Hello from Hanoi*! We arrived late last night and I wanted to share my experience with Vietnam Visa on Arrival because, frankly, at first I thought it was a bit sketchy. However, the entire process couldn’t have gone more smoothly and we were through Immigration with Visas in hand in less time than Domino’s takes to deliver a pizza.
As of July 2015 Vietnam still requires US Citizens to obtain a Visa prior to arrival: most current info can be found on the Vietnamese Embassy in the USA website. You can apply either in person or send in your passport to get the Visa, or use an agency to assist you. I’ve heard good things from many friends about Allied Passport and Visa and would have gone that route if not for my lack of time due to Deal Girl’s Passport Fiasco.
However, Vietnam offers this hybrid work-around called a “Visa on Arrival”. Basically, you need an invitation letter from a Vietnamese travel agency that has already been cleared by the Vietnamese consulate. The letter only takes three days to process and you get an emailed PDF copy that you take to the “Visa on Arrival” desk at Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh, or Da Nang Airports with a passport picture and $45 US cash.
when I read this I thought it sounded shady, too. But I found a bunch of reviews on TripAdvisor and decided to give My Vietnam Visa a try. It was $54 for 3 Visas and the online application took about 10 minutes total. I got an immediate confirmation and the actual letter in 2 days. The letter itself looks a bit strange as it has a long list of names on it- you want to verify your name is correct before leaving for Vietnam.
When we got to Hanoi, probably 20 of the 200 on our flight were using Visa on Arrival. Even at 10:30 PM, the desk was staffed with six clerks. Both the Visa processing and the Immigration clearance proceeded swiftly. The only group I saw getting hung up was one who thought they could get the $45 Visa fee in cash at the airport: don’t make that mistake! The ATMs are on the other side of Immigration and they still hadn’t solved the problem by the time we cleared.
Vietnam Visa on Arrival totally worked as advertised. Hopefully everything else will run as smoothly!
Have you used Visa on Arrival in Vietnam or another country? How did it work for you? Please share in the comments.
(Update: Reader Davina shared an interesting experience she had with Visa on Arrival. Apparently the office ran out of Visa stickers and had to send someone downtown to get more. This created quite a backlog. So the system isn’t bug-free. Thanks for sharing, Davina.)
*Well, sort of Hanoi. As you may know I schedule a Meltdown Day into trips to keep everyone’s spirits up. We had a BUSY week in Osaka I can’t wait to tell you about, later. For now, both the kids and I desperately need a respite. So while we’re geographically in Hanoi, we’re mentally in hotel pool/room service/afternoon nap land.
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