So, do you need one?
Short answer – Probably.
Longer answer – Probably, but maybe not.
So, which is it?
And if that’s not confusing enough, if you do need a visa, where are you going to get it from?
Yep, even that isn’t as straight forward as you’d think it would be.
Oh well, it’s all part of the research, isn’t it? And research is pretty important for a place like Vietnam. Do it well, and you will be rewarded on your travels.
So, let’s start with who can travel to Vietnam without a visa.
If you hold a passport from one of these countries, and your stay is 15 days or less, then you do not require a visa to enter Vietnam.
(* Passport holders from these countries are exempted from 1 July 2016 to 30 June 2021.)
To qualify under the 15 day exemption, there’s a few things you need to be aware of.
Firstly, day one is the day you arrive. Whether you arrive at 12.30am, or 11.30pm, that is day one.
The day you leave the country is also counted as part of your 15 days.
So, effectively, you are allowed to stay in Vietnam for up to 14 nights.
Secondly, it is a requirement that you have to be able show proof of onward travel. In other words, proof of how and when you’ll exit the country. For example – an airline, or bus, ticket out of Vietnam, dated within the 15 day exemption period.
While you may not always be asked for it, it is still a requirement.
Ok, so what if the passport you hold dictates that you are not entitled to a visa exempt visit? Or, you’re planning on staying longer than 15 days?
Well, a decision needs to be made on where you’re going to get your visa from. And there are three options – Embassy issued visa, E-Visa, or VOA (visa on arrival).
EMBASSY ISSUED VISAS
If you like the sound of an embassy issued visa, you’ll need to contact the Vietnam Embassy or Consulate in your home country to find out the cost, and what they require. Visa fees vary from country to country, along with the differences in visa types. ie. single or multiple entry, and duration.
Here is a link where you can find a list of Vietnam Embassies all around the world –
You may also have to post your passport to the Embassy in order to receive the visa stamp, which will obviously add to the overall cost. You also have the added concern of trusting your postal service with your passport.
Note however, that some Embassies may offer the option of a loose leaf visa, thus removing the need to post your passport.
Once you have your visa in your passport, you are good to go, and upon arrival into Vietnam, proceed directly to Immigration / Passport control. Your visa will be stamped, and there is nothing more to pay.
*Note – please do not confuse e-visa with VOA. (visa on arrival) They are two very different processes.
E-Visa is a relatively new system, and now covers a good number of countries. An e-visa is actually issued by the Vietnam government, and this –
is the only website you should use to apply for your e-visa.
Any other website purporting to issue e-visas, or with ‘e-visa’ in their domain name, is either a VOA site, or an agent acting on your behalf, and charging you handsomely to do so.
Everything you need to know about e-visa is in the link above, but a quick rundown is as follows –
- It is only good for single entry visits of up to a total of 30 days.
- The cost is $25USD, plus something like a $1USD payment fee.
You will also find on the above website a list of eligible countries that can use e-visa, which is here –
As well as a list of border crossings that the e-visa can be used at –
Note that the time taken to issue an e-visa is quoted as three working days, but please be aware that it can take a little longer than that. Therefore, it is best if you don’t leave it to the last minute to apply.
If you are travelling at the last minute, or you’ve only just realised you actually need a visa to enter Vietnam and your flight is in a few days, then applying for an urgent VOA approval letter will probably be your best bet. (See VOA below)
Please also double check all details – name spelling, dates of birth, sex, etc – once your e-visa is emailed to you. Mistakes can cause issues upon arrival in Vietnam, as well as extra costs to rectify them.
Once you do have your e-visa, print it out and keep it with your passport. On arrival into Vietnam, head straight to Immigration / Passport control. There is nothing more to pay.
Please also ensure you hang on to your e-visa while in Vietnam, as you may need to show it when exiting the country. Because of this, it’s probably a good idea to have a couple of copies.
VISA ON ARRIVAL (VOA)
A third visa option is visa on arrival. (VOA)
But, it is only applicable if you are entering by air at one of the below airports.
HCMC – Tan Son Nhat International Airport
Hanoi – Noi Bai International Airport
Danang – Danang International Airport
Nha Trang – Cam Ranh International Airport
So, what is the advantage of VOA over E-visa?
Where e-visa is only for one month and single entry, VOA has a few more options, which include one month single and multiple entry, as well as three month single and multiple entry.
Cost wise, the visa itself is similar to e-visa, with the one and three month single entry visas attracting a $25USD stamping fee, while the fee for the multiple entry visas are $50USD.
There is, however, an approval letter fee that is also applicable, which will cost you $6USD and upwards, depending on who you use, as well as the visa you require.
So, how does VOA work?
First, you need to arrange that approval letter. And to do that, you need to contact one of the many VOA agents that are out there. They all do the exact same thing, but as mentioned, it’s their fees that can vary.
For what it’s worth, we use vietnamvisapro.net
Within a few days you will receive your letter by email. This is not your actual visa, but merely a letter that will enable you to receive your visa when you arrive in Vietnam.
Don’t be concerned if there are other names and details on the approval letter, as it’s common for agents to make visa applications in bulk. If this does concern you, then most agents will offer a ‘private’ letter, for a small fee.
When you’ve received your approval letter, you will need to print out the whole thing.
You will also be sent a link to an ‘Entry and exit’ form (NA1), which you will also need to print out. This form needs to be filled in, and, to save time on arrival, it’s a very good idea to do it before you travel.
So, you now have your approval letter, and your ‘entry and exit’ form.
Do you need anything else?
Yes, you’ll also need one passport sized photo. As well as the visa stamping fee in USD.
So, now that you have everything you need, what do you do when you actually arrive at the airport in Vietnam?
Unlike having an Embassy issued visa, or an e-visa, you DO NOT head straight to immigration.
When you arrive, you instead make your way to the VOA, or Landing Visa, window, which is before the queues to immigration.
Once there, hand over your passport, the entry and exit form, and the photo, and then take a seat and wait for your name to be called.
You can now sit back and watch the other travellers, who invariably neglected to research, scramble to fill out their form, as well as look dumbfounded when officials ask for the visa stamping fee, which they apparently knew nothing about.
It can actually be quite amusing!
When your name is called out, return to the counter to retrieve your passport, which now has a visa stamp in it, and pay the stamping fee, which, depending on the visa type, will usually be either $25USD or $50USD.
Be sure to check both the stamp, which looks much the same as the Embassy issued one above, as well as the dates specified on it, before you leave the VOA counter.
So, after all that, what are the disadvantages to using VOA?
Only that you’ll have to spend a little time queuing at the VOA counter to organise your visa, before heading to Immigration. How much time will depend on how many others have turned up at the same time and also require VOA.
It could be anything from 10 minutes to an hour or two, but waiting time is usually closer to the shorter time frame. And the fact that there are now quite a few that can visit under the visa exemption, as well as the e-visa process now being another option, means that there are now less people using the VOA system.
If you are worried about having to wait too long, most VOA agents offer an expedited service, which essentially, is just someone pushing you to the front of the line. And for an extra fee, of course.
Up to you if you feel that’s necessary.
Hopefully the whole Vietnam visa thing is a little clearer.