How to Get a Vietnam Tourist Visa – Faster and Cheaper

Need a Vietnam Tourist Visa?
Vietnam Tourist Visa Approval Letter

Visa Approval Letter


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You probably need a tourist visa if you are visiting Vietnam (link to the US Dept of State).  The Sheraton Hanoi travel desk was excellent in handling it me!  They arranged my Visa in just a few days.  It was very easy!  They have a desk inside the Sheraton but are a separate agency.  I did not book any tours in the hotel as they charge at least double what local agencies charge!


There are 2 main ways to get a Vietnam Tourist Visa:

  1. The Vietnam Embassy (by mail or in person).  You will have to fill out a form, send in your passport and pay a fee, which is not listed clearly.  I believe its around $100 per person.  Good luck figuring out the process and be sure to fill out the paperwork correctly…if not, you’ll have to do it over, pay again, and wait even longer.  Then cross your fingers your passport comes back and in time for your trip.
  2. “VOA” – Visa On Arrival:  The faster and cheaper option, at least if you are flying to Hanoi.  It works like this:  You hire an agent which arranges an official Visa Approval Letter (pictured above) for you before you depart (you will receive it via email).  You present the Visa Approval Letter at the airport and get your passport stamped.  We were the first to arrive so there was no wait (we flew business class using miles so we were one of the first to get off the plane).  According to TripAdvisor, the wait can be up to 1 or 2 hours if you get stuck behind a large tour group, especially at HCMC Airport.
    • There are 2 fees:   The approval letter fee (paid to the agent) and the Visa Stamp Fee.  The Sheraton Travel desk charges $30 per person for the approval letter and you pay $45 USD cash per person at the airport for the Stamp Fee.
    • MAKE SURE YOU HAVE THE EXACT AMOUNT OF CASH IN USD. You don’t want to be looking for an ATM while trying to enter the country.
    • This Tripadvisor article explains the VOA process.  I was hesitant at first but everything worked out ok.



The Visa On Arrival is cheaper: it will cost you about $75 USD per person ($45 + max $30) vs ~$100 through the Vietnam Embassy.

There are many websites which advertise the same Visa On Arrival service for around $15, but I paid a little extra for the peace of mind of not sending my passport info all over the internet.  If you are planning on emailing photos of your passport, I suggest at least putting a password on the pdf file and emailing the password in a separate email.

UH OH…I NEED A VISA?  no problem!

I realized about 2 weeks before the trip that I didn’t have the required Visa and debated doing #1 or #2.  I’m glad I did the Visa On Arrival.  I saved time (no forms to fill out!), money, and most importantly, I did not have mail my Passport anywhere and pray it came back in time!  The approval letter was arranged in about 3 business days.


You will need to bring 2 passport photos with you for the Tourist Visa.  I wrote a separate post on better and cheaper alternatives for passport photos which you can read here: 3 Free or Cheap Ways To Get Passport Photos


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  1. Thanks for the tip! I am planning on going to Vietnam later this year and this will certainly help. Would you recommend using SPG points, or cash + points or straight up paying for the night? From looking at the dates I plan to be there, the room rate is around $130/night — which is not bad, in my opinion.

    • It depends. In general, cash + points is usually a better value. I do the math to see which one is giving me more value for my SPG points. I also have lots of SPG points so I rather use points than cash. Some hotels change categories which changes how much cash you have to pay.

      Don’t forget that $130/night will probably be around $150 with taxes. When you pay with points, you pay $0 so you save $150…not $130.

  2. Note that if your trip has you leaving Vietnam (say, to see Angkor Watt in Cambodia) and then re-entering Vietnam, you can’t get a VOA, because you must get a multiple entry visa.

    • Thanks for bringing that up! I was only entering once so I did get the single entry visa. I believe I could have chosen the multiple entry visa instead and saw the sign on the wall with the different types of visa along with the different fees.

  3. I just did this last week. I used, which was $10 for a single entry visa letter. It was a shared one, so it had other people’s info on it, but the turnaround time was less than 12 hours and I found them to be helpful and responsive when I had an issue (my mistake).

    The wait in Hanoi for me was less than 15 minutes (part of it since the lines were somewhat disorganized). I did see them make change for people, so don’t know if you need exact change (but it’s helpful)

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