Do I need a visa for Vietnam?

With Vietnam firmly on the global map as a tourist destination, you, like many travelers around the world are probably pretty darned keen to check out some of Vietnam’s true must-sees.

However, before you can start thinking about packing that bag, you might want to check whether you are going to need a visa to enter Vietnam.

To sum it all up, things are certainly a lot easier than they used to be, especially since 2017, when new, more relaxed travel regulations ensured nationals of certain countries can now travel under a “visa exemption” that allows them to stay in Vietnam for a limited number of days. See the sections below for more!

Remember that during holiday periods, especially the Chinese New Year, or Tet, you will not be able to get a visa from government offices (unless you go through one of the online options). Find out more about the seasonal holidays in Vietnam here.

The FOUR main ways to get a visa for Vietnam

UPDATE: The Vietnam visa laws are set to change on July 1, 2020. Unfortunately, it looks like things will be a little tougher if you plan on spending more than 30 days in Vietnam; the new laws infer that you will have to leave the country every 30 days if you’re on a regular tourist visa, so no more 3 month stays/visas. However, things may change as the law is implemented (hey, this is Vietnam!). We’ll keep you updated below.

ONE: If you’re looking to do Vietnam in a couple of weeks (we promise you’ll need more!), and you’re from Belarus, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Norway, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, or the UK, you’re automatically eligible for a FREE 15-day visa! Most Asian countries (except China) get between 14 – 30 days, while if you’re from Chile, you’re in luck, you get a FREE 90-day visa!

NOTE: A gap of at least 30 days between two visa-free visits is required. You should also have with you a printout of your onward ticket.

TWO: If a maximum of 30 days (single entry) does the job for you – and your nationality is eligible – then get yourself an official government E-Visa. The 46 countries currently eligible include: the United States, Australia, Canada, the UK, New Zealand, Germany, and Russia. For a full list of countries and instructions on getting the E-Visa, see the official government site here.

E-visa applications are usually processed within three business days and confirmation or rejection is sent via email. Progress can be tracked online via the website and applications will require that the necessary documentation and photographs are scanned. Payment is also made electronically online.

THREE: If you’re not on the “lucky list” of eligible nations OR you need a longer stay/multiple entry visa, then you’re going to be looking at a VOA (Visa On Arrival). There are a number of online services that can assist you – basically, you’re applying for an approval letter, which you then take with you to Vietnam (so start the process at least 5-7 working days before you fly). Upon arrival, you hand in the letter and get a visa stamp (which you will have to pay for, see the section below on the various types of visa and their cost). We can recommend using this site (we paid $17 for the approval letter); there are other sites that do it for as little as $6, but shop around and remember that if it looks too good to be true, it probably is!

VisaOnArrivalOne thing to note: you’ll get an email with an attachment, pretty much like the one on the right. Just don’t be surprised to see your name accompanied by another bunch of tourist names! It seems privacy isn’t Vietnam’s strongest point sometimes, but there’s nothing really to worry about. If you are worried about your privacy, you can often pay an additional $10 to get a private approval letter.

FOUR: If the idea of arriving in Vietnam without a visa in your hand worries you, then apply for a visa directly from the Vietnamese Embassy in your home country. It will be more expensive, but will provide a certain peace of mind. Likewise, if you’re currently on the road and heading to Vietnam, you can apply at any Vietnamese Embassy. Just don’t try applying online if you’re in a hurry, the official government site leaves a lot to be desired and is very unclear…

NOTE: If you’re heading directly to the island of Phu Quoc, you won’t need a visa, regardless of your nationality. You’ll have 15 days to enjoy the island; If you intend enjoying more of Vietnam, see the options above.

What type of Vietnam visa do I need?

Well, if you’re heading to Vietnam as a tourist and the E-Visa or visa exemption options don’t work for you (see above), there are two types of tourist visas, divided into 1 month or 3 months and single or multiple entries. The price difference may be a factor for you – for example, the current airport stamping fee for a 1-month visa is $25, and the stamping fee for a 3-month visa is $50.

You could always get a 3 to 6 month business visa (though bear in mind that this is definitely not a work visa) if you plan on staying longer and don’t want to worry about border hopping. It does seem as though you can also order one of these business visas online through the various online visa companies, and you don’t even need a letter of sponsorship, they’ll provide you with one; bottom line, choose wisely!

Can I get my visa extended?

Tourist visas can be extended only once for 30 days. To save time and energy, we’d recommend you do the process through a local tour agency. It should only take two or three days, and is easy to do in the larger cities.

If you’re looking to extend a 3 month Vietnam visa, it might be cheaper to do a border run to neighboring Cambodia, for example. There are agents who can sort out a new 3 month visa for you but it will cost big bucks (we’re hearing in the region of $300) – hence the border run option, which a lot of long-termers in Vietnam do.

What happens if I overstay my visa?

Vietnam takes overstays very seriously, way more than other countries in the region. Our advice – make sure you don’t overstay!

Whatever your reasons for visiting Vietnam, we hope the above visa info is helpful! And a friendly reminder – arrange for visa letters and applications as early as is practically possible to avoid any delays to your Vietnam trip!

Check out our Travel Tips section for more essential tips!
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