This is a sponsored post.
Vietnam is one of the cooler places I have in my passport. As a haven for backpackers and, more and more, luxury-seekers (see the An Lam Ninh Van Bay Villas, for example), it’s currently welcoming travelers at all-time-high rates, and less measurably, ascending bucket lists across the world. I spent just four nights there, and I understand why. Ha Long Bay, it of the otherworldly karst formations, is one of the more stunning earthen products I know to promote. Everyone should see it, including me for a second time.
When I flew into Hanoi in 2013, I was in the middle of a two-month backpacking adventure that I pulled together relatively last-minute. In addition to how attractive I found them, my stops (Japan, Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam, China, Mongolia) were selected based on their financial and logistical feasibility. Vietnam requires that American visitors obtain a visa (the most common is the single-entry visa, which is good for one or three months as selected), but fortunately, that visa is incredibly cheap and easy to get—especially when you go through a specialized agency like vietnamsvisa.com.
As the State Department explains, “To enter Vietnam, you need a valid U.S. passport with at least six months validity remaining beyond the date of your arrival and a Vietnamese visa, a visa exemption document, or a written approval letter for a visa upon arrival.” To break that down further, your options are:
Option #1: Send away for a visa before you travel
Choosing the first option means that you must hand over (by mail, unless you live close to a consulate) your passport (or a passport copy), passport-sized photos, money/check, application, etc. away before you travel. The Vietnamese consulate in New York claims the processing time is 3-5 days, with expedited processing available for more money. The fee for a one-month single-entry visa is $80, and the fee for a three-month single-entry visa is $110.
Option #2 (probably not a real option): Visa exemption letter
The second option—”a visa exemption document”—simply is not available to you unless you are a Vietnamese national (or a family member of one) or are a foreigner already living in Vietnam. If that’s the case, you probably know more than can be learned in this post.
Option #3 (best): Visa on arrival
The first thing to note here is that Vietnam’s visa “on arrival” option requires action before you actually arrive in the country. It’s quick and can be completed entirely online, but I note this to clarify that you should not plan to fly to Vietnam with only a passport and expect to be granted entry. Basically, you visit a site like vietnamsvisa.com, fill out an application and pay a service fee ($16.99 for a one-month single-entry visa and $27.99 for a three-month single-entry visa). With vietnamsvisa.com, at least, you’re guaranteed processing in 48 hours or less, which means you’ll be emailed a letter of approval within that window. Then, you print that letter of approval and bring it (and your passport, obviously) with you to Vietnam. At the airport, you show your letter and your passport at immigration, pay the visa stamping fee of $25 (in US dollars, so bring this amount with you) and walk out of there and into Vietnam with the visa you need. Choosing the on-arrival option with vietnamsvisa.com, in the case of the one-month single-entry visa, instead of the standard send-away-your-passport visa option, saves $37—and it’s easier as long as you have access to a printer.
It should be noted that while this is a sponsored post, I’m fully behind the visa on arrival as the best option for travelers to Vietnam. When I spoke to the Vietnamese consulate today, I was told that this method can be met with long lines at the airport. I’m sure this is possible, but when I pulled up to Hanoi immigration in 2013, there was just one other guy waiting with me, and I was processed in no more than five minutes. Trusting an accredited agency like vietnamsvisa.com ensures efficient and reliable service (as evidenced on this third-party site), and in my experience, it can make a trip to Vietnam easier and cheaper. And that’s a very good thing.