Vietnam was one of my favourite countries in Asia. The culture, the food, the scenery and the people are all incredible and I’d love to visit again in the future. When I visited way back in 2009 it was a real faff to get a visa so today I wanted to tell you about some changes to the Vietnam visa application system which have made it SO much easier.
There’s a lot of conflicting information on the internet at the moment about the Vietnam visa system so I’ll make it really simple.
- Do not arrive in Vietnam without a visa or an official letter of approval
- You can apply for an official letter of approval online and this allows you to purchase your actual visa when you arrive. This is called a Visa on Arrival.
- Official letters of approval are available online through an agency such as vietnamsvisa.com. If you look on the government site it suggests you shouldn’t use the Visa On Arrival (VOA) service but after trawling the internet I’ve found that this is because the government want you to apply through them so they can make more money (naughty, naughty, Vietnam!). There’s more info about Vietnam VOA’s on TripAdvisor.
- You’ll pay a small amount for a Visa on Arrival Letter ($15.99 for one person for 1 month) and then you pay the stamping fee to the customs official when you arrive which is currently $45 but does change.
- If you apply online for the letter you won’t need to send your passport away or spend any time at the Vietnamese embassy. Simples!
If you’re visiting Vietnam, here are a few more tips to make sure your journey runs smoothly and you have an incredible time.
photo credit: Samantha T.
1. You need a visa
(Just in case you skipped the bit above!)
Don’t even think about arriving in Vietnam without a visa or an official letter of approval. Some countries in Asia, such as Laos and Cambodia, have a fairly lax approach to visas and if you pay a little extra you’ll easily get through border control. This is not the case in Vietnam.
So I’ll say it again. Get a visa or an official letter of approval before you arrive!
2. Walk slowly when crossing the road
Crossing the road in Vietnam, particularly in big cities, is terrifying. There are just so many motorbikes and an endless stream of traffic. You won’t find a lollypop lady or a little green man to help you cross the road so you’ll simply need to step out and walk slowly and calmly across the road. Don’t be tempted to run and NEVER turn around and walk back. This is how everyone crosses the road so drivers are used to it and will go around you. If you’re nervous, just wait for a local person to cross the road and walk with them. You’ll feel like a weirdo sticking so close to a stranger but sometimes it’s the only way to get across!
This is a typical street scene in Vietnam…
3. Register where you’re staying within 24 hours
When you arrive in Vietnam you’ll need to register where you’re staying with the police within 24 hours. This sounds more complicated than it is because if you’re staying in a hotel, they’ll usually do it for you. Likewise, if you’re staying in an apartment, the owner or Airbnb host is responsible for registering your address with the police. It’s all easy but this is something to be aware of, particularly if you’re not staying in a traditional hotel.
4. Don’t eat with your eyes
I’m a firm believer that you taste your food with your eyes before your mouth. Well presented, delicious looking food always tastes better but you need to push this from your mind while you’re in Vietnam.
The food in Vietnam is delicious but it often looks disgusting. Ignore the look of any food and try as much as you possibly can, you’ll be surprised by what you taste.
Don’t be afraid of food from street stalls but try to find stalls with long queues where you know the food is fresh and recommended by locals.
5. Beware of pick-pockets
Vietnam isn’t a violent country but petty crime is high so you’ll need to be aware of current scams and pickpockets. The best way to avoid theft is to have very little worth stealing so avoid wearing any jewelry and leave your expensive laptop at home. Consider wearing a money belt for your passport and credit cards and attach your phone and camera to your belt or belt loop. It’s unlikely you’ll be robbed but you’ll feel much more comfortable and relaxed if you know your belongings are safe.