Wednesday, February 01, 2017

The Visa Application and Visa on Arrival Situation in Vietnam

If there is one thing I try avoiding when visiting another country, it would have to be applying for an entry visa.

Dutch passport

I could not find the passport picture I had in the past so I have sourced this picture from Koevoets Advocaten.

My passport is Dutch, supposedly one of the strongest passports in the world. Unfortunately, there are a few countries that I would love to visit (Russia and Mongolia for example) that requires me to apply for an entry visa. For me, it is the legwork and the hassle accompanying the whole process that makes me reluctant to go through this route every time because let’s be real, this visa thing is just a matter of formality really.

Now Vietnam. I never thought with a Dutch passport I would need to apply for an entry visa to enter the country? Well, I was wrong.

[To read the rest of the post and see more pictures, click Read more link below]

Apparently, the European Union has been negotiating with Vietnam for a free trade agreement since 2012. However, the Netherlands is its 3rd largest EU trading partner after Germany and the UK and the economic relations are strong formed by several strategic partnerships. In fact, the Dutch (through the VOC - East India Company) have been trading with central and northern Vietnam as early as the 17th century! So, can we just get this visa restriction out of the way, please? Because I want to visit Hanoi next time =)

I am travelling with my family to Vietnam who is all Philippine passport holders, but they do not need a visa to enter Vietnam. They benefit from the country's membership to the ASEAN, where both nations, amongst a number of bilateral agreements signed, have a travel policy in place for their visiting citizens. So I guess, with my Dutch passport I am the ugly duckling in the group.

Union square

Moi on a scorching hot day on Union Square in front of the Ho Chi Minh City Hall. See the ladies with the umbrella.

Here’s what I did for my Vietnam visa.

Like everyone else, I resorted to Google for information and searching for an online visa service. I also made the decision to go for the Visa on Arrival option because this route is much easier and convenient for me.

I applied for my Vietnam visa online via Vietnam-Evisa.org's Visa on Arrival service and paid $19 for a single entry visa. I chose them because their website looked professional, the pricing was competitive and they offered a quick turn-around time. The whole online application process was very straightforward and I was able to get my visa in just a matter of days. But if you are in a rush, they also offer a next day service.

The Vietnam-Evisa.org service was very thorough with their instructions in the email. In order to save time, it is very important to prepare the following prior to arrival in Vietnam:

  • Print out of the visa approval letter
  • Print out of a filled-up visa application form (They provide the link in the email where you can download the form)
  • $25 single-entry visa on arrival stamp payment
  • 2 passport size photos (2 x 6 cm). If you do not have photos prepare $5 and they will do this for you.

Upon arrival at the Tan Son Nhat - Ho Chi Minh International Airport we proceeded to immigration and found the visa service window at the left-hand side of the immigration control area. I told my family to go ahead and go through immigration while I process my visa. I will see them later outside in the baggage area.

Luckily, we landed at around 08:30 which means I was at the visa services section just before 09:00. Half an hour later the crowd queueing up tripled, and an hour later it was a chaos. It felt good that I was able to dodge the massive queue of a couple hundred people waiting to process their Vietnam visa on arrival!

saigon

Ho Chi Minh City skyline was taken from Shri Bar & Restaurant where we had lunch.

The visa processing, however, did not really go fast. I submitted my documents (passport, filled-up application form, visa approval letter) at the visa services window, and I paid here as well. I did not have pictures with me so I made use of their $5 photo service. This is really very helpful because I found the 2 x 6 cm photo size picture really odd. After this, I waited for my name to be called.

The waiting game was the unpredictable part, but eventually, after an hour, my name was called.

To think I was one of the early birds and my visa got processed within an hour period, which I thought was quite long. I guess many of the people arriving after me will have to wait for a few hours? Some may probably have to wait until the afternoon. Not a fine thing to be stuck in immigration for hours when you could have been slurping the delicious pho and dodging the streets of Saigon from the crazy motorbikes =)

Armed with my Vietnam visa on arrival stamp in my passport I queued up for the final hurdle – the immigration. The guy standing behind me in the queue is Australian. well, I can tell from his accent. He let out a chuckle and a sigh of relief whilst shaking his head. He recognised me earlier at the visa services section and I guess he is happy just as I am that we got out of the waiting crowd that has already developed into a mob.

“I guess it’s better to apply for the visa ahead of time huh?” I told him.

He chuckled again squinting his eye, “Umm,... no, not really.”

“I have been coming to Vietnam every now and then, and I always make use of the  Vietnam visa on arrival service, it is just easy. But you can never tell how big the crowd is every time.”

He claimed that this was the biggest crowd he has ever seen so far. Most days he experienced had a manageable crowd and some days just a trickle. It really does vary every day and no one can tell ahead of time what it would be like. Although I believe you do have an advantage if your flight arrives early in the morning.

So I guess, visitors needing a visa to enter Vietnam will just have to keep using the visa on arrival service and hoping there is no long queue at the visa services!

Saigon

Your typical Saigon street scene.

After clearing immigration I went to join my Philippine passport holders family at the baggage lobby who have been patiently waiting for me to get out for over an hour. Sorry!

You can find pictures here of our arrival: Vietnam - Arriving Ho Chi Minh City and Plane Views

Do come back for more travel stories and lots of cool pictures of Vietnam.

Travel Period: December 2016
Destination: Ho Chi Minh City (Southeast), Vietnam

Keep in touch and follow me on Facebook: Travel & Lifestyle Diaries by Dutched Pinay Travels
Happy Travels! Enjoy Life =)

All pictures were taken by a point and shoot pocket camera or a smartphone.

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