So, you’re all set with your flight, visa on arrival invitation letter in hand (See My Vietnam Visa blog) and bags packed. However, you still have the pre-travel gitters, the nerves are kicking in. What if you don’t get let in? What if there’s a problem with your visa? Is this piece of paper really going to get me into Vietnam? The good thing is, yes, it definitely is! That is the beauty of a Vietnam visa on arrival. No complicated forms, no relinquishing your passport for weeks at a time and no waiting around for your visa. Get the invitation letter and head straight to the airport! Here are a few tips on how to have a stress free trip to the airport with a visa on arrival.
Make sure you have at least 6 months validity left on your passport. If not, it’s time to get a new one my friend! Next, once you get your visa on arrival from the agent, check it! We are (unfortunately) all human and we all make mistakes. It’s better to find out now that your passport number isn’t right, or that your name is spelt wrong. What should you check? Check that the name matches exactly what is says on your passport (including that embarrassing middle name that you hate), check that they have got your gender correct and double check your date of birth is written correctly. Make sure your nationality is correct and that those lovely numbers on your passport match the piece of paper that will get you into the country. Also, check that the arrival date is correct. If the arrival date is set for a day or two before you arrive, don’t panic, that is OK. However, the date of arrival cannot be after you are due to arrive or they won’t let you in.
Most tourists will have bought a round trip ticket to Vietnam and so this next step is pretty easy. Make sure you have evidence that you will leave the country once your visa expires. A return flight ticket is perfect evidence of this. Without this and your invitation letter you won’t actually be able to get on a plane to Vietnam – so they are extremely important! The time when it becomes a little trickier is when you plan to extend your visa on arrival and so may not have evidence of onward travel. The easiest and cheapest way to do this is to book a bus on https://bookmebus.com/. It will only cost about $15 and so doesn’t matter if you never actually use the ticket. Along with evidence of onward travel make sure you have two passport sized photos. Do not stress about the exact measurements. Ideally, you would get passport sized photos for Vietnam (which are slightly bigger) but you can also use your own countries standard sized [passport photos and you will be fine. To add to this, if you did forget, they will take a photo for you for the cost of $1. However, it is just easier to have them with you as you will get less glares from the immigration officers and won’t have to wait so long. You will also need US dollars to pay for your visa once you arrive. You will have to pay two fees. One to the agent for producing the Vietnam visa on arrival invitation letter and another to the Visa On Arrival desk at the airport. Your agent will tell you the fee, but I suggest you have $20-30 more than that, just in case! Usually it is $25 US for one and three month single entry visas and $50 for multiple entry visas but it changes from time to time, so it’s best to check. The one year and six month multiple entry visa are currently much more expensive and at the time of writing are ($95) and ($135).
If you can, be the overly keen person who gets off the aeroplane as quickly as possible (you know the type) to avoid long queues at immigration. The last thing you want after a long haul flight is to be stuck in a queue for over an hour filing for your visa on arrival in 30 degree heat. You can also request the form to fill in from your travel agent, so you can complete this before you arrive. This avoids waiting in more long queues to receive the form at the airport. Be aware also that the Vietnamese don’t do queuing, so you will see quite a few locals who are used to the process jumping in front you, dropping some cash down in front of the guard and getting fast tracked. I don’t advise you try this but if you do let me know how it goes! Therefore, getting to the immigration office early always helps.
When you get off the aeroplane look for the Visa On Arrival signs. In both Hanoi and HCM they are right next to the Immigration stands. Get in the queue and hand in your invitation letter, passport photos and completed form. You then need to pay the fee in US. If you get any sort of coherent response from the officer you should feel honoured. What you usually get is a grunt asking you to pay money followed by a dismissive hand gesture. This means go away and wait for your name to be called. Vietnam Immigration is not known for its hospitality or friendliness so don’t be alarmed! You will see your name appear on a big screen (sometimes this includes your beautiful passport photo as well!). It can take up to half an hour for your name to be called so just relax and be patient.
When you get your visa check that you have the right code in the top right hand corner of your visa stamp. This is the whole point of your visa on arrival letter so you want the stamp to be correct! The codes you are likely to be on are as follows: DN (Business Visa), DL (tourist visa) or DH (student visa). Make sure you have the right one, especially if you are coming here to work. Also, check that your visa is for the right amount of time and that the exit date is correct. You don’t want to pay for three months to find your visa expires in just one month! This has happened to a few of my friends and once you leave the airport it is very difficult to get it changed.
Right, that’s it! You are all set to start exploring Vietnam. Enjoy, and let me know if you have any questions.