I was pretty nervous heading into my first location, Saigon, after 12+ hours of flight time and a layover. I was nervous mainly because it was my first time ever in South East Asia and not to mention, heading to a foreign country by myself was definitely something to get your heart pumping for. I did my fair bit of research before entering the country to ensure a smooth process overall from obtaining a visa to exchanging money. Having a Canadian passport was extremely helpful as for most of the countries, I didn’t need a visa, except for Vietnam. I found a lot of information on the internet regarding getting a visa and all was long and detailed but extremely confusing, so here’s my takeaway from it all and my experience with it.
Getting a Visa for Vietnam (for Canadians)
Initially when I searched up about this, I was overwhelmed with all of the information provided to me but after asking some friends and reading more, I finally got the gist of it… There are essentially 2 types of visa:
- Visa you apply for beforehand – you email & scan documents to the Vietnam embassy in your country or mail your documents in. This typically takes a bit of time and you should get started on it in advance.
- Landing Visa (Visa-on-arrival) – this is more for emergency/not-enough-time-in-advance trips and is cheaper than if you were to apply officially to an embassy. This is also for people who do not want to send in their documents via mail or email.
I opted for the Landing Visa as I didn’t have enough time to mail any documents and I simply did not want to for the risk of losing my passport before a big trip! The deal with the landing visa is that you essentially pay a small amount of money to be “invited” into the country by a company (usually a tourism company), and they send you a letter of entry. Once you receive the letter of entry, you just bring that along with other pieces of documents (outlined below) to the “Landing Visa” counter when you get into the country via Air (this visa doesn’t work if you enter the country by land). You can read more on TripAdvisor!
Here’s how you can get one for cheap and quickly, and my experience with it:
- Apply for a visa/letter of entry online – I got mine from Vietnam Visa Pro
- Choose your type of visa (Tourist vs. Business), how many people you’re travelling with, and the length of processing time for the visa
- I opted for 1 month, single entry (DL-tourist), 1 pax, normal processing time
- If you’re not in a hurry, the normal working days is totally fine and super fast
- Note that the letter of entry will contain other people’s names & passport numbers on it as well so if you’re not comfortable with exposing your passport number, opt for a private letter for a bit more price
- Fill in the required info for the letter of entry – since I was only in the country for a couple of days, I entered the date of arrival to be a day earlier than when I was actually arriving just to be safe
- This visa only works for air travel so don’t do this if you’re arriving from another country via land transport!
- Receiving the letter of entry (photos below) – I got mine within 2 days (actually a day later) along with an email of instructions on what to do when you arrive at the airport. The document looked like this followed by 3 other pages of everyone who’s applied for a landing visa during this time. Check your information to make sure it’s correct!
Things to prepare beforehand for when you land:
- Letter of Entry printed out with your line of information highlighted
- 2 passport photos of 4x6cm size
- Download and fill out the entry and exit form available in the email they send you
- USD cash money for the visa stamp fee ($25 for 1 & 3 months single entry, $50 for 1 & 3 months multiple entries)
I arrived at the Ho Chi Minh City International Airport and there were signs in english directing you to the Landing Visa counter which made things a lot easier. You don’t need to get “fast track” because there was barely a line when I arrived! What surprised me was the amount of people who just budged into the line without realizing, so make sure you are aware of what’s happening. Once you have provided your items to the officer at the counter, you sit and wait for your name to called. I was worried that they would have a hard time pronouncing my full name so I stood close to the counter where they were calling people out.
The whole visa process was rather smooth and I didn’t have to wait that long so overall the experience was good. Next step was getting a Sim card and exchanging some cash. There were cash exchange booths before exiting the airport gates so I just quickly exchanged my CAD cash there to avoid hassle later on and to have some cash on hand to get to the hostel. Don’t exchange all of them as I distinctly remember seeing that the exchange rate was better in the city (District 1 where I stayed) than at the airport. I suggest bringing CAD cash to exchange when arriving as the South East Asian countries don’t charge fees at exchange booths so you’re just doing a straight exchange and often times, the rate is almost the same as the Google rate.
Being a solo traveller for some parts, I made sure to have communication whenever I needed so that meant getting a sim card for each of the countries I went to. Before going out of the gates of the HCMC airport to the arrivals area, there were a crazy amount of booths just for sim cards. My advice is to shop around and find the best deal. I read online that you can get 5 GB data for $5 CAD so I essentially used that as the baseline. I was looking for a full data plan instead of plans with phone and text messages. At the far left of the the booths, you can find Vinaphone, one of the biggest telecommunications provider in Vietnam. I found that it had the best deal of 5 GB for 100,000 VND (which is essentially $6 CAD). I didn’t ask how long the sim lasted for because I was only in HCMC for ~5 days but usually, visitor sims only last about 5 days to a week. Lastly, let the workers help you set up the sim and don’t forget to save your original sim in a well-secured place!!
It was my first country and I managed to have smooth sailing all around so I was pretty happy! Once I got my sim, I called an Uber to pick me up from the airport to my hostel and it was so cheap! (77,000VND which equals to around $4.50 CAD) Yes! Uber exists in South East Asian countries so have it downloaded before you go because it’ll save you a lot of cash & effort picking up cabs! You can download Uber here with my code and get up to $15CAD off your first ride!
Sorry for the wordy post but it’s all out of love for those of you travelling – to learn from the mistakes I’ve made, where I did well, so you can have smooth sailing and not get discouraged from the little things of travelling! Hope you enjoyed this post, leave a comment below if this post helped you! 🙂