Getting a Vietnamese visa can be a long, complicated and expensive process, especially if you don’t know what you’re doing. When I was researching the topic I couldn’t for the life of me find a step-by-step article of how it works, how much it costs and how to get one.
Vietnamese immigration make it tough. There are two types of entry into the country: by land and by air. But to get a visa for one is a completely different ball park than the other.
This is by far easiest way: you won’t have to deal with dodgy border security guards scamming you out of money and the application can be done online in about 5-10 minutes. It is also far cheaper than actually heading to your local embassy to get a stamp – some embassies have been reported for charging up to $120. This way, is called Visa on Arrival (VOA)
The online service applies for a VOA letter of approval – essentially you are employing an agency to obtain this. Without it, you could be running into a lot of trouble in the airport – you may not be let in. This ‘agency fee’ can cost somewhere between $15 and $30 – it is not the only payment you will make. When arriving in Vietnam you will also have to pay the actual visa fee at the desk. The downside to this process is that, when arriving in Vietnam, you could be waiting a very long time in immigration. The upside? It’s still easier than the alternative.
Prices at the airport (as of November 2014):
1 month Single Entry $45
1 month Multiple Entry $65
3 month Single Entry $45
3 month Multiple Entry $95
Step 1: Choose and research a reputable online service
Step 2: Fill in the online form
Step 3: Wait 2-3 days for an approval letter to be sent to you (via your preferred and stated method – usually email)
Step 4: GO TO VIETNAM
Step 5: Take your passport, approval letter and money to the VOA desk in immigration at your Vietnamese airport
Step 6: Get your stamp and go have fun
NOTE: Make sure you have your money with you before arriving – there are no ATM’s in the arrival halls and you cannot pay by card (sometimes this is offered but again, the waiting times will be horrific). Preferred currency is US Dollar or Vietnamese Dong.
This is the way I did it – but it took a lot of research and asking around to get an explanation. I emailed the UK and Cambodian embassies and almost messed it up by applying for the online visa.
However, I did make it. And it went smoothly. So you see, it’s not all bad after all.
Step 1: work out where the easiest place will be for you to get your Vietnamese visa. In Cambodia there are two embassies – one in Phnom Penh and another in Sihanoukville. After reading elsewhere that the Phnom Penh embassy took longer and was more expensive, I opted for Sihanoukville, as I was heading there anyway.
Step 2: Go to the embassy. In Sihanoukville it’s about a 10 minute moto ride out of the town centre – a journey should cost you $4 return max. When you arrive, ask for a form. Fill it in with all of your details (see below for the basics) and leave the form, a passport photograph and your current passport with the lady behind the desk. I know its scary leaving your passport anywhere, but it must be done and they are very helpful. You will be given a receipt and a time to come and collect the next day.
AS OF NOVEMBER 2015 THE PRICE FOR A VISA WAS $60 AT THE SIHANOUKVILLE EMBASSY. Prices at other embassies may differ.
Step 3: Go collect! You may have to wait 10 minutes or so – they say return at 4pm so there may be a few other travellers hanging around but it wont take too long. After that – you are free to explore the Vietnamese wilderness!
Opening times Sihanoukville Vietnamese Embassy:
Monday to Friday 8am-12pm
You can apply for this land crossing visa at any Vietnamese embassy - it may however vary in price and time.
When applying for a visa you will be asked:
- Your full name as appears on your passport
- Present nationality
- Date of Birth
- Passport number
- Passport Date of Issue
- Passport expiry
- Proposed date of arrival – the fate you want the visa to start from. The visa wont actually start until you arrive and you can enter on it until the ‘exit date’ a month or so later – but not before. Make sure you check this before arriving, time differences can be confusing
- Purpose of Visit
- For a recent passport photograph of yourself.
Please Note: If you have children with you and they have their own passports you must apply and pay the same fees as if they were travelling as adults.
TIP: When travelling to Vietnam by land try and go with a reputable company. Border guards are known for trying to scam travellers into paying extra at the desk by saying you have to pay a VOA fee - if you have the stamp you can enter. You have already paid your fee.