Yes, despite what the official Vietnam Embassy in Ottawa tells you, one can in fact get the same Visa on Arrival (VOA) that is a popular option among other nationalities.
And there is good reason to opt for the Vietnam VOA over obtaining the Visa while still in Canada.
Vietnam Visa on Arrival is Cheaper
I contacted the Vietnam Embassy in Ottawa months before the start of our round the world trip. This in itself was a bit of a challenge. Try googling Vietnam Embassy in Canada. The top search results will NOT be for the official Embassy of Vietnam in Canada. Rather, a slew of official looking options make the first page of the search results instead. One website even had an official seeming address in an affluent Ottawa neighbourhood. It certainly looked like the official website.
Fortunately they were scrupulous enough to put a short disclaimer in fine print at the bottom of the main page ‘not the official site of the Embassy of Vietnam…’.
I found the official address in the Blue Pages of the phone book and matched that to one of the websites purporting to be the Vietnam Embassy.
The Embassy of Vietnam in Canada charges $75 USD for each Visa. Plus $25 USD to mail the completed Visas back to you. The Visas alone for our family of five amount to $375 USD. What’s up with the currency anyway? The embassy is in Canada.
But I read about this Visa on Arrival option. Multiple times. I’ll outline the process for obtaining a VOA in a bit. But know it cost us $11 USD each for a ‘letter of invitation’ and $25 USD each for the ‘stamping fee’ that you pay upon arrival in Vietnam. That’s $180 for all five of us. $195 less than using the Embassy.
Vietnam Visa on Arrival is Easier
If saving more than half the cost of the Visa is not reason enough to use the VOA option over obtaining one in advance, then maybe the ease of obtaining it will convince you.
In order to apply at the embassies in Canada you either need to show up in person or mail your passport to them. Personally, I would only post my passport by registered mail. Wait a number of business days and then either re-attend the Embassy to pick up your passports or wait for them to be mailed back to you (for an extra fee).
The Vietnam Visa on Arrival is Simple
You need to:
- Obtain a Letter of Invitation to visit Vietnam,
- Pre-fill an Arrival Form and attach a passport or Visa sized photo, and
- Pay a $25 USD stamping fee upon your arrival in Vietnam.
The Letter of Invitation can be purchased from any registered Vietnam tourism company regardless of whether you book tours from them. If (when) approved, the letter will be stamped by the Vietnamese government and a PDF copy of this is emailed to you. Print it out and bring it with you into Vietnam.
We used the well reviewed company Hotels in Vietnam for our Letter of Invitation
Some Arts&Crafts is required at this point as you’ll also have to complete the included Arrival Form for each traveller and glue a photo to the form.
We used a handy app called Fotomaton and took both Visa and Passport size photos of ourselves. I sent those off to Costco Imaging and paid no more than three bucks for a few dozen shots of each of us. So far we’ve successfully used them for Visas to enter Brazil, Vietnam and Cambodia.
Visit the Visa on Arrival Desk at the Airport Before Customs
When you get off the plane in Vietnam go to the Visa on Arrival desk before Customs (in Hanoi it’s along the adjacent left wall as soon as you enter the Customs area) and hand in your letter, crafty forms and passports. Once your application is complete, your passport photo is displayed on a large TV monitor. Attend the adjacent desk and pay the $25 USD stamping fee.
To be honest, I was surprised it was that easy. There is some information online about the VOA process but nothing specific for Canadians that is not contradictory. And I did have an email from the Vietnam Consulate office in Ottawa explicitly telling me I MUST obtain a Visa for entry into Vietnam prior to leaving Canada.
The Vietnam Visa on Arrival is only available for arrivals by air. It is not an option for land borders. If you’re crossing into Vietnam by land or water (cruise ship), you’ll need to get a Vietnam Visa before departing Canada.
The whole process for obtaining our Vietnam Visas on Arrival was super easy. Almost like buying an airline ticket.
Anyone travelling to Vietnam? South East Asia?
Thanks for reading, Colleen