How best to obtain visas for travel in Vietnam?
August 4, 2009 4:23 PM   Subscribe

Is it best to get a Vietnam / Cambodia visa from the consulate, or from one of the companies that provide visas to travelers?

I'm a US citizen headed to Southeast Asia in a few weeks (I need a one month multiple entrance visit for travel in Vietnam and a one month single entrance visit for travel in Cambodia).

I've parsed many state department pages and foreign consulate websites, only to find that it is quite expensive to get a Vietnam visa from the consulate, with a $40 visa fee and a $90 consulate fee, per person!

It seems that the $90 fee is really excessive, and upon doing some searches, I came across, who provide a "Visa on Arrival" option for $96 for two people.

Has anyone used this company's service? I'm quite a bit apprehensive that I'll arrive at Ho Chi Minh City airport at 11pm and not be allowed to enter the country after many hours of consecutive travel.
posted by pariser to Travel & Transportation around Vietnam (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Are you working with a local operator? If so, they can provide a visa letter, which you can print out and then, when you arrive in Hanoi or HCM, you just show that with your passport. It's much cheaper and it only took me an hour to do this at the airport.

In Cambodia, I also got my visa at the airport, but the line for that was much longer and it took closer to two hours.

FYI - I work for an adventure travel company and this is how all of our American clients get their visas. We forward the letter from our Viet local operator to the client. The letter shows their dates of travel, passport name and info.
posted by HeyAllie at 4:46 PM on August 4, 2009

Just checked our docs, and to do it the way I mentioned above only costs $25. Note that I had a lot of hassle from the flight gate agents before departing the USA because they had not seen this before, but it eventually worked.
posted by HeyAllie at 4:50 PM on August 4, 2009

Best answer: I can't provide details on that company, but I can tell you that the airport in Ho Chi Minh City has changed a lot in recent years. It definitely has the feel of a "normal" international airport, so I suspect you won't get stuck - this is very different from my previous experiences in years past where getting unstuck seemed like it might require a significant bribe.

All that being said, I would definitely get the visa beforehand. During previous trips, I have seen people waiting - and not looking happy as they did. It's possible it might only take an hour, but if you don't have a good grasp of the Vietnamese language or a good backup plan if something goes awry it could be more expensive in the long run.

Concerning the visa, I usually go to a local Vietnamese travel agency (you can probably find one in most big cities). They take the pictures and submit the forms, in a couple of weeks they mail the insert for your passport. I think the total cost was around $50.
posted by NoDef at 10:26 PM on August 4, 2009

All Foreign Visitors are now able to obtain the Cambodia visa upon arrival at the airport. $20 for a 30 day visa. It takes 5 minutes. They say that you need to bring a passport photo for the visa. The first time I flew into Phnom Penh I forgot to do this. They charged me $1 and just made a photocopy of my passport.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 6:01 AM on August 5, 2009

How are you traveling to Cambodia? When I went by land I got my visa at the border. I'm not sure if that's still possible, but it may be an option to look into. It amazes me how much more expensive it is to buy SE Asian visas in advance in the U.S. when you can usually get them cheap on arrival.
posted by Bunglegirl at 6:51 AM on August 5, 2009

I just got back from Cambodia and Vietnam, and I wish I hadn't worried about visas as much as I did. I got the Vietnamese visa from the embassy in Canada before I went, and the Cambodian one at the border (by road, not the airport). You can definitely get the Cambodian visa at any major border for 20-25$. I did meet a couple who had done the Vietnam visa-on-arrival, I think that program only started recently, like in the last year maybe? And only works at airports, not overland.

If you're going to Vietnam after Cambodia then you can just pop into any of the hundreds of travel agencies in Phnom Penh and they'll do it for you in a day (I already had mine, my not-so-organized friends did this and ended up paying a lot less than I did...)

If I had to do it again, I wouldn't get the Vietnamese visa in advance.
posted by piper4 at 3:44 PM on August 7, 2009

Response by poster: Long overdue update to this question based on my experience:

Vietnam: I wound up using the "visa on arrival" service from Note that this is not like visa on arrival in other countries, where you show up and you can fill out the paperwork; rather, you must send your application for a visa in advance and get an approval document and then when you show up at the airport they put the actual visa in your passport. Though the visa approval document I received via email was a poorly scanned (barely legible and hastily aligned), the "visa on arrival" worked without a hitch.

Cambodia: You can get your visa when you arrive at an airport. Just bring some passport photos with you, so they don't charge you a lot of money.
posted by pariser at 10:19 AM on June 17, 2010

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