This has got to be one of the biggest questions asked when planning your travels and for good reason. I have met people who haven’t thought about visas, turned up the airport totally happy about their holidays, only to be told they cannot fly. Visas can be complicated, and every country is different. Here I am going to answer the famous question that I hear tourists ALWAYS asking: Do I need a visa for Vietnam?

When I booked my trip to Vietnam last year, I did tons of research. The visa situation is pretty unclear and I asked a few fellow travellers who had been before. Some of them said you didn’t, some said you did. The mix of answers was obviously unhelpful so I dug a little deeper and found information on a Vietnam Approval Letter. It turns out you need to have one of these to fly.

If you wish to simply find the answer for this question, without reading about the costs, your specific countries requirements, and application process.. scroll down to the conclusion at the bottom! I do however recommend you give this article a quick read for tips on how to successfully get to Vietnam, and make it through their borders 😉 

Pre-buying Your Vietnam Visa Approval Letter

Firstly, what is an Vietnam Approval Letter? This letter shows that you have been granted THE RIGHTS to a Vietnamese Visa upon arrival at your chosen airport in Vietnam. This is not an actual Visa. Unfortunately you cannot buy a Visa for Vietnam online, and must pick it up and get it stamped when you arrive.

The Approval letter is a MUST HAVE if you want to enter the country. Your airline will not allow you to fly unless you have this letter with you (Exception: If you are staying less than the maximum free entry days – see below). There are a few online websites that offer the Vietnam Visa Approval Letter and this is where I got mine: Vietnam Government Website 

The letter costs $17 USD ($23.19 AUD/ £13.25) and takes about 2 working days to be processed.

To apply for this letter, you need:

  • Fill out the entry permit form (this can differ depending on your residing country)
  • 2 passport sized photos. One to be stuck in the top corner of your Approval Letter once it is approved and printed, and a spare loose one for “backup?”.
  • A copy of your passport
  • Have sufficient funds to pay the visa fee

Do I Need a Visa for Vietnam?

Do I Need a Visa for Vietnam? – Getting Your Actual Visa

From buying the approval letter online, we were under the impression that we were all ready and set to go through the borders (obviously I now realise that isn’t the case). We arrived at the airport to see a lot of tourists filling in the exact paper work that we had already filled in online and printed. As we already had this done, we were unsure of what to do next. We filled in a small entry/exit form stating the dates we arrived and were expecting to leave.

We approached the immigration office where the visas were being processed and handed in our paperwork, and were told to pay 580,518 VND ($25 USD/ $34 AUD/ £19). This is the price for a Single Entry Visa. Multiple Visa Entries (you can go in and out as many times for either 1 or 3 months – depending on the visa you choose) costs 1,160, 000 VND ($50 USD/ $68AUD/ £39)

TIP! They do not accept credit card payments. It must be paid fully in cash and the only currencies accepted are their own VND or Amercian Dollars (USD).

T had to be escorted to the nearest ATM by a security guard to take out the correct money that we needed to pay for our visas. MAKE SURE YOU HAVE SPARE CASH UPON ARRIVAL TO SAVE TIME.

The guys working at the office speak very little English so if you have any issues, it can be a difficult situation to resolve. We waited around 30 minutes in the waiting area for our visas to be accepted and stamped into our passports and then we were on our way.

In total, with our approval letter and Vietnam Visa Stamp, we paid $57AUD ($42 / £33). We thought that it was pretty expensive for a 3 week visit, but hey ho!

Do I Need a Visa for Vietnam?

Do I Need a Visa for Vietnam If I Am Going for Less Than 15 Days?

Each country is limited to specific time-frames in which their citizens can stay in Vietnam. Below I have taken information from a government website, and put it in simpler terms.

On the government website it is stated that you do not need a visa if you are entering the country for less than 15 days with a passport from the following countries:

  • United Kingdom
  • France
  • Germany
  • Italy
  • Spain
  • Korea
  • Japan
  • Russia
  • Scandinavian Nations (Denmark, Norway, Sweden & Finland)
  • Brunei

If you are from an ASEAN member-country such as

  • Thailand
  • Indonesia
  • Singapore
  • Malaysia
  • Cambodia
  • Laos

You do not need a visa if your visit is less than 30 days.

Other exceptions to Vietnam Visas include Philippine passport holders who do not need a visa if their travel is less than 21 days, and citizens of Myanmar less than 14.

However, please note that if you are planning to go for less than 15 days, you will need to show proof of departure.

Please note: Your passport must have at least 6 months of validity upon arrival.

Also, if this isn’t your first time into Vietnam, there must be at least 30 days between your last exit date and your current entry date, otherwise they will charge you for a visa!

All other citizens of the world are required to get a Vietnam Approval Letter, prior to arriving in the country, and collect their visa at the airport once they arrive. As mentioned before, the approval letter costs $17USD ($23.19 AUD/ £13.25) and the stamping fee is 580,518 VND ($25 USD/ $34 AUD/ £19) for a single entry, and 1,160,000 VND ($50 USD/ $68AUD/ £39).

TIP! Vietnam loves USD dollars so you are able to pay for many things in the country without paying to exchange your dollars. However, I recommend you get VND for spending money in restaurants, etc. or you’ll end up losing money with incorrect conversions.

In Conclusion – Do I Need a Visa for Vietnam?

If this all sounds a little confusing, trust me I get it. I spent hours researching for this, and was still surprised when I got to the airport and had to fork out half a million dong 😉

If you are visiting Vietnam from one of the countries mentioned above for less than 15 days you DO NOT REQUIRE A VISA OR APPROVAL LETTER. However, your passport must have more than 6 months left before it expires and you must not have been in Vietnam within the last 30 days before you (re)enter and you must have a return flight booked.

If you are visiting Vietnam from one of the countries mentioned above for more than the recommended-no-visa-required time, YOU NEED TO APPLY FOR AN APPROVAL LETTER PRIOR TO ARRIVING, AND PAY FOR YOUR VISA/STAMPING FEE ONCE YOU ARRIVE TO THE AIRPORT IN VIETNAM. You must print out your approval letter and take it with you when you travel as they will not accept a mobile version and you will be refused boarding.


What happened to me on my most recent trip to Vietnam 2019

I would like to add that on my most recent trip to Vietnam, Qatar Airways nearly didn’t let me board my flight because I didn’t have a return ticket booked. You only need a return ticket if you are staying for less than 15 days and want the free entry visa. If you are paying for a visa upon arrival, you do not need a return ticket. Most people go with the flow and don’t plan more than a few days in advance so this is helpful. If someone is trying to refuse you entry to the plane, yet you have your approval letter and are applying for a visa once you arrive, make sure to stand your ground and get the airport staff to read the requirements!

If you’re heading to Vietnam, check out my blog post on The Best Way to Travel Through Vietnam or my Quick Guide to Visiting the Hanoi Train Street