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Visa requirements change all the time. Check out the current visa requirements for Vietnam for Americans here from the US State Department.

Americans need a visa to get into Vietnam. We can either get one from a Vietnamese consulate or embassy before travel or one on arrival with some pre-planning.

I just landed in Vietnam and got a visa on arrival. Here was the process:

  1. Renew my passport because it had less than six months validity and Vietnam like many countries requires six months validity to let you in.
  2. Book an international flight to Ho Chi Minh (SGN), Hanoi (HAN) or Da Nang (DAD) airports.
  3. Pay Cheap Vietnam Visa $8 to get a letter emailed to me that entitles me to a visa on arrival.
  4. Print out that letter and bring it to Vietnam, along with a passport sized photo, $25, and a completed arrival form.
  5. Hand a Vietnamese agent my passport, the letter, photo, $25, and arrival form. Wait about 30 minutes and get my visa.

1. Renew My Passport

My passport was set to expire in May 2016. Vietnam requires that your passport have six months remaining validity upon entry. (For that matter, so do several other countries I am visiting at the moment.)

I am rarely in the United States, so I took advantage of being in Hawaii over Christmas to get an expedited passport renewal at a passport office. I will write about that experience soon.

2. Book an international flight to Ho Chi Minh, Hanoi, or Da Nang

I flew today from Singapore to Ho Chi Minh City on a very cheap Jetstar flight.

Land crossings and arrivals at airports other than SGN, HAN, and DAD do not allow for visas on arrival.

3. Pay Cheap Vietnam Visa $8

To get a visa on arrival in Vietnam, you need to have a letter with you that says you are authorized to get a visa on arrival. Many Vietnamese companies will send you this letter. I used because they were the cheapest I found.

Their prices range from $8 to $82, depending on how quickly you need the letter and whether you want a private letter.

Screen Shot 2016-01-12 at 10.33.49 PM

I chose the slowest option and the group letter.

Immediately after paying, I got a confirmation email.

Screen Shot 2016-01-12 at 10.12.11 PM Then three days later, I got the letter I needed as an attachment to another email.Screen Shot 2016-01-12 at 10.12.41 PM It was three pages. Because I hadn’t chosen the private letter, I was among about 20 people granted approval in the same letter. The letter lists all of our names, genders, birthdays, passport numbers, and arrival dates.Screen Shot 2016-01-12 at 10.12.47 PMPay the extra money for a private letter if you don’t want strangers to have that information about you.

4. Bring your passport, the printed letter, a passport photo, $25 cash, and an arrival form to Vietnam

  • Bring your passport (duh!)
  • I printed all three pages of the letter.
  • I brought $25 USD. I didn’t see an ATM before the visa on arrival area. I did hear some people paying in other currencies, so I believe other currencies are accepted, but why not pay in the currency they ask for?
  • I brought six standard passport/visa photos you can get anywhere in the world. Only one was requested from me, but I believe online sources say two are required.
  • I pre-printed and filled out the arrival form because I heard there is sometimes a line just to get this form.

5. Hand all that stuff over and wait

I was out the door of my flight at 8:24 PM and headed straight to the visa on arrival area, which is before and to the left of passport control at Ho Chi Minh City’s airport (SGN.) There were a few dozen people waiting for their visas, but no one in line to hand in their forms.

Screen Shot 2016-01-12 at 10.41.56 PM

I handed over my letter, passport, photo, and arrival form. Then I waited.

A woman was calling names of processed visas. She called my name at 9:02 PM, after I had waited 35 minutes. I paid her $25 and got my passport back with a 30-day, single-entry Vietnam visa in it.

Four minutes later, I had cleared immigration and customs where there were no lines.

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