For most expats in Saigon, you’ll need to leave and reenter Vietnam periodically to make a visa run. Some lucky expats who work for large companies in the country will get help with their visa runs from their employers, but the rest of us will need to do it ourselves. Below, we have included a quick guide to a few of the most popular ways expats make visa runs from Saigon.
For professional advice, always use a reputable agent. One such agent who has been helping expats for over 20 years is Miss Chi. You can contact her here for Visa letters or border run information.
The international visa run
You have to leave the country for any visa run, so why not turn the errand into a vacation? You can fly to any country you want, although Thailand is the most popular choice for expats in Vietnam.
At least 5 days before your return flight to Vietnam, you should apply for a visa on arrival if able. Most expats will use an agent to help them such as Miss Chi who we mentioned at the start of the article.
Citizens of most countries (a complete list can be found here) can apply for VOA. The process is fairly easy if you wish to do it on your own. You must enter your passport number and email, as well as some personal and flight information, then enter your credit card number and click “submit.”
Be careful to enter everything perfectly with no typos and to be as detailed as possible. You are dealing with government procedures here and they will make you purchase a new visa on arrival if you make any mistake, even one as minor as forgetting to enter your middle name as shown on your passport.
After submitting the application, you will receive a scan of a visa on arrival letter in your email inbox. This will normally take a few days, although there are options on the application to expedite the sending of the letter for additional fees. If you are willing to pay, in fact, you can have the letter in your inbox roughly 30 minutes after the application is sent in. Once you receive the scanned letter, print it and bring it to the airport.
Collecting your Visa at the Airport.
You will be able to turn the letter in at the visa on arrival counter at the Vietnamese airport in exchange for a new visa. You’ll also be required to fill out a form with some personal info and a passport photo. Lastly, you’ll pay a stamping fee at the airport.
Sometimes it can take up to an hour at Tan Son Nhat airport in Saigon to get you VOA. However, for 15 USD you can apply for a VIP service who will help you jump the line and fill all the documents in. This can be extremely useful at peak times. Again, for this service you will need to contact a Visa agent.
The border run
Expats can also take a bus to the border of a neighbouring country, pay for a visa for that country, walk a few meters over the border, and then turn around and pay for a new Vietnam visa. This option is overall cheaper than actually taking a plane out of the country since bus travel is so much more affordable than air travel. It will also more than likely be less of a hassle, especially if you choose to utilise the first of the options described below.
There are two primary methods by which the trip is made.
For $20 (not including the visa fees), you can book a “tour” that will take you to the border and back on an air-conditioned bus. It will take care of the visa processes for you as long as you supply the cash. Essentially, it will make everything as easy as possible for you… for a price.
A public bus
Those who prefer DIY solutions may prefer to take the public bus to the border and take care of the visa renewal themselves. The first step is to secure a Vietnam reentry letter from a visa agent in Saigon. Once you do, the bus to take from the city is #70-3. It leaves regularly from the bus depot near Pham Ngu Lao.
All of the stops can be found at the Vietnamese bus route page here. For about $3, the bus will take you to a stop roughly 1 km from the Vietnam-Cambodia border. You’ll have to find your way to the Cambodian border crossing station, where you’ll be supplied with a visa application form. Fill out the form and turn it in at a kiosk along with the Cambodia visa fee to get a Cambodian visa in your passport. After doing so, turn around and re-enter the Vietnam border crossing, where you’ll pay another fee, supply your reentry letter, and get a new Vietnam visa. Finally, return to the bus stop and take the 70-3 back to Saigon.
Hopefully, this short guide will help make your visa run process smooth and worry-free. Dealing with visa stuff can be very nervewracking because government agents in Vietnam, as in any country, are not forgiving of even the smallest mistakes. Luckily, visa procedures in Vietnam are very easy to navigate compared to most countries.