Updated on October 3, 2017
Need a Vietnam Tourist Visa?
TRIP REPORT INDEX
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!
DO I NEED A VIETNAM VISA AS A US CITIZEN?
Yes. Here's the link to the US dept of state.
HOW TO GET A VIETNAM TOURIST VISA
There are 2 main ways to get a Vietnam Tourist Visa:
- 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.
- “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 service fee) 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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