This article is intended for travellers to Vietnam during Covid-19 when there is a scarcity of flights and entry into the country as a tourist is completely non-existent. This is based on a first hand experience of a traveller who managed to get into the country (via Hanoi) as an investor on the 12 January 2021, things may be different in the future and the procedures might differ from airport to airport.
In the last 6 months, Vietnam has not issued a single tourist visa; only in the last month or so have they started to allow foreign investors or foreigners with businesses in Vietnam or those with specialised skills into the country. I have a registered company in Da Nang and a work permit (but no Residence Card) so was able to obtain an official invitation letter through my agent (Lyn Visa) that made me eligible for travel into the country.
If you were able to overcome the first hurdle of getting an agent who could get you an invitation letter your next challenge would be getting on an aeroplane to your city. Each invitation letter will clearly state the port of entry and you cannot deviate from that; fortunately for me the agent also arranged the flights, quarantine hotel and the special vehicle that escorts you from the airport to the hotel. The service is by no means cheap.
The flight I was put on was a special chartered flight that transitted through Hong Kong from China and there was only 4-5 people boarding from Hong Kong. When we reached the Hong Kong Airlines check-in desk they were not even aware of our existence and that there were passengers boarding from Hong Kong. After much back and forth along with a few disgruntled travellers and I brandishing our e-Flight tickets to the counter staff were we able to proceed with the check-in process.
Since we were a chartered flight the airport tax was not included in the flight tickets so each person had to pay HK$ 120 in cash moreover although my e-ticket indicated that I could take 35Kg of luggage with me that allowance had to be one single piece of luggage rather than 2 suitcases so I ended up paying another HK$ 290 for the excess luggage.
You could be see the counter staff desperately communicating with somebody higher up about how to deal with our case and after much trepidation, I was finally issued a boarding pass and allowed to process to boarding.
Being the last-minute person that I am I only arrived at the airport around an hour or so before take off which in hindsight was slightly dangerous so I urge others to get to the airport in good time in case of unforeseen events springing on you.
Airport security had never been more of a breeze. I was the only person going through and was tended to by coterie of overly helpful staff and I must admit I had never been able to get through airport security so quickly in my life so things weren’t all bad.
As I neared my boarding gate I saw an increasing number of people milling around in turquoise Hazmat suits; first I thought these were medical staff brought in from Vietnam to check that all travellers were fit and healthy to board the flight but later I discovered that they were just overly-zealous travellers from mainland China.
After disembarking you will walk towards the immigration department and at some point you will required to present the test report showing that you don’t have Covid-19; the health person just glanced at mine and waved me on. After that you will reach an area (this is the Hanoi airport) where there are immigration counters and a section where you can obtain Visas. I will write about what I did but a fellow traveller did something quite different and still got through. In terms of the process:- Queue up at the Visa issuance counter and when you get to it, hand them your passport, invitation letter, the Covid-19 test results and the Pre-filled Entry Form along with 2 recent photos. After they accept your documents they will tell you to sit down and wait for your name to be called up; if you are successful they will give you back your passport with a visa issued which takes up an entire page of your passport.
People milling around not knowing what is going
After this, you can queue up at the immigration counter and they will stamp your passport but they will keep hold of it and motion you to the luggage reclaim area. After getting your luggage, you can just sit quietly somewhere even though nobody seems to know what is going on; because eventually they will process flight by flight but this will only happen once everyone has collected their luggage so at this point just wait patiently.
Before getting on the special vehicle that takes you to the hotel you will be given a Hazmut suit that you will have to don. The immigration department personnel will verify your identity and then give your passport to a specialised person who will escort you to the hotel.
After getting to the hotel, you will have an opportunity to take off the Hazmut suit and chuck it in a designated bin and the specialised person will give your passport to somebody at the hotel and you will will be escorted to your room.
Good luck and safe travels.
Things To Bring
- Certificate to show that you don’t have Covid-19
- Invitation Letter
- Flight eTicket
- 4 recent passport photos (I was not aware of this)
- Bring US dollar cash (3-months visa costs US$ 25 in cash – credit cards are not accepted) have lots of US$ 1 bills that you can give to staff in the hotel who may be able to help you buy things from outside the hotel…..Forget about trying to money out using the ATM upon arrival which is what I used to do… I brought with me US$ 300 just in case
- Bring HK dollar cash with you – since you don’t know what fees the airport might charge
- Fill out the Entry Form before hand so you don’t have to faff around looking for the form, something to write with and a surface to write on
Things to Bring (For the hotel)
- A mug/cup that you can drink your morning coffee or tea from – in my hotel room there are only these floppy paper cups which I hate
- A supply of tea / coffee that you like – I have been given a sumptious supply of this 3-in-1 coffee powder which I will forego on
- Basic toiletries (shampoo, tooth brush, etc)
- Socket adaptor(s) – if you are coming from the UK, Hong Kong or anywhere else – our plugs don’t fit into the sockets in Vietnam
- Bring lots of wine, whiskey or whatever you like to drink because when I arrived late at night customs wasn’t even open