Our decision to visit Ho Chi Minh City came in the last minute. As a German, Alex need to apply for a Vietnamese  visa. For the past 2 days I have been calling the Vietnamese Embassy in Singapore, but no one bothers to pick up the phone. It’s official website didn’t provide any useful information either. While searching on the Internet, I came across a few websites that facilitating on-line application for Vietnamese visa. Most of these websites have rather confusing interface, and I felt quite insecure to go through them. However, time was running short and out of desperation, I took a small step and choose one of them. It turns out to be my life saver!

www.visa-vietnam.org

On this website, I filled in an online application form (it is rather straight forward, with instructions on the website.) Since we need a visa in 2 days, so I choose “rush case” and click send. Soon, I received an automatic mail-reply saying:

Thanks for your concerning with us www.visa-vietnam.org.

1. Your reference # :XXXXXXXXXXXX, This is the rush case you have to confirm as soon as possible

2.1. Please settle the payment through www.Xoom.Com ( Credit card)

Details of recipient Mr. Thang (the agent in Vietnam) is stated, with he Vietnamese address, telephone number and ID card number. Again simple but precise instructions were given. I would receive a Pre-approved letter with code for picking up visa upon arriving Vietnam at the airports of Hanoi capital city, Ho Chi Minh or Saigon city and Danang city. On the email, my payment through http://www.xoom.com was US$40 due to “rush case” (normally it is US$25) for processing fee. An additional US$25 + two passport photos are needed to process a 30-days visa. BTW, “rush case” is only eligible for 30-days, single entry travel visa.

After making my payment, I called the Vietnamese Embassy again just to make sure things are right. This time finally, a lady picked up the phone. She told me that the Embassy only process normal visa which takes 5 days to 2 weeks. If I want “rush case”, I need to go through an agent who specifically assigned by the Embassy.

I asked if I can bring along the Pre-approval letter from my agent and get the visa stamp from the Embassy. She said it is impossible, and there is no regulation stated that we can enter the country with the so-called Pre-approved letter.

She gave me the official website of the Vietnamese Embassy in Singapore, apparently it has been revamped and the one that I got from the Internet was the old one. Through this site, I found a local agency who can help me process a Pre-approved letter. It costs me SGD130 (USD89) for “rush case”. “If you do it today, SGD130, before 11am. But tomorrow will be a lot more expansive.” The agent said.

I put down the phone and felt furious. I then called Mr. Thang in Vietnam, questioned him about the regulation, and he reassured that they are the real agency and has been around for a while. He said, “At the airport, go to Landing visa counter, with the printed Pre-approved letter and 2 passport size photos (4x6cm). If I have any problem with the custom, please call my number.”

So, we decided to stick with him…

Updated: 28 Sept 2008

When we arrived Ho Chi Minh City, Alex went to the visa counter. She was asked to fill up a form, paid USD25 and handed in 2 passport size photos. She got her Vietnamese visa stamped on her passport smoothly.

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