Visas for Vietnam
Vexed by visas?
The Tourist Visa for Vietnam must be issued before arrival and the typical visa is valid for 30 or 90 days. This is the most popular style of visa used by travellers to Vietnam. In some rare cases, the visa begins to expire from the day it is issued, so it is a good idea to get your visa as close as possible to your intended arrival date.
The cost of a Vietnamese visa varies tremendously depending on where you apply -- a Vietnamese tourist visa costs A$70 in Sydney, Australia, but just US$25 in Jakarta, Indonesia and US$30 in Bangkok, Thailand. So, if you have the time, get your visa from a Vietnamese embassy somewhere in Asia rather than in your home country.
We have heard that Vietnamese visas arranged at the consulate in Sihanoukville, Cambodia, can be issued valid for set dates up to 30 days apart.
Vietnam does not have a visa on arrival system for its land borders, it does though if you're arriving by air -- read on for more information.
Visa on arrival/Pre-arranged visa
More a pre-arranged visa than a real visa on arrival, these visas are arranged through a travel agent in Vietnam who obtains a "Letter of Approval" from the Vietnamese immigration department. This letter is copied to you and to the international airport you're planning on using and when you arrive at the airport your visa should be ready to go.
There's a wide range of prices and length visas available (up to six month, multiple-entry) and a near endless number of Vietnamese travel agents who'll happily arrange the visa for you -- Google something like "Vietnam visa on arrival" to find about four squillion agents to choose from.
Extending a visa once in Vietnam is straightforward and a standard tourist visa can be extended three times (generally for a month at a time, though longer extensiong of 90 and 180 days are also possible) before you need to leave and get a new one. The price varies depending on how many time you have extended it, but bank on somewhere between US$20 and $40, and the process takes around 3 days.
The main thing to watch for are visas that start running out from the day they are issued. Although this situation is increasingly rare, it does still occur, so be sure to check beforehand.
Visa application forms often request an entry point and entry date. In our experience, these have been flexible, but we've heard annecdotal stories of people saying they'll be entering on one day, showing up a few days early and being turned away -- this has not been our personal experience though.
Things to watch out for
Make sure that you are stamped into Vietnam for the amount of time you're allowed. Vietnamese visas are full page stickers, so make sure you have enough space in your passport.
For information on the border crossings and to read traveller's reports, please see our Vietnam border crossing page, or the exhaustive Border Crossings FAQ thread on the messageboard, which includes reports back from travellers.
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