Your Vietnam Visa in a Nutshell.
No trip to Southeast Asia is complete without a dip into Vietnam. It is an easy country to travel in, but it does require a pre-approved visa (before entering the country).
Visa’s are one of the more irritating, back of your mind, aspects of travelling. You know it needs to be done, but you just can’t be bothered. I’m feeling you! That’s why I’ve decided to throw together this quick guide on attaining your Vietnamese visa.
Types of Visa.
You’ll always find conflicting information online when it comes to visas. That’s why it’s extremely important that you check the date on all posts you read and check official websites such as your home country’s Vietnamese embassy.
For Australian’s (or most Nationalities, I think) there are two types of visas available: a tourist visa or a business visa.
Tourist visas are available for 1-month or 3-month periods, with both offering single or multiple entries. If you’re heading to Vietnam for 1-month only, my advice would be to only pay for the single entry. I doubt you will be leaving and entering the country again within the same month.
If you are planning on travelling around freely for 3-months, I would recommend paying for the multiple entry. This way, you’ll have ultimate flexibility to come and go as you please during your 3-months of travelling.
How to Attain your Visa.
If you are entering Vietnam by land or sea (both not entirely recommended), you will need to apply for your Visa through your countries Vietnamese Embassy. The process normally takes 5 working days, is said to be somewhat complicated and can supposedly cost almost double of what you need to pay. You’ll also have to send your passport to them or apply in person. Far too much effort if you ask me.
If you are entering Vietnam by air however, you will be eligible for Vietnam’s Visa on Arrival (VOA).
The VOA Processing is only available at the three major international airports: Hanoi (HAN), Da Nang (DAD), Ho Chi Minh City (SGN).
The Visa on Arrival process sounds complicated when you are researching it on your own. So I’m going to break it down for you.
Basically you need a ‘third-party sponsor’ type agency to supply your pre-approval letter. There are a few companies online that can supply them, however more than a few of them are scams.
Your Visa Approval Letter will comprise of two pages. I’ve included pictures of them to the right here. Make sure you print both! Don’t be surprised when there are a bunch of other names including your own on Page 2. You can pay a little extra for a private letter (if you would like your details kept private), but it doesn’t seem to cause any problems doing it this way.
I can highly recommend Vietnam-eVisa. I’ve read on many other blogs that travellers also use Vietnam Visa and have also had good experiences. You will provide the online agency with your passport details and approximate travel dates and they will produce your Visa Approval Letter within 24-48 working hours. Ours arrived within 12 hours! You can also pay for urgent service (4-8 hours) or emergency service (1-4 hours).
Visa Processing Fees.
You will pay two fees throughout the Visa process.
The first fee is the service fee, paid to the online processing agency. We paid 17 USD each for a 1-month single entry. The second fee is the stamping fee, paid to the Visa on Arrival office at the airport. This fee is 25 USD payable in cash only. So all together you will be looking at around 42 – 45 USD for your visa (depending on which agency you use).
Arrival to Vietnam.
Once you arrive in Vietnam, you’ll follow the signs to Immigration and specifically ‘Landing Visa’. My advice is to have all of your documents ready to go, including the application form filled out, so you can jump straight in line.
I’ve heard nightmare stories of travellers waiting for 3 hours to receive their visa (one blogger described it as worse than clawing your own eyes out!). The processing office is often only manned by one or two employees who need to process huge amounts of visas. If you have the money to spare, and you’re impatient like me, you can pay for a fast-tracking service and conveniently jump the queue. I’ll cover this shortly.
Items Requried by Visa Stamping Office.
Upon arrival, you will need to have organised:
- Visa pre-approval letter; printed out
- Passport; valid for at least 6 months with 2 free pages for your visa and stamps.
- 2 recent passport-size photos (or you can have them taken at the airport for a fee).
- $25 USD stamping fee in cash.
Once you’ve had your passport returned, with your visa now safely stuck inside (seen to your right), you’ll be required to go through Immigration as per usual and you’re free to explore Vietnam!
Airport Fast Track Service.
Many of the online visa processing agencies offer Airport Fast Track services. These are for people (like me) who are insanely impatient, have time-sensitivity issues or don’t want to sit outside the Visa Processing office for hours upon hours after a potentially long flight.
The fast track service option will set you back another 25 USD each, and I’ve got to say, it was absolutely worth it. We arrived around 9.30pm after a long day of travelling and our representative met us at Immigration, took all our documents, passports and money to the front of the queue. Within 5 minutes we had our passports returned and were on our way. We had collected our baggage, passed customs and exited the terminal before people even at the front of the long line had entered the baggage collection.
Extra Tips to Make your Life Easier.
You guys, please (pleeeaseee!)… learn from my mistakes. Follow these tips for a relatively painless visa experience:
- Check your Pre-Approval Letter as soon as you receive it! Check the names, dates of travel, passport number – everything!
If anything is wrong, and you pick it up straight away, they will amend it for you on the spot without further fee.
Don’t be like me. I got our arrival date wrong by one day (one day after we wanted to arrive!). If we were arriving after our date noted it would’ve been fine. But we were arriving before our date noted and we wouldn’t have been let on the plane (really it’s lucky I noticed before we got to the check-in counter!).
Thankfully, I managed to contact Vietnam eVisa via email before boarding our first flight, paid another small fee, and had a new Pre-Approval letter by the time we reached our transit destination. I got it printed just in time for checking in to our flight which would land us in Vietnam. I would not recommend this course of action to anyone! It was incredibly stressful (think a panic-induced teary tantrum).
- Don’t leave it to the last minute. As soon as you know you’ll be heading to Vietnam and you’ve got an idea of arrival date, start the Visa process.
- Pay for the fast-track (if you can afford it). Particularly if you’re landing in Ho Chi Minh City (SGN). It will take a lot of time and boredom out of the process for you.
It really is honestly really straight forward. As long as you stick to one of the two website mentioned above, and remember all of your documents (mostly your Pre-Approval Letter and Passport) you will be fine!
If you have any further questions about attaining your Vietnamese Visa, feel free to drop a comment below! 🙂