The Vietnam Pre-Arranged Visa, Or Approval Letter. Guess What? You will need one
Summary - Travelling to Vietnam? Absolutely, Positively, Get Yourself an Approval Letter
Unlike many other Asian nations, Vietnam does not provide an electronic visa service, and the "visa on arrival service" is definitely not what it appears to be at first glance. You should know that before you enter Vietnam - you will need to pre-arrange your visa. You can't simply arrive at the airport in Vietnam and then apply for a Visa. It is essential that you arrange an "approval letter" before you arrive - or all your travel nightmares will soon come to life.
Fortunately, pre-arranging your Vietnam visa with the use of an approval letter is convenient, inexpensive, and easy to do. From home, or from abroad, you should start your approval letter process with a specialist agency. The benefit of using an agency is that you will never need to visit a Vietnam embassy or consulate. You also won't need to send your passport off anywhere. If you do decide to visit an embassy, be warned the costs can be significant - there is a reason no official price list is published by the Vietnamese government! This is one scenario where you will save time, and money, by using an organisation with experience in obtaining pre-arranged Visa’s.
Using an entirely online application process, the approval letter is part of a simple system. Jump online, fill out a form, and your approval letter, or "pre-arranged visa", will be delivered straight to your email inbox by the agency. Keep in mind that the agency is dealing with the Vietnamese government on your behalf, processing time is up to 10 days but for European, Australian, Asian or American, processing time is only 2 working days (except Saturdays and Sundays). So, it's important to plan ahead - it's strongly recommended to commence the process about a month before your planned arrival in Vietnam. This isn't a service suitable for last-minute travellers. Nor will it be suitable for intrepid travellers entering Vietnam overland – with an approval letter you will need to enter through one of the Vietnamese international airports. If you plan on entering Vietnam overland, you will need to obtain a full Visa in your passport prior to reaching the border.
The good news is, once you have arrived in one of the four Vietnamese international airports (SGN, HAN, DAD, CXR) - with your passport and pre-arranged visa approval letter of course - the exchange of your letter for a coveted Vietnam tourist visa, is easy. In the airport, you will see the cheekily named "Visa Landing counter". You'll need to fill out one more form, and then swap the approval letter for a Vietnam Visa - which will be proudly stamped in your passport.
Except service fee for an Approval Letter ranging from $16 US, There is a stamping fee collected at Vietnam international airports for the Vietnam Visa - currently the fee is $25 US dollars for single, and $50 US dollars for a multiple entry Visa. You will need crisp US dollars, in good condition (those Vietnamese customs people really can be a bit fussy) - or if you have some Vietnamese currency, this is also accepted. There are no credit card facilities - you will need cold hard cash to get your Vietnam Visa. The only other thing you will need are two passport style photos, and of course, your passport. Given what you're going to be seeing the moment you leave the airport, I recommend also bringing a hearty appetite. Well, of course that's not essential, but you will be in Vietnam after all and the food is amazing!
Travelling to Vietnam is a great idea. Just remember, it isn't like many other nations around the world - you need to plan ahead, and you will need a Visa. The best option for travellers to Vietnam, is to use an agency to apply for a "pre arranged Visa" - a month before you travel - and get yourself an approval letter. When you arrive in Vietnam, exchange this letter through the dedicated "visa on arrival" lanes at the airport. If you would like this Visa information in a convenient table format, just visit: www.vietnamsvisa.com
That's all there is to it. Enjoy Vietnam.
Oh, and just in case it hasn't hit home yet - make sure you get your approval letter before travelling!