Wednesday, January 21, 2015

A singular experience - getting a visa to Vietnam

In October 2014, I had made a short trip to Vietnam - a brief visit to Hanoi and nearby Halong Bay. To me, Vietnam has always been an attractive proposition as it's one of the less travelled spots and therefore (as I hoped) be less commercial and touristy. Especially, in comparision to regional neighbours like Thailand or Hong Kong or even Cambodia.

The first step was to get a visa. The downside of not being a tourist attraction was very evident when I started the process of getting one. There was no clarity in the information on the Vietnamese Embassy website, no traveller accounts on the world wide web that talked of getting a visa from India and worse, no travel agent who seemed to know how to go about it. It was like a black hole from which not even a glimmer of information escaped. 

There were lots of websites which offered to process a visa on arrival but they didn't seem authentic or accredited by the Vietnamese government and again there was no traveller info on the same. Later, I did find a post on Tripadvisor's community forum that said Visa on Arrival is available provided some pre-travel formalities are taken care of (Trip Advisor FAQ). But, it still seemed a little dicey and I opted for getting my visa before travelling into Vietnam.

The travel agent I was recommended, had no clue whatsoever, which I realised only after I had paid him a fat sum and he had got some basic documentation ready. Then each day was a like a day of discovery for him where he would tell me he needed one more type of document. Finally, when I did a bit more fact-checking, I found this great checklist on Thomas Cook's India website which had details of documents required. I sent it to the travel agent to get him organised. Not to mention, he also gave me tonnes of info on how rude and obnoxious the people at the embassy are or so he 'had heard' (!!!). As if I wasn't already stressed and apprehensive.

The visa stamping required a personal interview. So I trudged off to the embassy. I opted for the consulate in Mumbai. It's in the posh Hiranandani area in Powai. But, the postal address is all I had to go looking for it. There was no landmark given, no signboard when you get there and passers by are completely unaware such an entity existed. Finally, after some amount of going around in circles, I found it. 

I reached there early, by 9AM just to be on the safer side. I had no information on their timings of work. Well... the place was shut. Absolutely & irrevocably closed with no one in sight, not even a watchman or a cleaner or anyone in sight. There were no visa applicants waiting. I asked some people in an office next door who told me, "You never know if they will open. Sometimes they come, sometimes they don't." That left me speechless and thinking, "Must be a sweet deal where you can decide what time to get to office or not at all."

Finally, I went back down to the ground floor and checked with the building watchman who said it opens only at 10AM and added, "Woh log ayenge, aap wait karo" (they will come, you wait). I hung around and at about 9.45 AM someone came and opened up the place. He was a consulate official and asked me to wait for his colleague. That was another 20 mins. The visa officer came and without much delay took my papers. He was about 30 mins processing my documents and stamping my passport. 

The visa officer seemed quite surprised that I had applied for a tourist visa. By then a few more people had come for visas. It seemed that work/ business related visas were more popular and not so much the tourist ones. 

I was out of the consulate by 11AM with a valid visa stamped and ready for me to travel. Not a bad morning's work, I felt, not by a long shot. The fastest I have got a visa to anywhere. 

No fuss, no hassles and oh so polite the officials were. It pretty much set the mood for my holiday and Vietnam did not disappoint me. But more of that in later posts.

In a nutshell here's what is required for getting your tourist visa for Vietnam in India - 

1. A pre-filled visa application form - you can get it from the embassy/ consulate website.

Mumbai -
Delhi -

2. Passport should be valid for at least six months from the date of submission of visa

3. Two recent colour photograph, 35 x 45mm in size with white background.

4. Covering letter from the applicant on company's letter head stating his name, designation, purpose and duration of visit.

5. Proof of accommodation: hotel reservation including the name and phone number of hotel.

6. If staying at friend’s / relatives place, the applicant can stay maximum up to 15 days. If the stay is longer then the host needs to apply for the visa for the applicant at Vietnamese immigration.

7. Proof of airline reservation for a round trip.

8. Foreign exchange endorsement on the applicant’s passport / Credit card copy of the
applicant is required.

9. Updated Bank statement for the last 3 months is required.

10. One photocopy of the first and last pages of the passport.

11. Personal Presence is mandatory. There are two options in India - Delhi or Mumbai. You can get the addresses from the website (mentioned in pt. 1)

Again, Vietnam visa details on the Thomas Cook India website.

Only one aspect struck me a bit odd - the consulate asked me (via a note signed and stapled to my visa) to have a min of 1000 USD on my person before entering the country. Thankfully, I needed more than that for my trip, so it wasn't too much of a bother. Nevertheless, it seemed like an excessive demand considering pts. 5, 7, 8 and 9 above, were complied with. 

Note: While the information on visa requirements given above are current for now, it can change any time. It's best to check with the embassy/ consulate nearest to you before you travel.

Anyway, I hope this helps any one planning to travel to Vietnam. I'll leave you with photos of this beautiful and breathtaking country for now.

The famous ceramic mosaic wall in Hanoi &
a poster in the art style typical to Vietnam

Handcrafted greeting cards with pop-up figures

The marina at Halong Bay

Delicate inlay work in a Chinese antique furniture piece

A Vietnamese spring roll - very DIY


  1. Interesting. Looking forward to your stories about Hanoi and Halong Bay.

    1. Thanks, Deepak. By this weekend, I will post a couple, at least. :) Fingers crossed.