FIRST PART: OBTAINING VOA VISA LETTER
When I planned a visit to Vietnam last year in November, it was certainly a few months ahead of time planning. I tried to shop around within Pakistan, inquired wtih some travel agents and the cheapest quote for Vietnam Visa, I could get was Rs. 25000 ($240) which is definitely too much to spend only for visa. I spoke to Vietnam embassy in Islamabad and they referred me to contact Gerry’s where I found out that Single Entry Tourist visa could be obtained for Rs 23750 which included Gerry’s handling charges and Visa Code, if I fulfilled all the docs requirement, which itself was a hassle, so I kinda gave up.
I kept on searching on the sidelines and by chance I bumped into a girl named Nguyen who posted a blog for Vietnam Visa on Arrival.. I contacted her and when I looked at her Facebook profile, it was amazing that we already had some mutual friends, mostly travelers from my side.. means she was already helping out people from my side… I asked her to quote me for VoA letter, her quote was at that time $150, (although cheaper then few of the other visa companies I been speaking to) .. and then $25 to be paid at airport after arrival, so the total price of visa alone was still too much whether one gets from embassy or online..
So I decided to look for some alternative options; such as, either to include Nepal instead of Vietnam in this trip, or else to buy a Sri Lankan airline ticket and take a stopover in Colombo on my way to KL and to repeat Sri Lanka instead, but then sometimes in November Nguyen posted on her Facebook about Black Friday discount deal for VoA, I immediately commented, talked to her for few minutes , begged her for even more and it worked, negotiated to pay her $115 for VoA due to that Black Friday discount and also that whenever we meet I will buy her a beer … in the end she was so kind that she did not even let me pay ?
She said it would take around 7 days to get VoA visa approval letter for my Pakistani Passport once the payment is made.. But it was instant in my case and If I remember it right, she emailed me my VoA within 4 working days.
I then shared this VoA letter with Airasia’s customer care staff, that if I would be able to travel to Vietnam on Pakistani passport with this document? And whether an “OK TO BOARD” would be needed? So, I found out that this letter was more then enough, but being a Pakistani who has been tested dozens of times by immigration and airlines’ boarding staffs, I for my own protection emailed this letter to Vietnamese embassy in Islamabad if this VoA letter was authentic to travel and once they assured, I kept their email print with the rest of documents in case I am confronted, I can show them.
SECOND PART: TRAVELING ON VOA (Visa on Arrival Letter)
When I boarded my flight from Kuala Lumpur to Padang (Indonesia), the Airasia wanted to see my return (out) flight from Indonesia. I had my flight out from Jakarta to Ho Chi Minh City, and then after searching my passport pages the Airasia girl asked, where was the visa for Vietnam, I showed her VoA document, she was OK with that, so I already knew that this VoA is well known among them .. So again when I boarded from Jakarta to Ho Chi Minh City, I showed this VoA letter and there were no questions about it. When I finally landed at Ho Chi Minh City, I walked to “Landing Visa” counter, where this letter would be converted into a visa by paying $ 25, and I already been instructed comprehensively about the whole process that how it would go from A to Z.
I must thank my visa agent Ms. Nguyen for helping me in details, so I had all the documents printed already which she urged me beforehand.
For instance if you don’t have Vietnam Landing Visa Application form printed with you, the immigration would sell this one piece of paper to you for $5 and if you don’t have 2 photographs they would do it for another $5 … So when I finally reached at the Landing Visa counter with all the documents attached together, the visa officer scanned my passport first page, and took only 2 papers: the VoA Letter and my filled visa application form. All the rest of documents like air ticket and hotel bookings etc were not even seen and returned back to me, the officer did not even asked a single question, such as the purpose of my visit, or how many days would I be staying etc., absolutely nothing. He just said wait until your name is called, and then passed my documents to the girl sitting at his back at another desk.. I guess it was less then 5 minutes, I heard my name from cashier counter, I already had the loose $25 ready in my hand, which I paid and he handed me my passport with a beautiful brand new one month Vietnam visa sticker in it
I walked then to the immigration counters, which were located on the right side of “Landing Visa” counters, almost empty at ‘foreign passports’ and here also, they did not have things like finger scans or face capture, and also NO questions whatsoever, just stamped and done.
I was now officially in Saigon, the largest city of Vietnam, I walked out of airport as I had nothing to declare.. This whole thing was smooth as silk..
Taxi from airport to city centre was $12 and shuttle (starts 5:30 AM) is $1 .. I arrived at 2 AM so I waited few hours at airport until the shuttle bus started..
So that’s my Vietnam visa story on Pakistani passport, total cost was 115 + 25 = $ 140 .. I will post now about my Ho Chi Minh City experience and how I found a motorbike.