I nearly skipped Vietnam all together because I was intimidated by the visa process, but it’s really not that complicated. Here’s what you need to know for getting a visa on arrival in Vietnam (valid for single-entry, up to one month):
- First off – Yes! It’s possible to get a visa on arrival in Vietnam, but only under certain circumstances.
- You can ONLY get a visa on arrival if you are flying into the country (specifically to Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi). If you are flying elsewhere or traveling by land, you CANNOT get a visa on arrival and must apply for it in advance at a Vietnamese embassy.
- You MUST apply for a letter of approval BEFORE arriving in Vietnam. You can do this online here. It took us four days to get our letter, but this varies. You can also pay a rush fee and get it in a matter of minutes. I would err on the side of caution and do it one week in advance. Since you can apply online it makes it really easy.
- When you receive your letter (which will be emailed to you) you will also be sent a visa application. Print off the letter, and application and fill it out in advance to save time at the airport (you want to be prepared to take your papers to the visa on arrival counter as soon as you land.)
- Before flying you should assemble your letter of approval, visa application, two 4×6 passport photos, and $25 USD (credit cards are not accepted). Once you land you’ll go to the visa on arrival window. You will go here before going through customs, passport control, picking up your luggage, etc. – it is literally the first thing you will do. To the individual at the counter you’ll give your packet (minus the $25) and your passport. Then you wait for your name to be called. Once it’s called you hand over the $25 and are given back your passport with your new Vietnamese visa inside!
Pro tip: You can upgrade to the fast track service which is like a Disney Fastpass. A “runner” will take your packet straight to the front of the visa on arrival line at the airport saving you some time. But if time is not an issue (and money is) this isn’t necessary and you can wait with the other serfs. Selma and I were towards the front of our plane and went straight in the line – we ended up waiting about 45 minutes to an hour.
I hope this helps and eases people’s minds about the Vietnamese visa process! Happy Travels!