Everything you ever needed to know about Vietnam visas

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One of the most common questions our customers ask us is whether they need to get a visa to visit Vietnam – and the best way to do so.

Vietnam visas

The subject of visa requirements can admittedly be a little confusing, and if you read through more than a couple of forums and websites you’ll find a lot of conflicting advice.

But there’s good news! If visa worries are giving you a headache, you have come to the right place. We’ve advised hundreds of people on how best to obtain a visa to visit Vietnam, and in this blog we share our expertise and explain exactly what you need and where and how to get it. So you can stop worrying about visas and get back to thinking about the most important thing – your holiday!


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Do I need a visa to travel to Vietnam?

For most people, the answer is yes. Exceptions to this rule are residents of many Southeast Asian countries as well as Japan, South Korea, Russia and Scandinavia.

If you think you may be exempt from visa requirements, make sure you check with your local consulate to find out how long you are allowed to stay in the country without a visa, as this period can vary by country.

Whoever you are and wherever you are from, you do not need a Vietnam visa if you are just making a flight transfer at a Vietnamese airport. You only need a visa if you intend to pass through immigration and into the country.

 

What kind of visa do I need?

If you are going on holiday to Vietnam you will need a single entry tourist visa (valid for either 30 or 60 days depending on how long you want to stay).

If you are travelling to Vietnam and intend to leave the country and re-enter (for example if you are planning on visiting neighbouring Cambodia or Laos, like many of our customers), you will need a multiple-entry tourist visa.

The application process is the same for both – the only real difference is price.


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Where can I get my visa?

For residents of most countries, including the UK, US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and most EU countries, there are two options. You can either:

  • Arrange your visa in advance of travel via the Vietnamese Embassy/Consulate in your home country

OR

  • Opt for a visa on arrival (VOA).

Each method has its pros and cons, which we’ll discuss below.

 

METHOD 1: Obtaining a visa from your embassy or consulate

  • More secure than a VOA
  • Allows entry to Vietnam via airports and land borders
  • Can be obtained up to six months in advance
  • More expensive than a VOA
  • No need to wait around for processing on arrival in Vietnam

Obtaining a visa from the Vietnamese Embassy or Consulate in your home country is more expensive than getting a VOA, but since it provides greater security we always recommend taking this course of action. You can apply for a visa up to six months in advance of arrival in Vietnam.

In the UK, visa applications can be made by post, by email or in person, and you can choose between standard (5-day), express (2-day) or next-day processing. Please note that express and next-day processing require additional fees (from £15 to £30 depending on what kind of visa you apply for), and applicants by email are obliged to use the express or next-day processing service.

Usually, you will need to provide:

  • A valid passport with validity exceeding the length of your visa by AT LEAST one month (preferably six)
  • One completed application form (we can provide this form for customers travelling with InsideVietnam Tours)
  • One passport-sized photograph taken no more than one year ago
  • The appropriate visa fee
  • A self-addressed envelope and postal charge if you need your passport to be returned by post.

If you are an InsideVietnam Tours customer, we have a detailed visa application guide that will give you all the information you need – just get in touch! If you are a resident of the UK or Ireland, you visit the Embassy of Viet Nam website for detailed instructions on how to make your application. If you are not a resident of the UK, please contact the Vietnamese Embassy in your home country to find out how to make your application.

Click here if you are applying from the USA

Click here is you are applying from Australia

Please note that although the official line is that your passport must have at least one month validity from your date of entry to Vietnam in order for you to be eligible for a visa, in practice some airlines refuse to allow boarding if validity is less than six months. Irritating, but true. For this reason it is prudent to ensure that your passport has at least six months’ validity before you travel.


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METHOD 2: Obtaining a visa on arrival (VOA)

  • Less secure than obtaining a visa from your embassy or consulate
  • Allows entry to Vietnam only through certain airports
  • Must be obtained on arrival in Vietnam
  • Cheaper than getting a visa before you travel
  • Can cause delays on arrival in Vietnam due to processing time

An alternative to obtaining your visa from the embassy is to opt for a visa on arrival (VOA), which can be simpler and cheaper than the alternative.

The Vietnamese Embassy advises against getting a VOA, arguing that it is impossible to ascertain the legitimacy of the companies who sell them. This advice should be taken with a pinch of salt. Remember, the embassy has a vested interest in encouraging you to buy from them! In reality, though scam websites do exist, there are also many legitimate companies through whom you can arrange a VOA quite easily.

To obtain a VOA, you employ an agent before your departure who will provide an official letter of approval for you to present at the VOA counter when you arrive in Vietnam. This letter is not a visa. You will only receive a full visa on presenting this letter to the authorities on arrival in Vietnam. You can find many agents online (be sure to read around thoroughly to make sure that the agent you are using is reputable!), and will need to pay an agent fee for their services.

If you are travelling with InsideVietnam Tours, we can provide you with an approval letter free of charge  – though we only recommend this course of action if you are travelling last-minute and don’t have time to apply for a visa! More on why in a moment.

Once you have found an agent, you will need to fill in an online application. Most agents will ask for:

  • A scan of your passport
  • Proposed date and time of arrival
  • Flight reference
  • Airport of arrival
  • Purpose of your visit
  • Agent fee

After making your application, you should receive your approval letter after 2-3 days.

On arrival in Vietnam you will need to present:

  • Your approval letter
  • A passport sized photo
  • An “Entry and Exit” form (available online or on arrival at the airport)
  • Your visa processing fee in cash (USD)

Some airlines also require you to show your VOA approval letter on boarding your fight to Vietnam.

It is very important that have your visa fee on you, in cash (US dollars), when you arrive in Vietnam; card is not accepted and there is usually no way to withdraw money at immigration. If you fail to do this, you may be in for a long wait before the authorities will agree to escort you to an ATM!

On presenting your letter and fee you will receive your passport back with the full visa inside.


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You say you don’t recommend opting for a VOA unless absolutely necessary. Why not?

It’s simple: security. What if your application is declined on arrival? What if you encounter a scam agency? What if you forget to bring your approval letter, or your visa fee? The risks are small if you do your research properly, but in our opinion it’s never worth gambling with something as important as your holiday.

Another notable drawback to opting for a VOA is that if the airport is busy when you arrive, the process can be slow (up to an hour or two). On the other hand, if you are travelling in low season or at a quiet time, it can take as little as 15 minutes.

Finally, another important thing to remember is that your approval letter is only valid at Ho Chi Minh city, Hanoi and Da Nang airports. If you are entering Vietnam via a land crossing from a neighbouring country (including river cruises that cover more than one country), your approval letter will get you nowhere – you will need to already be in possession of a full visa.

 

Hmmm. That’s all well and good, but I don’t want to pay extra! How much is this all going to cost?

Obtaining a visa from your local embassy is a little more expensive than getting a visa on arrival, but not an awful lot.

The following visa fees are correct as of August 2014:

Visa on arrival (payable only in USD):

  • £28 (45 USD)/person for 1-3 month single-entry visa
  • £41 (65 USD)/person for 1 month multiple entry visa

You will also need to pay an agent fee (from about £6/$9 upwards) if using an agent to obtain a letter of approval for your VOA.

Visa from UK embassy (payable only in GBP):

  • £54 (86 USD)/person for 1 month single-entry visa
  • £85 (135 USD)/person for 1 month multiple entry visa

For embassy visas, extra fees of approximately £15-30 apply for express and next-day processing, and vary according to what kind of visa you need and which service you choose. If applying by post, you will also need to pay a postal charge of £4-8 per person.

Is there anything else I need to know?

  • Your visa is valid from the date of entry to Vietnam, and you must leave before the visa expires.
  • If children have their own passports, the visa fee is the same as for adults. Children who are included in their parents’ passports do not need a separate visa, and will not be charged visa fees.
  • Whichever method you use to make your visa application, you will need to pay non-refundable visa fees – regardless of whether or not your visa is granted.
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Visas are a pretty dull blog topic, but they are essential for travel to this amazing country….so you want to make sure that you get it right.


To start planning your trip to Southeast Asia, get in touch with our team!

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