If you are planning to visit Vietnam, one of the best things you can do, is to get a visa before you start travelling. This can easily be done at the embassay of your home country.
However, if like me, you are unsure of what countries you will be visiting and when, sometimes you’ll have to get visas as you go. Prior to going to Vietnam, I was in Thailand, Malaysia, Laos and Cambodia.
I had heard that Cambodia issue some of the quickest and cheapest visas for Vietnam, so I decided to wait until I got there.
In Cambodia, there is an embassy in the Capital: Phnom Penh, and two consulates: Battambang in the North and Sihanoukville in the South. During my stay in Battambang, I asked at my hostel about visa processing times, and they advised that I should get it in Sihanoukville.
It is possible to use travel agencies and the services of your hostel/accommodation to get your visa for you, but this is often more expensive. Another traveller I had met, got his through the hostel in Phnom Penh, and it ended up costing him $77.
The visa for Vietnam should cost no more than US$60 for a single entry visa.
Here is how I got my visa processed in less than two hours in Cambodia
Although I was aware that there was a national holiday coming up in Vietnam, it didn’t occur to me that this would affect the embassies and consulates for Vietnam in other countries (it does!). However, I decided to travel down to Sihanoukville on a Friday , with the hope that I could put in my visa form in the afternoon and have processed by the next day (as the consulate was open on a Saturday).
The bus took longer than expected (as is usually the case), and I ended up in Sihanoukville at 3pm instead of 1.30pm, and knowing that the visa processing times in the afternoon were between 2-4pm, I jumped on the back of a motorbike taxi and headed straight to the Consulate.
The building was very unassuming, a guard sat in a booth outside, but didn’t seem to care as I walked through the gate. There was a Vietnamese Flag flapping in the wind and rain. Off to the right was the main building, which simply said “for visa”. I walked in, to the very small room. There was one woman sat behind some glass, and there was a table and four chairs with visa forms in various languages.
I approached her and asked if I could still apply for a Visa today, and she asked when I intended to go to Vietnam. I picked a date a random and said September 1st (I ended up going on September 2nd, but this is ok, you need to choose the earliest date, and cannot enter before then). I am glad I did say this date, as I then read on the glass a notice which said that due to the National Holiday, the consulate would be closed the next day and Monday, and would not open again until September 3rd.
So had I stated a date such as 4th, I would probably have made to return on the 3rd. Instead, I filled out the form, gave over a passport photo and US$60 (in US Dollar notes – I am unsure if they accept other currencies) and she said “ok, return at 4.30pm).
4.15pm, and I rocked up again, I was handed my passport with my new visa label in it. I checked all the details (It is always best to do this, just in case they have made an error in your name or passport number, as you’ll be denied entry!)
And that was it. Off I went back to my guest house, and 4 days later I was crossing the border into Vietnam.
This visa was certainly the most expensive of my travels in South East Asia, but it was the easiest and quickest to get!
Have you got any visa stories to share? I’d love to hear them!