Let’s be honest…when you dream of your amazing upcoming trip to Vietnam, it’s unlikely you’re envisioning the all-important filing of official government paperwork. Negotiating the tangled world of travel visas is one of the less glamourous aspects of travelling, but it’s absolutely necessary. So where to start?
Visitor Visas 101 – Do your homework first
Every country has different requirements and rules when it comes to visas, so do your research well in advance to take away some of the stress of the whole process.
Before you even consider applying for any visas, make sure that your passport will be valid for the required time after you enter a new country. For Vietnam, this is usually six months.
When it comes to tourist or visitor visas, learn the visa requirements for your nationality prior to your trip. This can be done by checking Vietnam’s official tourism/immigration website or contacting the nearest consulate/embassy in your country of origin (i.e. where you’re physically applying for your visa).
What you need to know about Vietnam visas:
- Vietnam visitor visas must be obtained through an embassy or consulate prior to travel. At this time, they do not issue visas on arrival for land border crossings. You may qualify for a visa on arrival at airport entries, but this is not guaranteed.
- You still have to apply online for a visa on arrival at an international airport. You won’t be allowed to board any flight to Vietnam without either a valid visa in your passport or two stamped copies of a Visa Authority (more info on Visa Aurthorities below).
- The normal processing time for a Vietnam visa is 3 – 10 working days, depending on the location of the issuing authority.
- On the main Stray route, there are four Vietnamese embassies where you can arrange a visa if you do not obtain one prior to your trip:
Keep this in mind:
- The embassies/consulates in Thailand, Laos and Cambodia are not open on weekends or national public holidays. They may also close without notice or reason.
- There is usually only one official at each office who can sign visas and if they are away, there is no one else who can process visas. This may lead to longer processing times.
Our best advice
Try to arrange your Vietnam visa before your trip if possible. If you prefer having flexibility in your trip and wait to get it in Southeast Asia, be prepared to wait for the visa to be issued. It may take up to 10 workings days so be patient and enjoy your time discovering daily life in a new Southeast Asian city while you wait.
Stray Traveller FAQs for filling out a Vietnam visa application:
Q: It’s asking for my address in Vietnam, but I’m travelling around. What should I enter?
A: Leave that question blank or put the address of your accommodation in Ho Chi Minh City.
For Stray travellers, we stay at the Khoi Hostel. The address is:
373/11 Pham Ngu Lao Street
Ho Chi Minh City
Q: It’s asking for an entry date, but I want to be flexible on my trip. What should I write?
A: The entry date on the visa must be on or before the date you enter Vietnam. Unfortunately, there’s no way around this one. If you are issued a 30 day visitor visa, you can enter either on the exact entry date or any time after that day within the 30 day period. Just remember that if you enter after the date on the visa, you are cutting into your 30 day window. If you don’t plan on staying the full 30 days, you can be more flexible with your entry.
Q: What about the Vietnam ‘Visa Authority’?
A few years ago, Vietnam introduced a ‘Visa Authority’ online which allows third party companies to issue travellers with a Visa Authority (not an actual visa) that they then present to immigration officials at their point of entry. The visa is then issued so long as the Visa Authority was done by a registered service provider.
Keep this in mind if using a Visa Authority:
- Since the introduction of the Vietnam Visa Authority, many companies have sprung up offering visa services. Some are reputable and some are not. Do your research if you choose to get a Visa Authority!
- Visa Authorities can only be used at international airports, not at land border crossings. (Therefore, a Visa Authority will not work for Stray travellers travelling from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City.)
IMPORTANT NOTE: This article is intended to serve as a helpful guide based on the experiences of Stray staff and other Stray travellers. All information provided is accurate at the time of publishing, but bear in mind that visa requirements can change at any time.
Therefore, we advise people consult with the Vietnamese embassy in their country of origin to ensure they have the most up-to-date information.