Get in Vietnam
Visitors from the following countries do not require a visa and can stay for the following number of days.
* 15 days: Denmark, Finland, Japan, Norway, South Korea, Sweden, Russia
* 21 days: Philippines
* 30 days: Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand
All other nationalities will require a visa in advance to visit Vietnam.
As of June 2012, a single-entry tourist visa valid for 30 days costs US$90 at Washington DC (although exact fees vary depending on issuing country) and takes around 4-7 days to process; express visas take 2-3 days for an additional US$30. A multiple entry, 1 month visa is US$140 and multiple entry, 3 month visa is US$170.
If purchasing your visa from the Vietnamese embassy in London , as of January 2013 a 30-day single entry visa will cost you £54 (£69 for 2 day service, £75 for next day), while a 30 days multiple entry visa costs £85 (£105 for 2 day service, £115 for next day). You must also pay up to £8 postage per passport (depending on how many are being processed) if you need it posted back to you.
A 30-day visa can also be obtained from the Vietnamese consulate in Battambang, Cambodia, at a cost of US$35, with visas taking 2-3 days to process, although exact entry and exit points have to be specified.
A 30-day visa can also be picked up from the Vietnamese embassy in Phnom Penh from US$60 for single entry (Jan 2013) and will be ready in 24 hours or US$70 for an on the spot urgent visa. You don’t need to specify entry and exit points.
As of 1 Jan 2013 the 30-day visa fee at the Vietnamese consulate in Sihanoukville (Kampong Som), Cambodia is US$60, and takes about 10 minutes to process.
The consulate in Vientiane, Laos, offers them for US$50 with delivery the day after (paying in local currency is more expensive).
The consulate in Luang Prabang, Laos at 427-428 That Bosot Village offers visas to Vietnam. Office hours M-F 07:30-11:30 & 13:30-16:30 Tel 254748 / 254749 Fax:-254746 Email:- firstname.lastname@example.org. It is better to do your visa here than going to the agents, as agents charge an extra US$15. Visa price is US$40 and takes 3 Working Days. Go to the Tourist Information for the location if you’re not sure, they will be able to help you. It’s only a 10 min walk from the Tourist Information. October 2012 – The clerk who fills out the receipt asks for an additional US$5 (or 40,000 Kip) for the handling.
Vietnam Embassy in Bangkok is on Thanon Witthayu (AKA Wireless Road), near the other embassies. It’s a quick process (10-15 min) as long as there isn’t a queue. Nov 2012 – Vietnam Embassy in Bangkok charges 1,800 baht (~$62 USD) for a 30-day single-entry visa, 4 working days. 2,700 baht for 30-day single-entry visa, next (Working) day. Bear in mind that if you go on a Friday, you still have to wait until Monday to get your visa even if you paid for next day.
If you don’t have a passport photo, go out of the embassy, turn left and a hundred metres up the road on the left is a big shopping centre, called All Season’s Place. On the 3rd floor there is a kodak shop Called Sprint Photo Fast which will do 6 passport/visa photos for 120 baht. Make SURE to tell them it’s for a Vietnam Visa as passport photos and Visa are different sizes for different countries. Vietnam requres a 2″x2″ photo.
If staying on Khao San road (which a lot of travellers/backpackers do), taxi /tuk tuk drivers may be unwilling to take you here on the meter, especially close to rush hour, as it is quite far and in an awkward place on the one way system. They’d rather scam a couple other people in the same time it would take.
The Vietnamese Consulate in Khon Kaen, Thailand also offers tourist visas. (UPDATED: March 2013) A single entry tourist visa valid for 30 days costs 2500 baht. A single entry 3-month tourist visa costs 4000 baht. A multiple entry, 3-month visa costs 5500 baht. The consulate only accepts Thai baht in cash (no other currencies or credit cards). Visas can be picked up the same day if submitted in the morning. If submitted in the afternoon, you can pick up your visa the next morning. The consulate is closed on weekends. Some consular staff speak English. You will need a passport photo (bring 2 just in case), application form (available at the consulate), and payment.
November 2010 – the Vietnamese Mission to the UN in New York City charges US$80 for a 30-day single-entry visa. Cash or money order is accepted. Processing takes 6 business days. Expedited service (4 business days) is available for US$110.
February 2013 – The Consulate General of Vietnam in San Francisco, UNITED STATES charges $100 for a 30-day single entry visa. Cash or money order is accepted.
November 2010 – Vietnam Embassy in Canberra Australia charges AUD$75 for a 30 day single entry visa. Approx 3 days to process. Other consular services at this embassy have been reported as slow and costly (4 weeks for Ex-Vietnamese seeking 5 year Visa exceptions – and the passport must have 5 years of life left).
July 2010 – the Vietnamese Embassy in Singapore charges SGD$100 for a 30-day, single-entry visa. 7 days to process.
June 2011 – the Vietnamese Embassy in Kuala Lumpur charges RM200 for a 30 day single entry visa, takes 5 working days; RM260 2 working days.
September 2012 – the Vietnamese consulate in Hong Kong charges HK$330 for 30 day single entry visa – I went on a Wednesday and they said I could pick up on Monday (3 working days). However, for HK$500 (total per visa, not additional) I was told I can pick up in 1 hour. I came back 45 minutes later and the visa (valid for 30 days, not 14 as previously stated)) was ready. This is for a USA and UK passport. I arrived at the consulate at about 10:45 am and only 1 person in line ahead of me. When I came back at about 11:25 am, there was a queue of 8-10 people. Best to get there early. Bring a valid passport, completed form (available on-line) and cash.
November 1, 2012 – the Vietnamese Embassy in Singapore charges S$85 (about US$70) for a 30 days single entry visa, 6 working days to process.
Embassies are recalcitrant in publishing a schedule of fees, as the relativity high visa cost is a source of embarrassment, revenue, and a tourism deterrent (EU and U.S.). A slowdown in tourist number arrivals has been disguised by the removal of visa fees for certain nationalities (but not former Vietnamese) resulting in neighbouring countries numbers filling the vacuum.
Foreign citizens of Vietnamese origin can apply for visa exemption that allows multiple entry for 3 months at a time which is valid for the duration of the passport.
Visa on arrival
The term visa on arrival is a bit of a misnomer in the case of Vietnam as a letter of approval has to be obtained before arrival. This is handled by a growing number of on-line agencies for a charge of US$9-21 (in 2012), depending on the agency. Most agencies accept payment by credit card. Some accept payment by Western Union.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office of Her Majesty’s Government in London states “We are aware that there are nearly 1000 travel companies that are able to arrange legitimate visas-on-arrival but this must be done prior to arrival in Vietnam. There have also been reports of bogus companies that claim to be able to arrange for a visa on arrival. As the British Embassy and Consulate cannot confirm whether a company has a legitimate arrangement in place, the safest way to obtain a visa is via the nearest Vietnamese Embassy. Vietnamese visas are usually valid for only one entry. If you plan to leave Vietnam and re-enter from another country make sure you obtain a visa allowing multiple entries.” 
The situation is complicated by the fact that the Internet high level domain “gov.vn” does not necessarily denote a government agency! 
NOTE (May 2012): in the Vietnamese embassy in Bangkok, there was a poster warning against vietnamvisa.org.vn NOTE (Dec 2012): Found this page about 3 weeks after I already got my pre-approved visa via above mentioned website and everything went smoothly in Saigon Airport.
The agent – located in Vietnam – obtains from the Department of Immigration a letter of approval bearing the traveller’s name, date of birth, date of arrival, nationality and passport number, and then forwards that letter to the traveller (in PDF or JPEG format) by email or fax, usually within three working days. It is common to get the letter with several other applicants passport details (passport number, date and place of birth, full name, etc.). You might share your personal information with up to 10-30 other applicants on the same letter(s). For persons who are concerned about their privacy or security, it is recommended to check first if the agencies have an option for a separate or private approval letter (Private Vietnam visa on arrival) on their website. Very few on-line agencies have this option. Another solution is to apply for a regular visa through an embassy to keep your personal details private.
After landing at one of the three international airports (Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Danang), the traveller goes to the “Visa upon arrival Counter” and shows the letter, fills in an additional arrival form (can be pre-filled before departure) and receives an official stamp (sticker) in his or her passport. A stamping fee in cash of US$25 ($45 from Jan 2013  and currently US$50 for a multiple entry visa) is payable at the time – only U.S. dollars or VND are accepted (no other currency or credit card) and the notes must be in as-new condition or they will be refused. Two passport photos are also required (often 4X6 cm).
Note that visas on arrival are not valid for border crossings and the official stamp can only be obtained at the three international airports. Therefore, travellers arriving by land from Cambodia, Laos or China must be in possession of a full visa when they arrive at the border.
A third alternative, ‘Visa Code’ appears to be another option [More references needed] where on-line approval is first obtained – with a code, then you take the passport to the Embassy for the visa to be ‘stamped’. The cost for service fee is cheaper than at the embassy in Europe or America. In Asia the cost will be almost the same as the regular total visa fee. However, you will avoid to go back and forth to the embassy.
Passengers of Air Asia and some other airlines travelling to Vietnam must present the approval letter at check-in.
Vietnam has moved away from arrival/departure cards.
Depending on the present level of SARS and avian flu you may be subjected to a so-called health-check. There is no examination, though, but yet another form to fill in and, of course, another fee. If you can get hold of a handful of dong it is only 2000 dong per person, but they charge US$2 for the same “service” if you only have greenbacks!
Vietnam has international airports at Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and Da Nang. Non-stop flights are available from Australia, Cambodia, China, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Poland, Russia, Singapore, Brunei, South Korea, Thailand, Taiwan, Indonesia, Macau, Qatar, Turkey, Dubai and the U.S. However, most direct flights are served by flag carrier Vietnam Airlines while plenty of other long-haul flights are available with transits via Bangkok, Doha, Dubai, Hong Kong, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Taipei.
There are direct international train services from Nanning and Beijing in China to Hanoi. Most require a change of trains at the border at Pingxiang/Dong Dang, but the Chinese-operated daily Nanning express (T871/MR2) runs through, although it still spends about four hours at the border for immigration.
The Kunming-Hanoi line was shut down by landslides in 2002 and, as of 2011, remains closed. There are no train links to Laos or Cambodia.
Several Ho Chi Minh to Phnom Penh bus operators, such as Kumho Samco, scam foreign tourists by charging an extra US$5 for the Cambodian visa on arrival. Not agreeing to the extra charge and attempting to obtain the visa independently will result in being stranded at the border without your belongings. Mekong Express and MaiLinh Bus companies are the most reliable and reputable businesses operating on this route.
The main crossing is the Moc Bai/Bavet crossing on the Ho Chi Minh City – Phnom Penh road. Buses between the two cities cost US8-12 and take around 6 hr. Passengers vacate the vehicle at both countries’ checkpoints. Only one passport photo is required for a Cambodian visa on arrival. Tours of the Mekong Delta (US$25-35, 2-3 days) can provide a more insightful journey between the two cities.
Through tickets to Siem Reap are also available (US$18), though it is cheaper to by a ticket to Phnom Penh and then arrange onward transport on one of the many connecting buses.
Close to the coast is the Xa Xia/Prek Chak border. Cambodian visas are available on arrival. Buses run between Ha Tien in Vietnam to Sihanoukville and Phnom Penh in Cambodia. The Vietnamese consulate in Sihanoukville issues 30-day tourist visas on a same-day basis.
Coastal areas are also served by the Tinh Bien/Phnom Den border near Chau Doc in Vietnam
The Xa Mat/Trapeang Phlong crossing on the Ho Chi Minh City – Kampong Cham road is not well served by public transport but may be useful for accessing Kampong Cham and Eastern Cambodia.
Banlung in North Eastern Cambodia is connect to Pleiku in Vietnam by a crossing at Le Tanh/O Yadaw. Visas are avaiable on arrival, one photo required. Change buses at Le Tanh.
There are three border crossings between China and Vietnam that can be used by foreigners:
* Dongxing – Mong Cai (by road; onward travel Mong Cai to Ha Long by sea or by road)
* Hekou – Lao Cai (by road and/or rail, but no international passenger train services)
* Youyi Guan – Huu Nghi Quan (Friendship Pass – by road and/or rail)
There are at least six border crossings between Laos and Vietnam that can be used by foreigners.
Be wary of catching local buses from Laos to Vietnam. Not only are they often crammed with cargo (coal and live chickens, often underfoot) but many buses run in the middle of the night, stopping for several hours in order to wait for the border to open at 07:00. Whilst waiting, you will be herded off the bus (for several hours) where you will be approached by pushy locals offering assistance in getting a Laos exit stamp in exchange for money (usually US$5+). If you bargain hard (tiring, at 04:00) you can get the figure down to about US$2. The men will take your passports, which can be incredibly disconcerting, but will actually provide the service they promise. It is unclear whether you can just wait for the border officials to do this. There is also a VIP bus from Savannakhet.
* Donsavanh – Lao Bao
* Kaew Neua – Cau Treo (Keo Nua Pass)
* Nam Can ( Vietnam ) to Xieng Khuang ( Laos )
* Tay Trang ( Vietnam ) to Phong Sa Ly ( Laos )
Boats can be taken from Phnom Penh to the Vietnamese border town of Chau Doc. Such a journey takes roughly 5 hours and includes brief stops both to exit Cambodia and enter Vietnam. Make sure you carry a few US dollars to tip the boat porters with, so as to avoid losing your luggage in the Mekong when alighting or changing boats.
Longer tours lasting multiple days may also be available from Phnom Penh. Check with your accommodation provider or along Sisowath Quay.