are also seasonal, leaving many people unable to buy a ticket for occasions like festivals.

Truong Dang Tuyen, director of the Khanh Hoa Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, said he has sent several requests since 2009 asking the Transport Ministry and aviation agencies to at least increase domestic flights to Cam Ranh, but they have not helped.

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