Getting a Visa to Vietnam (Don’t Make the Mistakes I Did!)

Posted by Krista on April 1, 2014

Vietnam Photographer

vietnamsvisa-adverd

**Please note that this post was written in April of 2014. Vietnamese visa rules and visa service prices have changed since then. BUT! A lot of the below about fast track and VIP service still applies so please keep reading! If you don’t want to read all this and just need help with your visa on arrival in Vietnam, I used Vietnam eVisa and recommend them so just head on over there and make sure you get Fast Track or VIP Fast Track and prepay the stamping fee. They also offer extra services like airport cars, hotel reservations, and tours. Another service that comes highly recommended is Vietnam Visa Online; they offer Fast Track services and airport pickup, and if you email them, they respond very quickly.

Bear in mind that I applied for my Vietnamese visa as an American and so if you are of any other nationality, getting a visa for Vietnam 1. might not be necessary or 2. might be harder OR easier than what I describe below.**

Although I loved my time in Vietnam, I learned a few hard lessons. Lest you make the same mistakes I did, let me tell you about my visa situation first and then share some of my other mistakes in other posts.

Should I get a visa on arrival in Vietnam? Or should I apply in advance for a Vietnam visa?

There are two main ways to obtain a Vietnam visa: apply in advance to a local embassy or consulate, or go the “visa on arrival” route. Because I had to leave my passport at the Chinese consulate in Chicago for a few days to get my Chinese visa, I figured that for Vietnam, I would go for “visa on arrival.” I did some research, but apparently not enough. Because…

GETTING A VISA ON ARRIVAL IN VIETNAM IS LIKE STABBING YOURSELF IN THE EYES. UNLESS YOU PAY FOR FAST TRACK OR VIP FAST TRACK.

Have you ever tried to buy a train ticket at the train station in Italy while the Italians are striking? Go to a U.S. grocery store the morning of the Superbowl? Visit any post office around the world three days before Christmas? This is what it’s like to get a visa on arrival in Vietnam without paying for fast track. Do not do this to yourself. Really. Don’t. Let me give you the logistics of my experience.

Firstly, IF you go the “visa on arrival” route, you apply for your Vietnam visa online in advance through a 3rd party provider. I used Vietnam-evisa.org and I had a good experience; yes, they are legitimate.  It cost me $18 to use Vietnam-evisa.org; consider this my online review of their services. I submitted my application online at 8:28 a.m. on Sunday, February 16th, 2014. I received my visa approval letter on Monday, February 17th, 2014 at 4:26 a.m.  which was earlier than they told me to expect a response, which was nice. (They had said  Feb/18/2014 at 18:00 GMT+7)

No matter what, you will need two passport photos. Get those in your offline world.

The Vietnam approval letter is a bit strange in that you will get a letter that includes your name and a bunch of other people’s names from all over the world. My inner stalker kinda wanted to try to find them all on Facebook. (Note that you can pay extra to get a private letter with no other names on it.) OK, no problem. I can print all that. HOWEVER, also in the e-mail was something I missed. It said…

This link is for you to download and write down visa form at Airport. (To see the form, go to Vietnam-eVisa,org, click Download Forms on the top right of the screen, and then look at Download Immigration Form entry and exit at the airport.)

Yeah, I didn’t do that. So when I finally got to the window (more on that in a bit), I got sent to the side because I hadn’t filled out the stupid form. But here’s the thing…because I had filled out a form on Vietnam-evisa.org, I thought I didn’t need to fill out another form that included similar information. Call me a dumbass. I am a dumbass.

Here’s the part that I totally regretted later. On Monday, February 17 2014 at 2:29 a.m., Vietnam-evisa.org emailed me and said this. (This is their English, just to be clear.)

Dear Sir/Madam:

Thanks for choosing http://www.vietnam-evisa.org/

After taking a long flight, do you feel very tired to get the line to get visa stamp at arrival airport?

You do not want to wait a long time at arrival airport to get line visa stamp, you want to get it ASAP and go to hotel to relax?

Many customers said that it is very uncomfortable to wait for a long time to get visa stamp because there are many people also get visa on arrival like them and it is also very hard to take back their passports because the differences about pronunciation

Many people is very confused at arrival airport in the first time they use visa on arrival because they don’t know where the Immigration Department counter to get visa stamp is

To avoid wasting your valuable time, especially after having a long flight or other personal reasons. We establish additional services to assist you at the airport when you arrived, and will bring to you with the  highest satisfy. You are welcome as highest VIP person, and you don’t need to get line for pick up visa stamp at the airport, let our staff do it for you.

We offer 2 options for you to chose, and let us do the rest for you:

A. Fast Track at the airport  

·         Fast Track: Welcome and help to get visa stamp without get line. More details

·         VIP Fast Track: Welcome and get visa stamp without get line at Immigration checking desk, then staff will escort you to luggage lounge and help you passing the customs checking counter, and after that we will take you to the car park. . More details

*** OK, back to me again ***

Yes! I was very tired! No, I didn’t want to get the line to get the visa stamp! No, I don’t want to wait a long time to get line visa stamp! Yes, I want to go to my hotel and relax! I want highest satisfy!!

But no…I didn’t pay for the Fast Track. I wasn’t highest VIP person. I did not use my personal reasons. I WAS NOT HIGHEST SATISFY!!!

Instead, I chose to STAB MYSELF IN THE EYES.

OK, so I got off my flight from Singapore in Ho Chi Minh Airport and me and a million elderly French hikers and a dozen or two total stoners in flowy pants and flip flops from all over the world all tried to get visas on arrival at the same time. Just like in Italy during a train strike or at a U.S. grocery store before the Superbowl or that day when you decide to go to the post office THREE DAYS BEFORE CHRISTMAS. It was chaos. I was lucky in that I had most of my information ready and got up to the window relatively quickly…but that’s when I learned I didn’t have that stupid form so I had to go fill that out, bring it back and wonder how the two guys behind the window kept track of everything.

And then I had to wait. And wait. And wait.

Then I had to listen to the poor Vietnamese woman try to pronounce all these Western names. And you know, the French only respond when you pronounce correctly, so that worked REALLY well (sarcasm font).

Tip: Make sure the back of your passport is easily recognizable. I’ve been a member of Global Entry for a long time, so I have the old CBP sticker on the back of my passport, along with a lot of general airline security stickers. The only thing that kept me sane was seeing my passport there on the desk and knowing that I was just waiting for them to call my name.

90 minutes later, I had everything I needed and the immigration queues had died down enough that I slipped quickly through. But they were a very painful 90 minutes and I really regret not paying the $40 for VIP Fast Track or even just the $20 for regular Fast Track. Also, by the time I got through to baggage claim, my suitcase was one of five sitting next to our baggage claim. Everything else — and everybody else — was gone.

So…Should you get a “Visa on Arrival” in Vietnam? YES! BUT…please please please pay extra for Vietnam E-visa Fast Track — get the full visa services at the airport from Vietnam Evisa, plus pre-pay the visa stamping fee for Vietnam Government. Alternatively, try Vietnam Visa Online. This way, when you get off the plane, it is all taken care of and all you need to do is get your luggage. If I give you nothing in life, let me give you this. UNLESS YOU WANT ME TO STAB YOU IN THE EYES. (That is a joke. I would never stab anyone and especially not in the eyes.)

Or, well bring a good book.

Vietnam Visa

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22 Responses to “Getting a Visa to Vietnam (Don’t Make the Mistakes I Did!)”

  1. s
    Apr 02, 2014
    Reply

    Long time lurker, but never commented before. I have to say I was sorry to hear about your experience with not reading the fine print and the subsequent cost to your sanity, but I was laughing so hard reading this post that I almost peed my pants.


    • Krista
      Apr 03, 2014
      Reply

      Hah hah! I live to entertain! Thanks for lurking!


  2. ToDeCo
    Apr 04, 2014
    Reply

    Sorry for what you have experienced in getting visa on arrival. But it is not always like that. The situations are diefferent on different days. Many customers of my company got visa on arrival very quickly with no problem.


    • Krista
      Apr 07, 2014
      Reply

      No worries! It was all part of the experience!!


  3. Catherine
    Apr 10, 2014
    Reply

    I booked with vietnam-evisa.org to and didn’t notice that link in their email either!! Have just printed it now for my trip next week, you’re a life saver. Also just purchased their fast track service cos it sounds like hell otherwise 😛
    Thanks again, Cat


    • Krista
      Apr 18, 2014
      Reply

      Glad I could be of service! Enjoy your trip!


  4. Krista- I did visa on arrival as well, but I don’t remember my experience to be quite as horrible. I do remember having to wait a bit for my passport, but I was sweating bullets for another reason. Read my visa story here!!!

    http://vegetariantourist.com/2014/03/what-the-pho/


    • Krista
      May 26, 2014
      Reply

      Ah, the dreaded “must have four blank pages” in your passport rule! I just ran out on my 2nd set. Chicago’s passport office fixed me up with a 3rd set same day!! Also good to know…if your passport is going to expire within six months of traveling, some airlines may not let you on.


  5. VietnamVisaonline
    Nov 27, 2015
    Reply

    Thank you for you information you provided. Currently, applying for Vietnam Visa on arrival is the most convenient and fastest way to get visa for Vietnam. In additon, thanks to the new lower visa stamping fee was applied since November 23rd, the total cost for Vietnam visa on arrival will be cut down up to 47%. Check out the information at: http://www.newswire.com/press-release/vietnam-visa-com-visa-stamping-fee-officially-decreased.


  6. Alex
    Apr 18, 2016
    Reply

    I used a different online company and had no problems at all. So because you missed the one step of filling out the form, the whole e-Visa thing was not a good experience? It’s actually a lot better than sending your passport off to who-knows-where to get it approved, not to mention less expensive.


    • Krista
      Apr 21, 2016
      Reply

      It was more than just missing the form. It was the fact that I waited about two hours to get my visa on arrival!! I understand my experience was a bit unusual but it was VERY painful.


    • Tina
      May 04, 2016
      Reply

      Hi Alex, what online company did you go through and were there clear direction at the airport telling you where to go?


  7. John
    Sep 15, 2016
    Reply

    I travel often to Vietnam. And at the very first time to the country, I also got problem as I thought it was the same to get visa on arrival to Vietnam and to Cambodia. But actually, it was completely different =))


  8. Teresa
    Dec 11, 2016
    Reply

    You are hilarious. Love what you wrote:-)
    I’ve been there and done that too.
    This time I’m going for the VIP service. Can’t wait to see what that’s like …lol.
    Hopefully everything as they’ve described.
    However I must say….be careful when you read their replies. They said to confirm my date otherwise there’s no refund. Thankfully they’ve made a mistake on my date of arrival ( 2 days after)!!!.
    So read everything twice …and good luck travellers:-)


    • Krista
      Dec 18, 2016
      Reply

      Thank you, Teresas! I do try to entertain!!


  9. TNN
    Dec 20, 2016
    Reply

    Thank you for posting this. It has been very helpful and I just used the first company you spoke of with Fast Track. I didn’t purchase the airport pickup though, will that create any problems?


    • Krista
      Dec 24, 2016
      Reply

      I don’t think you really need airport pickup as long as you know what you’re doing and know how to get to your hotel!


  10. Hi Thank you for sahring your experience and these mistakes should be avoided in applying visa to vietnam.

    1 – No visa on arrival without applying online: many people believe that they can get a visa directly at Vietnam airport without applying online. That is wrong, you can not until the visa is approved. So, you will need to apply online for an approval letter in order to pick up your visa at Vietnam airport.

    2 – Visa on arrival at the border: Vietnam Visa on arrival works for air travel only. So, if you do not enter Vietnam by air, just make sure you have the visa in advance.

    3 – Spelling/Typing mistakes: Many travelers fill in the Application form with wrong detail as: full name on passport, passport number or date of birth. Normally, many people think it is not important but in some cases, your application can be refused by the airline at the departure airport. So, make sure that you entered everything correctly and carefully.

    4 – Arrival date: Many people think that the visa validity will start from the date they enter Vietnam, not from the date they provide, however, it is not. The visa validity will commence from the date you provide in advance, not from the date you will enter the country. So, just make sure that you make a clear plan of when to enter before ordering a visa to Vietnam.

    5 – Visa extension: many travelers think that it is easy to extend a visa once they are in Vietnam, however, in fact, it is not that easy, and extending a visa may be a costly and time consuming process. So, if possible, just apply for a 3 month visa in advance instead of a 1 month one to save money on visa extension.

    http://vietnamvisavip.com/detail/267/how-to-avoid-mistakes-when-applying-for-vietnam-visa-on-arrival.html


  11. vietnamvisavip
    Dec 24, 2016
    Reply

    Hi Thank you for sahring your experience and these mistakes should be avoided in applying visa to vietnam.

    1 – No visa on arrival without applying online: many people believe that they can get a visa directly at Vietnam airport without applying online. That is wrong, you can not until the visa is approved. So, you will need to apply online for an approval letter in order to pick up your visa at Vietnam airport.

    2 – Visa on arrival at the border: Vietnam Visa on arrival works for air travel only. So, if you do not enter Vietnam by air, just make sure you have the visa in advance.

    3 – Spelling/Typing mistakes: Many travelers fill in the Application form with wrong detail as: full name on passport, passport number or date of birth. Normally, many people think it is not important but in some cases, your application can be refused by the airline at the departure airport. So, make sure that you entered everything correctly and carefully.

    4 – Arrival date: Many people think that the visa validity will start from the date they enter Vietnam, not from the date they provide, however, it is not. The visa validity will commence from the date you provide in advance, not from the date you will enter the country. So, just make sure that you make a clear plan of when to enter before ordering a visa to Vietnam.

    5 – Visa extension: many travelers think that it is easy to extend a visa once they are in Vietnam, however, in fact, it is not that easy, and extending a visa may be a costly and time consuming process. So, if possible, just apply for a 3 month visa in advance instead of a 1 month one to save money on visa extension.


  12. Anubhav Raikar
    Dec 28, 2016
    Reply

    Thank you! I am a VIP now 😀


    • Krista
      Jan 08, 2017
      Reply

      Awesome! Enjoy your trip!


  13. xxx
    Dec 29, 2016
    Reply

    I got this website from my pal who shared with me on the topic of this web site
    and now this time I am browsing this web page and reading very informative posts at this time.



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