You’ve seen the amazing pictures and heard the tales of spectacular Vietnam. Now you’ve decided to come have a look for yourself. First question we get asked is, ‘Do we need visas?’. Short answer, yes you do.
Types of visas
If you are planning a short and sweet visit of less than 15 days you may be exempt from needing a visa. Vietnam currently offers visa free entry to a lucky few. This list changes often though, so make sure you check if your passport qualifies. To see if you do, check this list.
If you are not covered for the above, fear not. There are three other common types to choose from. They are;
- E-Visas (electronic visas)
- Tourist visas
- Business visas
E-Visas (electronic visas)
Vietnam is fast catching up with technology and how the world uses it. E-visas are still relatively new here, but they are available to 46 countries as listed here.
This option is valid for stays of 30 days max and single entry only. (Single entry is where you come in once, you stay here and you leave once). This is a simple do-it-yourself online application on the official Vietnamese government website. (https://evisa.xuatnhapcanh.gov.vn/en_US/web/guest/khai-thi-thuc-dien-tu/cap-thi-thuc-dien-tu). This is a one-off fee application too.
This visa is valid for all points of entry, i.e. airports, seaports and land crossings. We recommend you research your point of arrival as e-visas are not accepted at all ports. Check to see if you point of entry is on the list.
If you’d like to read more about e-visas in general, try this site.
You can apply for a one or three-month tourist visa and each has the option of both a single or multiple entry. (Multiple entries mean you can come and go from Vietnam as often as you want within the validity of the visa.)
You can apply for a one or three-month visa and have the option of single or multiple entry. If you are planning on staying longer, you have the option of six or twelve-month visas with multiple entry. This option is mainly for business purpose but you can consider it if you want to stay longer than three months and want to try and avoid visa runs.
Another thing to consider. If you are going to translate your driver’s license into a Vietnamese license, great. But remember that the Vietnamese license is only valid for as long as your visa.
How do I get a visa?
The second question we get is, ‘How do I get a visa?’. Again, here you have options.
We covered e-visa above. It’s a do it yourself, online process through the official government website with a one off fee. If you want to know more about them, have a look at this website.
If you are flying into one of Vietnam’s four international airports (Hanoi, Da Nang, Na Tranh, Ho Chi Minh), then you have the option of a visa on arrival (VOA). This means the visa is granted at the airport on landing and before you go through border control.
This process might sound complicated, but it’s pretty straight forward and easy.
The first thing you need to do is apply for a Letter of Approval (LOA). This is an official letter from the Vietnamese Immigration Department. It grants you permission to come into the country and obtain a visa at the airport.
To get this letter you will need to use an online agent.
There are plenty out there so do your research and be careful about who you use too (as with anything online). They will ask you for a copy of your passport, your arrival and departure dates, and the airport you flying into.
As we've mentioned in the vlog, here is the link to the agent we used, they are called Sun Viet. Again, use it as a point of reference for your own research.
Note that the fee for the LOA will vary between agents and the type of visa you are applying for. There will be additional, for example the agent's fee and the stamp fee.
Your agent will forward the LOA to you once it's been granted. It will most likely have two pages. The first granting you permission to enter the country, and the second will contain your details. Don’t be surprised if there are other people’s details on there too. It’s common for agencies to group applications together. You can request your own Letter of Approval but it will cost you more.
Arriving at the airport
The on arrival process is straight forward and simple with a bit of pre planning.
Before you leave
- Download the 01 Application Form and complete 2 copies (1 as back up),
- Have two passport photos ready with the application (take spares regardless, you never know when you’ll need them), and
- A copy of the letter of approval (both pages)
- Make sure these documents are in your carry on and within easy reach. Some airlines may ask to see them before you board your plane.
Visa on landing counter - Window 1
Once you have landed in Vietnam, head to the visa on landing counter. It's usually located just before you see the border control counters.
In Ho Chi Minh for example there are two windows. You need to go to the first window and handover your paperwork (completed visa application form, both pages of the LOA, the two passport photos and your passport.)
This is where having all your paperwork completed and ready to go, comes in handy. So many people get to the airport not even knowing what the process is and it can get chaotic quick. Especially when several arrivals descend on the area all at once.
Grab a seat and wait to be processed.
Visa on landing counter - Window 2
When you hear your name called, head over to window two where they will give you your passport. Check all the details on your visa first (your name, passport number, entry/exit dates and entry option. If anything is incorrect, sort it there and then. Having any changes done after you have gone through border control is very unlikely.
UPDATE: Even though we say above to check your exit day, we never did and I (Tash), learnt a valuable lesson. It wasn't until after we applied (and received visas to enter China), that our visa agency made us aware of the fact that the exit stamp in my passport was dated for March 2018 and we were now in late 2018. They told us that we may have an issue at border control but given the fact that we have multiple entry visa, it shouldn't be an issue. Lucky for us it wasn't! The immigration officer did scratch his head but said nothing and stamped me out. However, it could have turned into a headache we didn't need. So peeps, check your dates thoroughly before you hit border control!
If everything is correct and you’re happy, then this is when you will need to pay the stamp fee. The amount will depend on the type of visa and entry option you've chosen but your agent should be able to tell you what it is or you can look it up here.
We recommend you pay in US dollar (US$) and that you have the exact amount when the time comes. You can pay with local currency but it could be at an inflated exchange rate, meaning you pay more. Also, we saw a couple of people running around looking for an ATM. We couldn’t see any and there are no electronic payment options that we could see either.
Once you have your passport complete with visa, you can proceed to the immigration line.
This process is the same regardless of whether you’re applying for a tourist or business visa.
Already in southeast Asia? Then you'll need an Embassy issued visa
Already in Southeast Asia and wanting to do a land crossing? Or are you entering Vietnam anywhere other than the four international airports? Then you will need an Embassy issued visa.
You can do this yourself if you have access to a Vietnamese embassy in the place you are living or travelling from.
Alternatively, there are agents that will do this for a fee. Research is key and remember, you will need to hand over your passport for this option, so be careful. Copies won’t cut it as the visa is a sticker and has to be in the actual passport to be valid.
Important to note
Also remember that you have to have this visa in your passport before you depart. You might get asked for it at the airport and you will need it to get through border control in Vietnam. A visa on arrival will not be an option once you land.
When you receive your passport back from the embassy/agent, double check all the details on the visa before you leave. Again, if anything is incorrect you need to sort it there and then.
That’s pretty much visas in a nutshell. Only other piece of advice we can give you is to be patient during the visa and immigration process. It’s easy to lose your cool when you’re tired and just want to get to your hotel. But these guys are going to do it their way whether you like it or not. If you start getting vocal or pack a tantrum it will take longer or they could end up ignoring you completely.
If you're head is spinning right now, we don't blame you, there is a lot to take in. BUT to help you with your planning process, we created this simple and quick Visa Checklist to download and use. Let us know if it's useful or not. (Cheers)
If you have any questions or want to add something, please leave us a comment and we will answer as best we can or you can go check out our vlog on the matter.
Happy travels and see you in the next post...