There are three options to acquire your Vietnam visa (valid 30 days, one entry into the country)
Through a Vietnamese embassy of any country: Contact the Vietnamese embassy (by phone or internet) and enquire about the price and the procedures. The prices are rather high (from 70 to 120 US Dollars).
This is how it usually works: You will have to fill out a form and provide two photos in passport size. Send them the form, photos, passport by mail and get your passport with the visa back one to two weeks later. The money has to be either included in the mail in bills or be transferred to their account beforehand.
If you stay in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, before entering Vietnam, then you’re lucky. There you can get a visa quite cheaply for about 45 US Dollars. Along the Phnom Penh riverside – north of the Royal Palace area – there are some travel offices that offer the service. All you have to do is bring your passport, fill out a form, give them two photos in passport size, pay the money and get your passport plus the visa back three days later (sooner if you pay an express fee). I have done this once and had no problems.
Tip: Make sure to have a copy of your passport photo page and your Cambodian visa page while the travel office has it, so you can show something to the police just in case.
Best option – Get an invitation letter. The big advantage is, that you don’t have to give your passport away. Once you have the letter you can enter Vietnam ONLY through the airports of Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City or Danang. You can’t enter Vietnam through a land border with this invitation letter.
Getting the letter: There are several service providers offering the service. I tried it with Vietnam-Visa.com. You order the invitation letter, fill out the necessary passport details and pay the service fee (I paid 21 US dollars in 2011) by credit card. After two working days you will get an e-mail including the invitation letter as a PDF on which your name (among others) will be listed. The e-mail will also provide you with a link to the form, that you have to fill out, and with the information on the procedure and the visa fee. After filling out the form and printing both the letter and the form you’re ready!
At the airport go to the visa desk and give the clerk the invitation letter, your passport, the registration form, two photos in passport size and a fixed US Dollar fee (in 2011 it was 25 US-Dollars). After waiting 20 minutes you will have your visa in the passport and are ready for immigration.
Tips for all three options:
- Make sure, that the dollar bills you use (for anything in Vietnam by the way) are brand new: No writings, no colour and no fuzzy edges on them!
If the bills look old the Vietnamese authorities will refuse them! (And at the airport at the visa desk credit card payments usually are not accepted! So you would have a problem in option three.)
- Have the exact amount ready.
- At the date of entry your passport needs to be valid for six more months at least.
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