As long as a visitor has a minimum of six months validity remaining on their passport, citizens from major European countries including the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Denmark and Sweden can stay for up to 15 days in Vietnam without needing to purchase a visa.
Citizens from other Asian countries are typically visa-exempt for longer periods. Travellers from the Philippines can stay in the country for up to 21 days without a visa, whilst visitors from close neighbours Thailand, Cambodia and Laos among others are allowed up to 30 days without needing to apply for a visa.
The situation becomes more complicated for those looking to leave and re-enter Vietnam over a short space of time or to travel around several counties across the region.
Visa exemption schemes allow single entries only and anyone leaving the country must wait a minimum of 30 days before attempting to re-enter the country without purchasing a visa. In these cases, they will be able to re-enter Vietnam within 30 days if they do decide to purchase a visa.
Those who require a visa to enter or those wishing to stay longer than the length of time stated through the visa exemption scheme must make their visa arrangements before they travel.
In order to receive a visa on arrival you must first get a Visa On Arrival Approval Letter which can be purchased on this site when you are checking out.
The cost is USD10 for the letter and then you will need to pay a stamping fee upon arrival which varies depending on length of stay number of entries your visa will allow.
Visa On Arrival is ONLY available for those entering by air. If entering Vietnam by bus, you must have the visa stamped and in your passport prior to departure.
Another issue with Vietnam’s version of the visa on arrival is the number of disreputable companies who advertise services that can arrange for the necessary letter of approval, often charging extortionate prices, and complications with this document are not unheard of. If at all possible it is best to purchase a visa in advance if you think it will be needed.
Where to apply for your Vietnamese visa
A visitor to Vietnam can apply for a visa at a Vietnamese embassy or consulate either in person or via post.
The fees for visa applications differ based on nationality and you will need to contact the Vietnamese embassy or consulate in your country to request the cost based on the duration of your stay. Even if you’ve purchased a Vietnamese visa in the last few years, it is worth checking the current fees as they can change.
Applying for a visa in person at the embassy is both cheaper and quicker so is ideal for anyone looking for a quick turnaround or to avoid postal charges. However, in many countries it is necessary to return to the embassy or consulate later that day, or in some cases several days later, to collect your passport with the approved visa.
Although often slightly more expensive, postal applications are less hassle as an application form, passport and a cheque covering the costs of the visa and postage can all be sent to the Vietnamese embassy and will be sent back to a specified address with passport complete with visa. This is the easiest option for visa applications and in many countries the recommended method.
It's possible to purchase either single entry visas which can only be used once or multiple entry visas where it is possible to enter Vietnam as many times as desired within the visa’s validity. Both types of visa are available with either 30 or 90 days validity.
Finally, anyone thinking of overstaying their visa are strongly advised to reconsider. Even exceeding a visa by just one or two days can result in large fines, the amount of which really does depend on where you are and the official you are talking to.
Fines of around USD25 per day over the visa expiration are common, with reports that travellers have been charged up to USD100 per day.
Repeat offenders or extreme cases can even face future bans from the country.