Here is the thing about Vietnam tourist visas. They don’t want you figure out what they are up to. That’s why they go the extra mile to shroud it in mystery, so much so that the consulates don’t list the prices for the tourist visas. Seriously, I tried emailing the Vietnamese consulate in Washington D.C. to ask them the price for the visas, and unless I give them a phone number, they will not tell me. I have no idea what they are really trying to protect here.
Except for the e-Visa, the prices for the other tourist visas can change in every country and even in consulates of Vietnam in the same country. Tourist visa extensions are a headache but they have a no-nonsense approach towards overstay.
And don’t get me started on the gazillion amount of travel agencies that look like government sites ready to scam you. Way too many horror stories yet you have to take their help at least for a tourist visa on arrival. I have no idea why it is like this, but apparently it’s how it is.
That’s precisely why I wanted to write a Vietnam tourist visa guide to explain everything to know about tourist visas in Vietnam, and straighten out what works and what doesn’t.
Do You Need Onward Travel Proof?
Do they always ask for onward travel proof in Vietnam? Not really.
Can they ask you? Oh, they can. If not the immigration, the airlines.
So, you should be able show proof of onward travel no matter which visa you have and even if you are visa-exempt. There are many ways to get onward travel. There is no need to spend an arm and leg on a flight ticket.
First of all, if you are visa exempt for Vietnam, you are awesome. It means that you can simply smile and nod when everyone else is complaining about the tourist visa prices and the troubles.
Right now, citizens of the following 24 countries can visit Vietnam without a visa. They can just arrive by land, air or sea, and swoop in with their passport. No need to pay a dime or carry any other documents.
- 14 days: Brunei, Myanmar
- 15 days: Belarus, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, United Kingdom, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway, Japan, South Korea
- 21 days : Philippines
- 30 days: Cambodia, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Laos, Indonesia, Kyrgyzsthan
- 90 days : Chile
Now if you have no idea why Chile got the crown, I don’t either. Let’s move on.
For some reason, lots of times, people think of visa exemption as an actual visa. It’s not. So, no there is no 2 week visa. Vietnam doesn’t give out 2 weeks visa. After the number of days on your visa run out, you have the following options:
- Doing a visa run: This means getting out of Vietnam and come back as visa exempt again. The catch here is that there is a cooling-off period of 30 days between each visa-exempt entry.
- Extending your stay inside Vietnam: You can get an extension on your visa-exempt stay for 15 or 30 days. You have to get an agent to do it. It’s quite pricey though ($70 for 30 days) and that too depending on your agent. You need to book a tour package or something, that’s why it’s so expensive. Unless you are in a bind or lazy, it’s not something to look forward to, which brings us to the third and best option for the long run.
- Leaving Vietnam and come back with a visa: You have a lot of options here like e-Visa, Visa on arrival with a visa approval letter from an agent, and a tourist visa for Vietnam in its consulate in a neighboring country. In this case, there is no need for a cooling-off period although lots of expats advise to wait for 48 hours at least. You can club any visa with your visa-exempt entry.
If you ask me, the eVisa is great. It’s that one thing that you can get done from your laptop while having a tasteless, expensive mocha from Starbucks. And the best part is that, you choose the date you enter. So it doesn’t really matter if you want to travel after 4 months, you can apply now and get the e-Visa with a travel date after 4 months. The eVisa is emailed to you after 3 days of applying for it.
List of eligible countries for e-Visa
Right now, there are 80 countries that can apply for an e-visa for Vietnam.
Official website for applying Vietnam e-Visa
You can apply for a Vietnam eVisa on the official website of Vietnam. There are like 500 websites masquerading as the official website which use govt.vn extension. Keep an eye on that when applying the visa. If you take the bait, it’s very much possible that you will be denied entry to Vietnam.
Now if I summarize the e-Visa lazily in 5 bullet points, it would go like this:
- It’s valid for 30 days and single entry, including the day you enter and exit.
- It works for entry through land, sea and air which is great.
- It costs 25$ no matter where you are from and where you are applying from.
- You have to be out of Vietnam to enter with an e-visa, but you can’t get it when you are inside Vietnam. You need to get out and enter with an e-Visa.
- You carry a printout of the e-Visa and present it at the immigration, and they give you an entry stamp ( not a sticker) with 30 days. You don’t pay anything else to anyone else. No need to carry a passport pic.
When you get the e-Visa, print out at least 2-3 copies and keep one with your passport and have one on you. You may need to show it when exiting the country or when inside.
Vietnam Tourist Visa from a Consulate
This one is my favorite, coz’ none of the other ones come close to this one, especially with the options that this one has. You can get this from a consulate of Vietnam in your home country or in any neighboring countries like Laos, Cambodia, Thailand etc. If you want to learn about that a little more, head over to how to get a Vietnam tourist visa in Cambodia.
Here is everything you want to know about this one.
- You can get a visa valid for 1 or 3 months with single or multiple entries. All the Vietnamese consulates give you this option.
- US citizens: You can even get a 6-months and 1 year tourist visa through a Vietnamese consulate in USA. And you have the option of getting a loose-leaf visa.
- US/UK citizens: You can apply for the tourist through post or email or in person through a consulate of Vietnam in your respective countries.
- The visa is valid through land/air/sea port entry.
- The prices vary a lot all over the world. It’s normally starts from 60$ for 1 month SETV and goes upward. But if you apply for it in a consulate in a neighboring country, the prices are normally much lower.
Vietnam Tourist visa on arrival
Now, this one is a wild card but it serves well if you know the process. The biggest difference between a tourist visa from a consulate and a tourist visa on arrival is that, in case of a visa on arrival, there are two major differences. To understand the detailed step by step process to get this one, jump to how to apply for a tourist visa on arrival for Vietnam.
- For a visa on arrival, you only get a visa approval letter from an agent by submitting your details and paying a small fee which could be 6-20 USDs depending on the agent and the duration of your visa. They all do the same thing, and charge more or less the same.
The letter itself is approved by the government. But the letter itself is not a visa.
You present this letter, an entry-exit form, a passport-size pic at the VOA or Landing Visa window at an international airport, pay a visa stamping fee and receive the visa as a sticker in your passport. Then you head to the immigration with the shiny new visa.
- The visa on arrival is valid only if you fly to any of the designated, international airports. That means no buses or trains or cruises.
The visa on arrival can be valid for 1 month or 3 months, and it comes with single or multiple entry options. It’s a really good option if you can’t go to a consulate.
Vietnam Tourist Visa Extensions
Simply put, this is a grey area. But after my extensive research and conversations with expats living in Vietnam, I can tell you this with certainty:
- Extending visa-exempt entry in Vietnam
It’s possible but only with the help of an agent. And it’s more expensive than all other options like a visa on arrival or tourist visa or e Visa. So don’t do this unless you are in a bind or lazy.
Here is what the law says: “Under the 2014 Law on Entry, Exit, Transit and Residence of Foreigners in Vietnam, the 15 day visa may not be extended in Vietnam, so those who arrive in Vietnam and realize they would prefer an extended stay are not permitted to do so. According to the law, foreigners must wait for at least 30 days from the date of exiting Vietnam before they are permitted to re-enter the country under the visa waiver scheme.”
- Extending an e-Visa for Vietnam
Same as extending a visa-exempt entry. You can do it, but only with the help of an agent and it won’t be cheap.
- Extending a tourist visa or visa on arrival for Vietnam
Effectively, once you are inside Vietnam, a visa on arrival or a tourist visa from the consulate are the same. But to extend these, you need to leave the country and come back with an e-Visa or a longer visa from a consulate or VOA. Plainly speaking, you will get a new visa, not an extension of the existing visa.
I wouldn’t do it. While some countries might cut you some slack for overstaying, Vietnam will come after you.
- You will get “OVERSTAY” stamped in your passport, something that always brings a smile to the weary faces of immigration and consular officials. (Pun intended)
- As per the law, the penalty is 500,000 VND or 22 USD per each day you overstay. Now you might get lucky when leaving and pay a little less, but I doubt that.
- If you overstay your visa for less than 3 days go to the airport directly and pay for the penalty (about 22 USD per day ~500,000 VND) and get an exit visa to leave the country. The good part about that is you don’t get an OVERSTAY stamp.