Vietnam has long been a top tourist destination for foreigners travelling to Indochina, but as of 1st January 2013, travellers with foreign passports can expect to pay more for Vietnamese Visas on Arrival (VoA). The Vietnamese Visa on Arrival is meant to be extremely convenient, as the entire application process is done completely online, which means trips to the Vietnamese embassy are not required. Previously, a single-entry VoA would cost just $25, but now the price has been hiked up to $45. The VoAs must also be paid for in cash, either in US Dollars or Vietnamese Dong. In addition, UK passport holders must pay an extra £12.29 for a ‘Visa approval letter’ from the Vietnam Immigration Department. The price hike has raised eyebrows, as Vietnam has never increased its visa fees so notably in the past.
Industry observers, such as Nguyen Thi Kim Lan, Director of Xuyen A (Trans Asia) Trade and Tourism Company, believe that the more costly VoAs would make Vietnam less attractive to travelers. It is feared that tourists will opt to visit other Southeast Asian countries instead, like Singapore and Thailand. At present, almost 80% of tourists can travel to Singapore visa-free for a period ranging from 15 days to 90 days. Meanwhile, Thailand allows visa-free travel to 55 countries. These concerns are echoed by Spencer Lau, Marketing and Sales Manager at Vietnam Airlines in Hong Kong, who says, “Definitely, this will affect leisure travel to Vietnam because the further increase to the visa fees will make them expensive compared with other short-haul destinations around Hong Kong.”
To date, Vietnamese authorities have not explained the reason for the drastic VoA price increase. However, despite the criticism received, they seem confident that the price hike will not hurt their tourist numbers. According to Vietnam Tourism, the country’s total international arrivals in 2012 reached 6.84 million, with about 13.86% growth over 2011. For 2013, Vietnam has set its sights on attracting 7.3 million visitors, largely expected from China, Malaysia, Japan, South Korea, Australia, Russia and France. The Phu Quoc International Airport in Southern Vietnam, which opened its doors on 2 December 2012, is expected to help cater to even more travelers.
Vietnam visas are required for all countries except Brunei, Cambodia, Denmark, Finland, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Norway, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Sweden and Thailand. You can learn more about visa rules and policies for Vietnam by checking your visa requirement based on your country of origin.