Jane Baumgartner ABROAD, LIFESTYLE + CULTURE Leave a Comment

As the Farwell’s said farewell to Sri Lanka, they forgot one small little detail, their Vietnam visas. Learn the lessons from them, and if you’re in a similar situation, hopefully this recap of unfortunate events will be your comical guide.

Honeymoons are for relaxing, sleeping in, and enjoying a lavish trip with your new partner for life. Ok, for some, this is what honeymoons are, for us we chose to push ourselves to a new place and explore something foreign to both of us. We knew there would be a pinnacle moment where we would truly be challenged, frustrated, and feeling stuck. Was it the food poisoning in Ahangama after eating a bad egg at breakfast? Or staying in a hotel right next to the train tracks where our bed had no sheets? Nope, it was saying goodbye to Sri Lanka and hello to a Vietnam visa cluster f*ck.

Here we are, unsuspecting of our future travel hot mess, enjoying our last Sri Lankan tuk-tuk.

After a full day of traveling to get ourselves to the airport, tired, and ready to be in an actual bed with sheets, we found ourselves in a moment of total travel stupidity. Call us ding-Dongs if you will, but we really Rupee’d this one…

In line, I believe the seventh security line to be exact, to get to our flight, I walk through no questions asked. However Drew, the poor kid I swear had pulled his unlucky number that day wasn’t so fortunate. The security man asked him where he was traveling to, in which he gave that dopey fake smile we all give when trying to be on our best behavior while in line at an airport. “Vietnam, it’s our honeymoon!” Drew said with as much cheer he could muster. Next thing you know, the black book of ridiculous rules of flight to different countries pops out and the magnifying glass…the kind that you wear on your finger because the font is so small comes out.

“Sir, sit over here please” said the man in the suit.

And so I watched, as Drew was placed in the naughty chair while they scanned each page. Minutes rolled by, and in my efforts to console the kid who loves to travel, I too found myself wrapped in the same naughty corner. Dammit…

Turns out in our lack of research, we failed to get an official letter of approval for a Visa on Arrival. Which security insisted we needed before flying to Vietnam.

Uh-oh. Hands trembling we pulled up the half assed free wifi to figure out how we were going to manage getting to Vietnam. Our flights were booked, and our flight to get back to the US was leaving in 9 days from Hanoi whether we liked it or not.

So here’s the lowdown, the information we did not do before we traveled, because everyone has a ding-Dong moment when they’re traveling. If you do not apply for your visa before traveling, you can still get a visa upon arrival…however, you will need a letter of approval from the embassy or from the place you will be staying to allow permission for a visa on arrival.

In our frantic state we reached out to our hotel for a fast letter to be sent, we googled “Vietnam Visa ASAP” all the while being told by a man with a magnifying glass ring that we could not fly. Our loophole however, was that we were not flying directly to Vietnam, we had a 5 hour layover in Malaysia and our next flight, the one taking us to Vietnam was with a different airline. After jumping through language barriers discussing this they finally gave the OK for us to fly, and I’ll say that was the most stressful 7 hour flight we ever took.

Once we arrived to Malaysia it was time to get to work. We looked up the credible sites for a 2 hour rushed letter that would be sent to us via email. The thing was, we got in at 5am, the office didn’t open until 8am, and our flight left at 9:30am. Drew found a printing station at the airport, we slicked our greasy travel hair back, and took a passport photo from Drew’s iPhone. I’m sure several people snacking on their McDonald’s breakfast were wondering why we were posing in front of a white wall…

So, we’re here in Malaysia with passport photos, paperwork printed and filled out, now we play the waiting game for our letter to come through. It cost us $98 for the both of us to get a 2 hour rushed visa. Of course we hope our readers never find themselves in this situation, but there’s always a solution! Drew picked this site, Vietnam Visa Pro, linked above, for the competitive low price and the 2 hour guarantee visa.

A little before and after action.

Thank god for free wifi at airports and screenshot ability. We didn’t need to print the letter, we just showed them our iPad with our names and passport information. Now here are some more important notes to take with you…

  • You will need $25 USD CASH per person for a visa, no exceptions (THANK YOU Paige Farwell for the Christmas cards with instructions on when to open…we opened the card titled “When you are lost for the first time” and this allowed us to have the perfect amount to get us through)
  • The first line you need to be in is on the RIGHT side, not the left, even though that would be logical as it is the first line you come across when you arrive
  • You will need a passport photo, one that is not your passport. Many sites say you need two of the same photo, which we had, but ended up only needing one. Use this site to make sure your photos are passport approved.
  • Once you give your passport and info to the line on the right, you wait until your photo and name is called, they will then give you your passport back with an entire page dedicated to your shiny new visa sticker
  • Once that’s all said and done, you’re free and clear to stand in another line and go through the immigration process
  • If you have a ride set up and are going to the Old Quarter of Hanoi, make sure you don’t pay any more than $20 USD for the lift, anything more is a rip off. We paid $18 but tipped a couple extra dollars.
  • There are several ATMs in the airport but they tend to run out of money, withdraw what you need to get you to your next destination and find an ATM there.

Whew! Hope this helps any other stressful travelers who find themselves in the same situation! It’s never a fun process, but for us, we knew we would be ok…and we were, plus we slept like babies that night in our plush bed in the heart of Old Quarter Hanoi.




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