How to Ship to and From Vietnam

Shipping To and From Vietnam - An Easy Overview

By Nick Bartlett on November 2, 2021
Vietnam has become a shipping hotspot — and for good reason, given its massive stretch of coastline and fast-expanding economy. Follow this guide to make sure your US-Vietnam shipping operation runs smoothly.

Vietnam is a hot spot in logistics today. Investor advisory company Dezan Shira and Associates claims that the country’s logistics industry alone will likely outpace their overall economic growth rate in the next few years. The Vietnamese government intends to reach a growth rate of a massive 20 percent by 2025 in the industry.

Its 3,000 kilometers of coastline and shared land borders with China and high-growth countries like Laos and Cambodia make Vietnam ideal for shipping in the ASEAN region. Not only that, Vietnam’s labor force and economic environment have made production in the country increasingly desirable.

Businesses like yours searching to take advantage of a fast-growing and affordable logistics industry in the country are going to the right place at the right time.

As a logistics business that specializes in the Southeast Asian region, we are deeply involved in local logistics in Vietnam. That’s why we made this handy guide to help you navigate some of the finer points of shipping in the region.

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What Can You Ship To and From Vietnam?

Today Vietnam has positioned itself as “open for business” to the rest of the world. It created thousands of factories and ports to encourage global trade — placing few limits on what can be shipped out and in.

Countries like the US and Vietnam have a Trade and Investment Framework agreement inked in 2007. Vietnam also became a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) that same year and trades freely with a large number of nations today.

Many of the restrictions on goods imported into Vietnam are things you might expect including:

  • Arms of all kinds, munitions, war material, and accessories.

  • Coins; banknotes; currency notes; securities payable to bearer; platinum, gold, or silver (manufactured or not); precious stones; jewelry; and other valuable articles.

  • Invisible ink, codes, ciphers, symbols or other types of secret correspondence, and shorthand notes.

  • Perishable, infectious biological substances.

  • Products made from non-Vietnamese tobacco. Cigarettes and cigars.

  • Radio transmitters and receivers and radio set accessories of any kind.

  • Radioactive materials.

However, there are some additionally country-specific regulations you may not expect for imports like:

  • Sealed tinned foodstuffs.

  • Unused postage stamps.

  • Used clothing, blankets, mosquito nets, and shoes.

There’s also a range of restricted goods in Vietnam that require extra checks by authorities before entering the country (and extra checks usually means delays FYI):

  1. Vietnamese authorities need to look into any kind of merchandise of commercial value sent for trade. That’s things like collectors’ items, stamps, art, securities, etc.

  1. The Ministry of Culture of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam also regulates all cultural objects and media entering the country. This includes paintings, pictures, books, newspapers, cinema films, photographic films, records, miscellaneous articles for the stage, all other literary and artistic productions, objects of art and sculpture, and children's toys.

Exporting from Vietnam

Vietnam does not have many bans on exports besides specific types of wood indigenous to the country. They also levy hefty export taxes on most natural resources like minerals and plant materials.

You can reference much of the above information in this 2020 report from the United States Trade Representative.

RELATED: Logistics in Vietnam: Growth, opportunities, and need-to-know facts

How Much Does It Cost to Ship to Vietnam?

For imports, Vietnam has a de minimis value on duty and tax. This means that you only have to pay duty and taxes on every package exceeding 1,000,000 VND (about $50 US) in value. 

Package value for de minimis taxes include:

  • shipping price

  • declared value of the content from customs

  • insurance placed on the item

The standard VAT rate is about ten percent but it varies depending on product category (there is also 0% and 5% VAT). Currently, most goods shipped into Vietnam without special restrictions from the US have an import tariff rate under 5-30 percent. However, increasingly goods imported that are also made by Vietnamese companies have reported higher tariffs.

Aside from tax rates, shipping rates from the US tend to be:

  • For airfreight: $25 /kg  (based on chargeable weight - 100kg)

  • For sea freight FCL : $14,000/ TEU

  • For express couriers: $60/kg

However, it’s important to remember these numbers are based on the market benchmark for 2021 and can change drastically based on market conditions.

How Much Does it Cost To Ship From Vietnam?

Vietnam is a member of the World Trade Organization and therefore enjoys competitive rates on shipments to other member countries. However, there are still costs when shipping from the region that you won’t find when shipping from other countries like China.

Notably, nations like the US have yet to grant Vietnam the coveted Most Favored Nation (MFN) trade status. That means goods shipped between the nations are not covered by the same tariff protections as other nations.

For example, a 100 percent cotton T-shirt from Vietnam might face an average 16.5 percent tax while a 100 percent polyester shirt would face a staggering 32 percent tax when entering the US.

Rates are decided depending on what goods the countries you ship to want to see in the country and which ones they don’t.

Generally, shipping rates from Vietnam to the US tend to be:

  • For airfreight: 22 USD/ kg (based on chargeable weight - 100kg)

  • For sea freight FCL: 13,500/ TEU

  • For express couriers: $58/kg

Where Can You Ship in Vietnam?

Vietnam has 44 major seaports and reportedly has a total of 320 ports including minor ports. While most services will likely ship your packages through Ho Chi Minh, there are a couple of major options that may be used depending on where you want to send your shipments.

Major ports of Vietnam

HO CHI MINH CITY (Cat Lai)

In 2018, Ho Chi Minh’s Cat Lai port reportedly handled nearly a quarter of the country’s 293 million metric tons of sea cargo. With 71 million metric tons of throughput, it exceeds the next four largest ports combined.

VUNG TAU

Situated in the Bà Rịa–Vũng Tàu Province just Southeast of Ho Chi Minh, the Vung Tau port system is made up of several ports, including Cai Mep, Phu My, Dinh river, and Ben Dam.

It has an estimated annual container volume of more than 3 million TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent unit cargo containers).

HAIPHONG

Haiphong is the main port for importers in northern Vietnam. It is currently going through an expansion to a deep-water port to accommodate larger vessels. As the primary port for the entire north of Vietnam, it has an annual container volume of more than 1.15 million TEUs.

International Airports of Vietnam

Hanoi (Noi Bai) International Airport

While Ho Chi Minh has the largest port, Hanoi’s airport, located 45 kilometers to the Northeast of the city, has the largest capacity for air shipments in Vietnam. In 2017 it reportedly handled over 700,000 tons of freight.

Ho Chi Minh (Tan Son Nhat) International Airport

Tan Son Nhat is the busiest airport in the country in terms of passenger throughput and is only located six kilometers north of downtown Ho Chi Minh City. In 2017 Tan Son Nhat is estimated to have processed more than 550,000 tons of cargo. Currently, the city is planning to build a larger airport specializing in cargo in the city in the next few years.

Who Can You Use to Ship To and From Vietnam?

While Vietnam is fast becoming a major trade hub, it is still a developing country and features a complex landscape to navigate. Packages sent via post or less established means can take a very long time to ship or even get lost.

For businesses outside of Vietnam, the best options have traditionally been express couriers like DHL, FedEx, and Maersk (Amazon does not yet have a strong foothold). There are also local couriers like Nhat Tin logistics, Vinalines, and Viettel Post (all providers for CBIP). 

If you want to try to piece your logistics together yourself, there is a wide selection of Vietnamese and overseas-based freight forwarders to choose from as well.

However, with any of the above options, you can usually expect a premium price for their services in the region. That usually leaves small and medium-sized businesses sandwiched between unreliable, cheap providers and slightly more reliable premium options. But that’s quickly changing.

Ship to and From Vietnam Quickly, Reliably, and Affordably Today

We created our business, CBIP, to provide a third option to businesses trying to grow fast. A service of the same caliber as express couriers without the massive price tags.

As a fourth-party logistics (4PL) firm, we create supply chains with unparalleled access to express couriers, forwarders, air and sea shipping, last-mile services, and warehousing. We do it by connecting with local logistics providers in our target regions focused on doing one or two things really well. Then we match them to your business based on your specific timeline, price points, and other requirements.

We'd love to provide your business with our years of experience connecting supply chains through Southeast Asia, Europe, and North America growing fast and lean businesses. Sign up today for a free, no-strings consultation and we’ll help your business with shipping in Vietnam and beyond.

About Author

Nick Bartlett

Nick Bartlett is CBIP’s director of sales and marketing. His expertise lies in marketing, supply chain management, and corporate retail experience. He honed his skills over 10+ years working across the Asia Pacific region and beyond.

Nick keeps a close eye on new markets and believes successful business operations come through value-based relationships.

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