The Deal Mommy

My Experience With Vietnam Visa on Arrival

Vietnam Visa on ArrivalHello 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.

I know:

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.

Bottom line:

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.

The Deal Mommy is a proud member of the Saverocity network. 


14 thoughts on “My Experience With Vietnam Visa on Arrival

  1. Chris L

    “Size of the visa is inverse to the global importance of the country: Vietnam’s is an entire page.”

    Comments like this only serve to confirm the sneaking suspicion that you–along with a whole host of other travel bloggers–show so little appreciation and respect for the places your points and miles take you, despite your best efforts to seem so well-traveled’ and ‘worldly’ to your audience.

    I can only imagine the gall one most possess to diminish the ‘global importance’ of a nation which is currently home to over 90 million people and ranks in the top 40 economies by PPP. This present accounting of Vietnam’s economic growth doesn’t even begin to consider the resilience necessary to recover from a devastating civil war which not only embroiled the entire world in Cold War brinkmanship, but also cost the lives of nearly 60,000 American troops.

    I am no historian, but I imagine one might reasonably call a country which caused such events ‘globally important.’

    The people who inhabit the corners of the world that you are lucky enough to visit are not props in the amusement park rides you take through their countries–their histories and identities deserve just as much respect as you would expect other nations’ citizens to pay to yours.

    1. thedealmommy Post author

      Wow.

      It’s called a joke.

      I’d like to think anyone who has read my blog for more than a single post would know this, but if coming across it blind I guess I can see why someone might take offense. My apologies.

      (And I’ve traveled, lived, and worked extensively on three continents. It’s true that smaller countries can often have onerous Visa entry requirements and large Visas compared to say Western Europe for Americans. I’ve got three full passports to prove it.)

  2. JohnnieD

    Thanks for the info. My wife and I are planning to visit SE Asia later next year. Good to know about the visa situation. BTW, I laughed at your joke! Life is too short to get whooped up about visa jokes…

    1. thedealmommy Post author

      Appreciate it, Johnnie.

      I’d go the trad route if I had the time but it sure was nice to have an option that didn’t involve giving up my passport so close to departure!

  3. MichaelP

    Haha, that goes the same for Lao (I am Laotian living in the US). They also take up a full page, do they really need to take up a full page. After several trips to Lao I now have to get a new passport as I no longer have any blank visa page left.

  4. alastairdeacon

    We did the visa on arrival too and it was super easy. However, I forgot about the pictures we were supposed to bring for our visas. We had our US dollars but no photos! It turned out not to be a problem, they charged us an extra $5 each and took the photos that were necessary. Sigh of relief…and so if you forget, you’ll be ok.

    1. thedealmommy Post author

      Good to know! I had forgotten too before leaving the USA, but found photo booths in Tokyo.

    2. Trevor

      @Alastairdeacon — as an added bonus did you get to keep the photos upon entry? Great for a “Remember when” note…

    3. lilybhuiyan

      Hi. Im visiting Bangladesh soon. Do i have to apply for the visa upon arrival beforehand? Or i can just book the ticket and fly there, then apply the visa there. Is it possible that way?

  5. Trevor

    At the high level btw – I always appreciate folks leaving feedback about visa / country entry’s. Its perhaps one of the most stressful parts of travel, at least for me. I’m getting off of a 14 hour flight (or less), in a foreign country. I’ve done research, so I think I know where I’m going, but there may be a language barrier, there may other barriers. I’ve even gone so far as to set up car transfers that have never shown (even booked through hotels!). There are just so many variables right when you touch down in a new place, so its great to have any data point you can.

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