How To Get A Visa For Vietnam

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

What’s more fun than getting off a plane and immediately being hit up for cash just to step foot outside the airport? (I’ll answer my own question. The answer is: getting the seat next to the lavatory for your 16-hour flight. Oh the stories you’ll tell.)

The fact is, visas are never fun, especially for those of us saving every last penny for the actual trip. But the least you can do is make it one of the less stressful parts of your pre-trip by planning way ahead. So I present to you: how to get your visa to Vietnam.

If you’re a U.S. citizen, the first thing you need to do is check out Vietnam’s Consular Services web site here. This page runs down all the things you’re going to need to do.

1) Find your passport. Check in between couch cushions, in the back of your dog’s house, or if you’re a tycoon from the 1890’s, try that safe behind the painting in your wood-paneled office.

2) Fill out an application (Word/PDF). Make sure you kind of know your plans. They’re going to ask whether you need a single visa ($30) or a visa good for multiple entries (necessary if you’re traveling back and forth from nearby Cambodia or Laos). Keep in mind that prices go up depending on whether you’re going back and forth during a one-month stay or if you’re traveling longer ($50 for under one month, $80 for under six months, and $120 for six months to one year). And that’s just for the “stamping fee.” For the processing fee, handling fee, etc . . . , the fee is actually higher (but, conveniently, not listed). Call ahead of time and ask exactly how much you need to pay: (202) 861 – 2293.

Also, don’t forget you’re going to need to include a passport-sized photo too with your paperwork.

3) Break out the check book. Actually, not really, personal checks aren’t accepted. You’re going to need to wrangle up a money order, cashier check, or certified check. More likely than not, your bank will issue you a money order or cashier for free or a nominal fee. Most people (including bank tellers) don’t even know what a certified check is, so if you want to have a little fun, quiz them as to what it is while you’re there!

Like I said, fees vary depending on your plans. Check the going fee rates here.

4) Finally, just as your head is beginning to swim, head down to your local UPS or Fed Ex store and drop it all in an envelope along with a pre-paid return envelope so they can mail everything back. Don’t forget to keep you tracking number: this is your passport you’re sending off into the world — you’re going to want to track its journey.

5) And that’s it. The good news is that the turnaround time (at least for me) was surprisingly quick, and I had no problems getting everything back and in one piece. What’s even better is that your shiny, colorful new visa makes an impressive and scenic addition to your passport (unlike some, cheap receipt-like visas you get elsewhere — I’m looking at you Chile).

Finally, I’d be remiss in not mentioning another option for those skittish about mailing their passport around the country. Try, a company that allows you (for an extra fee) to apply and pay online and pick up your visa when your arrive by plane in either Ho Chi Minh, Danang or Hanoi.

Bonus: Visiting Cambodia? Do it all online and print out your visa in a matter of hours. Check out Cambodia’s ultra-efficient visa application system here.

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