Vietnam E Visa is part of the Reunion Tour Trip Report.
I hate writers who say, “in full disclosure” before starting a post. Are you saying that absent such an admission that you are hiding something? With that preface, I would like to say, “in full disclosure,” I knew I needed a visa to Vietnam when I booked the world’s longest flight (see Booked! World’s Longest Flight). In full disclosure, I would like to say that I hate filling out forms of any kind. But for Ms. TPOL, I never would’ve traveled during Covid where silly questions like, “have you had sniffles in the last two weeks?” had to be answered, or tedious requirements like having to upload your forged vaccine card were required (see Scam Covid Test #1: Entering the UK, Scam Covid Test #2: Leaving the UK, Scam Covid Test #3: Leaving Malta, and Scam Covid Test #4: Entering St. Kitts). In full disclosure, this healthy disrespect for authority is how I continuously duck myself when it comes to visas, the most egregious being my birthday arrival in Shanghai (see China Visa-Free Transit Disaster (again)).
In full disclosure, I waited until the week before going to Vietnam to apply for my visa. In, full disclosure (“FD” henceforth), I assumed that an e-visa was like buying something off of Amazon prime- it usually ships in 2 days. In FD, I should have known better. I live in Puerto Rico where Amazon Prime’s 2 days really means that you will get it when you get it. In FD, I relied on Vietnam’s website which said that visas are processed within 3 working days. I applied on Monday night. By that calculation, I would receive it by COB Thursday.
When Wednesday came and the status said ‘in processing’ [sic], I was nervous. I emailed and asked for an update. I did not receive one. When I woke up on Thursday for my flight to the airport and there was nothing in my inbox, I was worried.
With 13.5 hours in JFK before my flight to Singapore departed (see Wait, There Was Early Check-in?), all I could do was sit and wait for the visa office to open. At 9PM, the same time I was kicked out of the Centurion Lounge (see Closing Time: Chaos & Trash at Centurion & Wingman JFK), I called the Hanoi office. An automated voice came on and said, “Friday 2, 2AM, Friday 2, 2:01 AM,” followed by hold music. At 18 cents a minute, I was on hold feeling hopeless. I hung up and called the Ho Chi Minh office. Ring, ring and nothing. I then tried to call the visa-on-arrival number. Again, ring, ring and nothing.
TPOL’s Tip: For those thinking that I could apply for a visa when arriving in Vietnam, you are mistaken. Visa on arrival for Americans is not what you think. You must apply and be approved for a visa on arrival before you arrive in Vietnam. You can’t board the plane to Vietnam without the form that says that you will receive a visa on arrival. Why would anyone do this over an e-visa is a question I cannot answer.
Minutes before boarding the world’s longest flight (see World’s Longest & Best Flight: JFK-SIN), I said to Google “national holidays Vietnam.” What are the chances that this day was Vietnam Independence Day? 1 in 365 if it’s anyone but I; 100 percent if it is I.
As mentioned, I always have visa issues. It started in 2007 when I could not go to NYE in Brazil because I didn’t have a visa. Back then, I assumed that an American could go anywhere and a visa was something required for my relatives coming from Iraq. But now, having traveled everywhere and having made this mistake too many times to count, I had no excuse. How stupid was I to go through all the trouble of finding flight availability and setting up complicated logistics for this Reunion Tour and fail to do the most basic thing? Sure, the website says three days but why leave it to chance? Contrast my ambivalence about securing visas to my other travel paranoia. For example, I schedule flights to arrive obscenely early to the connecting airport when I don’t have an interline ticket because I am terrified of what happens if that flight is delayed and the adventure is ruined (see Cutting It Close: Will I Make My JFK-HKG Connection?). Here’s another example: I do not trust the monitors in the lounge when it comes to boarding, so I head to the gate early, anxious that the door will be closed before I get there (see Boarding Announcement Paranoia). I do not know why I am extreme in those instances but indifferent when it comes to travel documents.
On the plane and in a last-ditch effort to get to Vietnam, I tried to contact a commercial visa company and see if anything could be done. My suspicions were confirmed: Independence Day means no visas were being processed.
Since I have been to Vietnam twice, I can’t say I cared that I was not going (see Guns & Butter: Saigon Travel Guide). In FD, the real issue is that my friend from India was already en route to Hanoi and would receive the bad news upon his arrival. Because of me, he would have to change his plans and now stay one night in Vietnam and go to Bangkok, where we were supposed to go after Hanoi.
As I was taking off, I received a call from him. Somehow he didn’t care that I had ducked up so badly. On the contrary, he was shocked that an American didn’t receive a visa immediately. “You have an American passport! I don’t get it!”
I have an intricate system for applying for cards, organizing points, and scheduling trips. I fancy myself a travel wizard. Like Rich Rod’s offense, it is a thing of beauty when it works. Like Rich Rod’s offense, it can be a complete disaster when anything goes wrong. Unlike RR, I know how to make adjustments and would make up for this oversight during our trip (see Early Bird Audible: BKK to Samui).
TPOL’s Tip: Grow up TPOL. You can’t keep winging the visa system just because you think visas are stupid, which they are.