Nov 15 2012
Compared with Saigon and Hanoi, extending your visa in Hoi An can be a costly and complicated process. Rules and prices change with every travel agent you speak to and prices can spiral out of control if time is not on your side. We spent a day finding out the options, from extending a first one-month single-entry through to a three-month multiple entry B3 business visa.
Single-entry, one-month extension (C1)
If you arrived in Vietnam with a C1 and just need to extend for another month, it’s simple. Hotels and tour operators charge between $25 and $35 to act as a go-between and the service takes anything between two and four days. What many of them don’t tell you is that you can do it yourself at the local police station on Phan Chau Trinh Street — the big yellow building opposite Viet Town waving a huge Vietnam flag. Rock up any time between 08:00 and 11:30 or from 14:00-16:30 with your passport and they will process your extension for $20. It’s surprisingly straightforward and although the staff there don’t have the greatest English, it’ll be quite obvious to them what you need and they are very helpful. On a weekday the processing time is usually one to two days.
Single-entry, three-month extension (C3 or B3, business visa)
This is where things get more complicated due to Vietnam being almost cut into three: Saigon, Hanoi and the central region. Each has very different rules on visas of which nobody seems able to explain. If you arrived in Hanoi or Saigon, the cost for an extension is $95 for a C3 and $120 for a B3, with a four- or five-day turnaround. If however your point of entry was Da Nang you’re in trouble and you will need to pay between $50-75 extra for the processing. The reason? “It’s very difficult.”
There is only one man to go to in Hoi An for C3 and B3 extensions, and every single hotel and tour operator use him; they just add an extra bit of commission onto his prices, starting from a $5 handling fee upwards. It’s not unheard of for that fee to be as much as $100 on top. His name is Mr Hung and he has a small office in A Dong Silk on Tran Hung Dao Street and he is a lovely, smiley man. However difficult your visa problem is, he will be able to give advice, even if you don’t end up using him.
All three-month extensions are sent to Saigon for processing. Usually your visa comes back in the form of a stamp which rather annoyingly states the price –$10! The rest of your money goes towards various processing fees… On the plus side it’s a small stamp so if you don’t have many pages left in your passport do ask Mr Hung to get them to stamp it on a page that has already been used rather than losing a page to one tiny stamp.
Extending for a second, third or fourth time
For this you must go directly to Mr Hung. Depending on the visa rules at the time, a second renewal should be straightforward although the prices do increase slightly and again this simply “depends”. Three is the magic number in Vietnam visas where you start skating on thin ice; if you are lucky it’s the same as the second visa; if you are not then it’s time to skip to the border and re-enter the country. Phnom Penh or Sihanoukville in Cambodia are good options or you can fly directly to Kuala Lumpur after applying online for a new visa upon re-entry. Fourth time reissues are incredibly rare without having to cross a border.
The very best thing to do is try to plan ahead with Vietnam visas. If you are in Saigon or Hanoi and it looks like your visa may expire, renew it there, as it’s far cheaper and easier. Even better, apply for a six-month visa on arrival if you think you might stay a bit longer than the alternative three months, and then you won’t need to even think about it during your stay.
68 Tran Hung Dao St, Hoi An
T: (0905) 718 886
Phan Chau Trinh St, Hoi An (opposite Viet Town)
Travelfish.org always pays its way. No exceptions.