We have spent more than three months altogether in Vietnam and it is definitely one of our favorite countries on our Asia trip. The visa rules of Vietnam are different to its neighbor countries like Cambodia and Laos so it makes sense for every traveler to get to know them. In this article, we collected all the most crucial information about how to get a Vietnam visa. You will also find out what is the cheapest way to buy a visa to Vietnam.
Remember we are not visa experts so you should always contact the closest Vietnam embassy if you have questions regarding visa issues. We only have experience of the tourist visas in Vietnam so we cannot tell about the application process of business or work visas. The visa rules are different to every nationality so you should always check what requirements Vietnam has for your home country. You can find this out easily on Vietnam-visa.com* by just entering your nationality.
When you plan your trip to Vietnam, there are several things that you need to consider from the visa point of view. Choosing the correct visa depends on at least 1) duration of the trip, 2) do you want to visit other countries during your Vietnam trip and then return to Vietnam, and 3) how you will travel to Vietnam. In this post, we explain everything related to these things as well as we can. Anyhow, we should probably start by explaining some visa terms if you don’t happen to be familiar with them:
E-visa: A general term for a visa ordered online. In practice, always a synonym for Visa On Arrival.
Visa On Arrival: You purchase an approval letter online and take it with you on the trip. The actual visa will be granted to you at the airport after arriving in Vietnam.
Embassy visa: You purchase a complete visa with a stamp at a Vietnam embassy before the trip.
Single entry visa: The visa expires when you leave the country, even if the validity period hasn’t expired yet.
Multiple entry visa: You can leave and enter the country within the visa validity period as many times as you want.
Some nationalities can use a 15-day visa exemption in Vietnam. This means that on trips that are 15 days or shorter, you don’t need a visa to Vietnam. Again, check your home country’s visa rules to find out if you are eligible to the visa exemption. Tourist visas can be granted for one or three months. Remember that you cannot buy Vietnam visa at the border unlike for example in Cambodia. If you know that you will be staying more than 15 days in Vietnam, deal with your visa things beforehand.
In theory, you should always have a return ticket out from Vietnam with you. But according to our experience, tickets are asked mostly at the airports and not at land borders. If you want to make sure to avoid problems at the border though, it’s better to have some kind of onward ticket with you. The passport has to be valid for 6 months from the entry date.
Duration of the trip
Less than 15 days
This section concerns only the nationalities that have the right to a 15-day visa exemption. If your trip lasts less than 15 days, you will get a stamp on your passport stating the last permitted date. For example, if you arrive in Vietnam on 1st December, you will get a stamp that says 15th December. This means you must leave the country during this day. It is important to remember that according to the new visa rules, there is a 30-day waiting period after every 15-day visa exemption. (This at least for the citizens of Finland, we cannot say for sure about other nationalities.) This means that you must stay one month outside Vietnam before using the visa exemption again. If you want to return to Vietnam before, you must buy a visa.
The 15-day visa exemption works also when traveling to Vietnam on land. We have heard some stories though that the officers asked for a visa without a reason at a land border. If you face this kind of situation, you shouldn’t give up but demand to clarify the situation. Normally this shouldn’t be an issue though.
15 days to 3 months
You can get a 1-month or 3-month tourist visa to Vietnam. The application process is same for both and both are admitted equally easily. Also, the price difference of these two visas is not remarkable. If there is any chance that your trip might turn to over 1-month trip, you should definitely buy the three-month visa just in case! More about the prices in the next section.
You can choose both visas as a single or multiple entry visa. A multiple entry visa is naturally more expensive than the single entry. If you are planning to backpack around Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, you should choose the multiple entry visa.
You will choose the validity start date at the moment of purchasing the visa. You can enter Vietnam anytime between the first and last visa validity date. Notice though that even if you travel to Vietnam after the first validity date, the last validity day won’t change to a later one.
The way you travel to Vietnam
You can purchase a tourist visa to Vietnam online as a Visa On Arrival or at a Vietnam embassy in your country or abroad. Many travel agencies and visa services also sell the visas with an extra service fee. Choosing the correct visa type depends on whether you travel to the country by flying to an international airport or by traveling on land or flying to a non-international airport.
Flying to an international airport
If you will be flying to one of the international airports in Vietnam, you can use either Visa On Arrival or an embassy visa. The international airports in Vietnam are Noi Bai Airport in Hanoi, Tan Son Nhat Airport in Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang Airport in Da Nang, Cam Ranh Airport in Nha Trang and Cat Bi Airport in Hai Phong. Anyhow, buying a Visa On Arrival online as an e-visa is the simplest and cheapest way, and therefore a recommended option, to obtain Vietnam visa. The only bad thing about Visa On Arrival is the queueing at the airport when again the embassy visa is ready to use right away.
There are plenty of websites selling e-visas to Vietnam but Vietnam-Visa.com* is one affordable option with a good reputation. We haven’t bought visas on this website yet but according to the ratings on company’s Facebook page, the service works quickly and without issues. While doing the visa application, you pay a service fee that varies depending on the visa type. A normal handling time is 2 days but you can also make it faster by paying an extra fee.
When your application has been handled, you will get an approval letter to your e-mail that you print with you. Once you get to Vietnam, you will get the visa to your passport by showing the approval letter and paying the stamping fee. With one-month single entry visa, the service fee online is $21 and the stamping fee at the airport $25.That makes altogether $46 (prices are from September 2017). You can see the full price list here.
Traveling on land or flying to non-international airport
If you travel to Vietnam on land, for example by bus, or fly to some other airport than listed above, you cannot use Visa On Arrival but need an embassy visa. Most long-haul flights go to Hanoi or to Ho Chi Minh City but many cheap Asian airlines fly also to smaller airports.
When we traveled to Vietnam for the first time, we flew from South Korea to Hai Phong. As we stayed less than two weeks in the country, we didn’t need visas that time. Next time we wanted to stay longer in Vietnam and travel there on land. Therefore we bought three-month visas beforehand in Cambodia. We dealt with the visa things in Vietnam consulate in Sihanoukville and got the ready visas to our hands during the same day! This type of visa cost $55 each. You can read more about the consulate in Sihanoukville in this blog post. You can also purchase the Vietnam visa in many other Asian countries. Besides embassies, also travel agencies sell them.
If you are planning a long backpacking trip to Asia and Vietnam won’t be your first country, we recommend buying the visa on the way. It might be cheaper than in your home country and also gives you more flexibility. The plans tend to change continuously when you travel so if you have bought your visa a long time before, you might regret it later.
At the end of this pile of information, we could summarize that even though obtaining Vietnam visa might first seem desperately complicated, it’s eventually not that hard. Whatever visa you need, the most important thing is to deal with your visa things early enough before your trip. Oh, and one more thing: go travel to Vietnam! It is an amazing country with friendly people and cheap prices. You can find all our Vietnam articles in Vietnam category.
Do you have any experience of getting the visa to Vietnam?
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