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How to apply for a Vietnam visa on arrival or evisa

Updated: Mar 24, 2021

You've been searching the internet, but now you're more confused than ever. Sound familiar? You're not alone!

View over Ha Long Bay, Vietnam. Boats on blue water
You'll need a visa if you want to visit world famous Ha Long Bay

The first time I visited Vietnam was in early 2012 and I traveled on a then-updated visa on arrival service. Although some of the tribulations I faced then were unique to my living and working situation, some of the same general issues persist today and remain a universal nuisance to my Vietnam-bound clients here at Odyssean Travel.

Some of today's strife comes from the vernacular “visa on arrival” vs “e-visa”, although in best practice, they are both requested in advance of your trip. There's one scenario in which a legitimate entry process may be achieved during travel, that's when taking part in an organized tour or river cruise which features a service from a local fixer at the time you join or board. This is not uncommon and can be both convenient and cost-effective, at the time of writing, US$36. Typically in cash only.

Again, the Vietnam visa on arrival / e-visa are best achieved by arranging online and in advance

Different visa categories exist and there may be further confusion therein, for the purposes of this highlighted article we’re talking about 30-day, single-entry tourist visas for Canadian and US passport holders.

travel enthusiast enjoying himself in the Cu Chi Tunnels, Vietnam
Wedged in the impossibly confined Viet-Cong tunnel network outside former Saigon, the Cu Chi Tunnels. I was told they had been "enlarged" for Western tourists!?!

Flash back to 2012

I was still in the army and about to deploy again to Afghanistan. My unit at that time was a bit different from regular service and I found myself at a loose end with several weeks of unplanned holiday. What a bonus! If you’ve ever served, you may be used to the idea of not planning any trips in advance but also aware how profound an experience it is to be gifted any such additional leave!

I'd been visiting Southeast Asia for years and never thought twice about making plans to visit, I found a comfortable flight to Ho Chi Minh departing only 5 days later and off I went on a night out with friends. About half-way through the evening it dawned on me that I hadn’t considered my visa needs for Vietnam.

Boats moored along the edge of an offshoot of the Mekong River, Vietnam
Traffic jam, Mekong River style

Visiting Vietnam is not yet as simple as neighboring SE Asian countries

Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore… I had good familiarity with these places and had been enjoying several years of just showing up and receiving a stamp and more time in-country than I would require at the time.

Vietnam was different then and remains so today, not only in terms of visas. That’s part of why you want to visit, isn’t it?

How did I sort my visa in only 5 days?

Without panicking too much, I tried to quickly rectify my visa situation or lack thereof, but this is where I hit a wall.

The process today is not only painfully familiar, I might even argue that it is more difficult. Thanks to simple drag and drop website builders such as SquareSpace or Wordpress, everyone and their dog is able to create and manage an ecommerce site these days.

That means there are plenty of visa services featured at the top of the list on popular search engines. They tend to sound official, but their official status and even business intent are often confusing at best.

While the long arm of the law has yet to catch up with cyber-deception, it’s caught out several people I’ve encountered since Odyssean Travel’s inception; they have, without exception, ended up purchasing a second visa in order to preserve their vacation!

Returning to 2012, now with only 4 days between my e-visa epiphany and my imminent departure to former Saigon, I didn’t have a lot of room to breathe and make a good attempt at due diligence in a service. This timeline required an expedited service, but to this day I’m unsure what the true cost should have been then.

The visa-on-arrival service employed then was relatively new and there was delay and confusion at the airport at the time of my entry, I’ve since had several run ins with e-visa services in Southeast Asia and would strongly recommend against trusting a trip to an untested visa service. Sage advice I'd give to anyone seeking a visa under any circumstances.

More than anything, if you are in need of up to date advice and support in acquiring your visa, you want reliable information, no?

Night market with lanterns and shoppers in Pho Quoc, Vietnam
A night market scene in Pho Quoc, Vietnam

Which Vietnam embassy site is the real site?

The main issue plaguing today’s US and Canadian passport holders, in particular those of us in Canada seeking an e-visa, is the veneer applied to the various service sites we find in popular search engines.

The unofficial sites look official

I am truly bewildered just how this issue has persisted and for so long. I just don't know how they get away with it! If you've come across a site under your own search parameters, make sure you seek out any disclaimer on the landing page or elsewhere toward a submission button or payment confirmation, perhaps in the terms and conditions. Typically something to the effect of, “we [insert official looking website address] are a non-government website…”

Sites such as "", for example. What about ""? I’m sure they are all capable of procuring a visa* but is it just me who feels a little odd about their official sounding title and domain name?

*PLEASE NOTE Odyssean Travel does not advocate any of the aforementioned visa services but simply recognizes that there may be valid third-party means for acquiring a visa.

Incense burning at a temple in Hanoi, Vietnam
Have faith, you will get your visa

The “real” site looks fake

The actual portal is somewhat obscured and looks like it’s straight out of the 90s. So much so, it appears as a fraudulent copy-site. Here in Canada, the actual embassy email looks too casual to be official. Not to mention they use reviled internet provider Rogers

It is also a bit unsettling for many people to carry out a business transaction via email and to use a bank account transfer. Two things that should send off loud alarm bells when it comes to transactions on the internet!

The Canadian Government’s own site for Canadians at has only recently updated a link. I'll be honest in that it doesn't give me warm fuzzy feelings when reading through the application process. Find it here at:

Otherwise would-be visitors are directed to Diplomatic Missions and Foreign Representatives in Canada. Thanks for the help!?!

Which Vietnamese embassy site is the real one then?

For American passport holders:

Vietnamese Embassy in Washington, DC. United States of America

1233 20th St NW, Suite 400

Washinton DC


United States

+1 (202) 861 0737

For Canadian passport holders:

Vietnamese Embassy in Canada

55 MacKay

Ottawa ON

K1M 2B2


+1 (613) 236 0772

Other important notes when applying for a Vietnam tourist visa (non-exhaustive)

Technically the visa application only requires a validity period of 60 days beyond the date you plan to exit Vietnam. However, I always recommend 180 days in order to avoid being denied boarding by any airline. Click here to learn why

You should be clear about your needs and apply in time, most visitors only require a single-entry visa with a 30-day validity.

You should know your dates of arrival into and exit from Vietnam.

A woman carries supplies through a rice paddy, Vietnam
The site of a rather famous photo in more peaceful times

You should know where you're going to stay, typically for the duration of the trip but at least for the initial period after you arrive. You may be denied a visa or denied entry if you don't have a place to stay, there is an enforced policy which requires hoteliers and other accommodation providers in Vietnam to register the passports of foreign visitors.

There are other visa categories, but unless you’re performing a circular journey of the neighboring nations or popping out to Lao for a night or two during a larger trip within Vietnam, you’ll not likely need the added entries.


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