<updated July 20, 2016>
Is it possible that I hyphenated my title for alliteration? You’ll never know for sure!
This is the first in a series of posts I will be writing about my experiences with getting travel visas. In this post, I will go through both processes of getting a tourist visa in Vietnam. The great news is that getting your visa for Vietnam is super easy!
First thing, are you going only to Phu Quoc? If so, you do not need a visa! Phu Quoc is a special economic zone that foreign citizens can enter visa-free for 30 days! Otherwise, this map will help you determine if you need a visa or qualify for visa-free entry. I love Vietnam and visited 4 times in 2015, so I am rather jealous of citizens from the countries that have this agreement with Vietnam.
edit 07.21.2016 – This map is no longer accurate. As of July 1, 2016, Vietnam changed their policies on 15 day visa free for citizens of the UK and very possibly other regions as well.
Similar to Cambodia, Vietnam also gives the option of either a Visa on Arrival or Advance Visa. Each of my trips, I have used the same service for my arrival visa but I understand that for families with small children especially, the advance visa is much more convenient.
Visa on Arrival
This method is only available to travelers who will be flying into Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City or Da Nang when first entering Vietnam.
Step 1: To enter Vietnam, you need an “invitation letter”. There are many companies that offer this, so far I have had very good experiences with My Vietnam Visa – be careful to fill in your information exactly correctly, especially regarding your arrival date.
Step 2: Pay for your invitation letter and submit your paperwork – you can check the cost of the letter here. For 1 stamp for 1 month single entry, the fee will be USD$20 but there are other options for multiple entries and different lengths of time
Step 3: A few days after submitting your form, you will receive your invitation letter. Yay! It’s a party in Vietnam! Other people are invited too! This is completely normal (and yes, a bit weird since total strangers now know your passport number). Double check that all of your information is correct and remember to print this out before your trip!
– passport must have more than 6 months of validity
– a completed entry form (this can also be done in the airport, but it will increase your waiting time) – Download it here
They can be very picky about this! When I flew into Hanoi, they would not accept a bill that had some small scribbles in the corner (of course it was a $20). I ended up having to pay the difference in Singaporean dollars and trust me, it was not an ideal exchange rate.Note: Most airlines will check your documents before they allow you to check in. This can include requesting to see a return or on-going flight out of Vietnam.
In Ho Chi Minh, if you are facing the row of immigration counters, the visa office will be on your left-hand side – look for the cluster of blue chairs that make up the waiting area.
Step 8: When you hear your name, leap up like a crazed person – even if it has only been 10 minutes. Everyone does this. Pay the nice customs agent $45USD in exchange for your passport.
Step 9: Go through customs. Do a happy dance. You are in for an amazing vacation.
Step 10: Get yourself a bahn mi, some pho and a bia stat! (I love Vietnam so much, it’s slightly ridiculous and also the reason I am heading back there for a 4th time to round out 2015).
It seems a lot more complicated than I remember now that I have written it out, but trust me – as long as you follow these steps, you will be in Vietnam in no time.
Advance Visa from the Vietnam Embassy
If you are entering Vietnam by land, or you would rather not wait for your visa to be processed in the airport – you can also apply and get the visa in advance from your local Vietnamese embassy. The procedures to do so seem to vary by embassy so here are a few links based on where the majority of my readers are coming from.
I hope you found this post helpful! Over the next few weeks, I will also expand my Visas section to include information on how to get work visas for Singapore and South Korea.
Where to next?