Read everything about the Vietnam visa on arrival here. Take note: starting 2018, the embassy recommends making use of the Vietnam e-visa instead of the visa on arrival. The visa on arrival used to be the most applied for variant, but these days that title is goes to the electronic variant.
Travelling to Vietnam
The number of tourists travelling to Vietnam for a holiday, tour or backpack adventure has been growing steadily for years. The major appeal to tourists is primarily due to the famous pictures of overgrown rocks rising from the seawater. This magical view can be seen in virtually every photo album belonging to tourists that have visited this country. Many travellers fly directly from Europe to Ho Chi Minh City. Due to an increase in travelling backpackers, extra border posts have been opened over the past few years for travellers arriving by land or by sea. Take note: in many cases, these border posts cannot be used by travellers making use of the Vietnam visa on arrival.
What is the Vietnam visa on arrival?
The Vietnam visa on arrival is basically nothing more than a letter declaring that an entry-stamp can be bought on arrival in the country. This letter is known as an Approval Letter. When you make use of the Vietnam visa on arrival, you are thus only buying an approval letter. These can only be bought at visa bureaus that operate as intermediaries, and not at the embassy or consulate of Vietnam.
Halong Bay, Vietnam
Take into account the stamping fee
After you arrive in Vietnam, you need to take your approval letter and your passport and get in line to receive a special stamp. A new payment has to be made for this stamp, known as the "stamping fee". You thus have to pay both before departure for the approval letter (generally around £20), and on arrival in Vietnam for the stamping fee ($25 to $50). All this combined makes cost for the Vietnam visa on arrival higher than that of the e-visa, which can be applied for online on this website.
Take into account long lines at the airport
Because the visa on arrival is still used by a lot of people, the rows for the stamping fee have remained long over the years. This is one of the reasons why Vietnam has decided to put a stop to applying for approval letters.
Vietnam visa on arrival
The Vietnamese embassy discourages people to make use of the Vietnam visa on arrival if you qualify for the e-visa. Many mediation bureaus still offer the possibility to purchase an approval letter.
Take note: often, the “Vietnam visa” is advertised online, while only really offering the approval letter. Be sure not get fooled by this, and know what you are applying for. If you find a visa online for a low price, there is a reasonable chance that it says (in fine print) that you still need to pay a stamping fee after arrival. These costs can be saved by submitting your application through this website.
Why apply for an e-visa instead of a visa on arrival
There are different reasons why you are better off applying for a Vietnam e-visa instead of approval letters with an intermediary or travel bureau. Firstly, the embassy cannot guarantee that an entry with an approval letter will proceed without trouble. Secondly, the combined costs of the approval letter and stamping fee are often higher than the total cost of the e-visa. Thirdly, it is very inconvenient to have to wait in line to finally be able to pay for the stamping fee. And finally, the e-visa can be used at far more arrival and departure locations.
Read more about applying for the Vietnam e-visa