Nobody enjoys immigration procedures, but for most travellers it is a fact of life. Fortunately Vietnam is not a particularly hard country to get a visas for - but like any process people love to hate there are often a lot of unanswered questions as nobody likes the stern looks you get when you forget something. Here are a selection of questions we get asked about visa applications and requirements for Vietnam. Please note though that visa regulations can change so do check with your local consulate before arriving.
Do I need a visa to visit Vietnam?
Most travellers to Vietnam will need to arrange a valid visa before they enter the country, so the answer is usually yes. There are some exceptions, however - most citizens of south east Asian countries (specifically Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines and Laos) do not need a visa if they intend to stay less than 30 days.
Furthermore, visitors from Japan, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland and South Korea can visit for 15 days without a visa.
How long can I stay on a tourist visa?
Tourist visas are generally issued for 1 month or 3 months, while business visas can be 6 months or a year. Both single and multiple entry visas are available; while the latter generally cost slightly more it is usually worth it for flexibility's sake.
Is it possible to extend my visa once in Vietnam?
Whether an extention is possible or not does depend on your visa, as some short term (1-2 weeks) visas cannot be extended, but in general it is normally a fairly simple process to extend your visa once inside Vietnam. As queues at immigration offices are often quite long and the process can be somewhat baffling to the uninitiated, we would generally recommend asking a travel agent or specialised visa agency in Vietnam to do the job for you, freeing up your time for more entertaining pursuits.
Can I get my visa on arrival in Vietnam?
You cannot enter Vietnam without a valid visa, whether in your passport or pre-arranged online All visas to Vietnam must be pre-arranged in one way or another, whether at a Vietnamese consulate or embassy or through an online visa arrangement service. Unlike some neighbouring countries it is not possible to get a visa at the border or at the airport, so please do not attempt it.
What is possible, however, is the pre-arrangement of a visa through any of a large number of visa service websites. It is now possible to place a booking with one of these agencies and receive a stamped letter by email that you can print and take with you by plane to Vietnam. On arrival at the airport you will pay the immigration a fee in US dollars (the fee depends on the length of your visa)and fill out a short form to complete the visa application process. Please note you cannot use this service if you plan to arrive by land - if you arrive by land you must have a valid visa sticker in your passport.
This can be extremely convenient if you do not live in the same town as your country's Vietnam embassy or consulate, or if, like me, you just don't like spending your time queueing. There are many agencies which can arrange this, but most have differing service charges so it is worth shopping around. I used My Vietnam Visa who I found to be very fast and efficient, but I would imagine most services are of similar quality.