As I’ve mentioned before, the winter vacation for English teachers in South Korea is one of the most important times of the year. After nearly six months of cultural assimilation and the onset of winter blues, a few weeks on a beach in Thailand is just the rejuvenation many teachers need to continue their contract. For many teachers, this is the closest they will be to many of the Asian countries they’ve only read about and they take full advantage of the opportunity.
We’re no different, the only exception being we wanted to visit ALL the countries. So, in addition to Thailand and Cambodia, we planned a trip to Vietnam.
Planning the trip was the easy part; getting the visa was a different issue.
For travelers planning on flying directly into one of Vietnam’s airports, obtaining a visa is fairly easy. Just sign up with My Vietnam Visa, pay $45 and when you arrive at the airport, you’ll be granted a visa.
However, overland travelers planning on taking a bus from Cambodia or Laos into Vietnam face numerous hurdles.
The Vietnamese government insists you must apply at the Vietnamese consulate in your country before leaving on your trip. This can take anywhere from a week to a month. In Korea, your only option is going to the Vietnamese embassy in Seoul. The process here typically takes two weeks. Be warned: the man who runs the visa process here is quite a salty fellow.
Unfortunately, we didn’t know to get our visas ahead of time. We finally figured it out about week before we left. Not enough time to get a visa.
So, we did Plan B: Obtain a visa in Bangkok, Thailand.
If you are planning on touring Southeast Asia, this is the easiest – if a little pricey – option. The Vietnamese embassy in Bangkok offers a same-day visa option, though you’ll end up paying $80-100 for it. Drop off your application and passport at the embassy when they open at 8 a.m. and you should receive the visa by 4 p.m. The Vietnamese embassies in Cambodia also offer same day service, but it’s cheaper: $40 by many accounts.
In summary: Do not take visas lightly. If you’re planning an excursion to Vietnam, get your visa early.