Happy to say that Vietnam is falling more into line with neighbouring Southeast Asian nations and visa and entry regulations are becoming both easier and cheaper. For an increasing list of nationalities visa exemption is now in practice and while this is valid for 15 days only their e-visa and visa on arrival systems also seems to work efficiently.
As usual passports for any form of entry into Vietnam need to have at least 6 months and again though nothing is specified we reckon 2 empty pages is a safe bet.
A visa exemption scheme is valid for citizens of most western European and Scandinavian countries including France, Germany and the UK. (Ditto citizens of Asean nations.) You can check the full list here but note that this scheme is a provisional one and furthermore said list isn’t fixed in stone and can change at short notice. This means that you can turn up at any international airport with no prior paperwork and you will automatically receive a 15-day entry stamp. All very well if your passport falls into that list and that you’re not planning on staying more than 15 days. Otherwise, we reckon the e-visa programme may be your best bet.
As with a Burmese (Myanmar) e-visa, you are applying for a letter of authorisation which you present to immigration on arrival. Unusually the official Vietnamese government immigration site seems to be advising applying for said letter via private facilitating companies though they do recommend choosing a “cheap and reliable one”. It isn’t always clear which are official sites and which government-run and knowing which are reliable isn’t obvious. The link to the official site is here while we’ve also used this commercial site in the past. The fee should cost around $40, is supposed to take 2 working days and is valid for 30 days.
Visa on arrival
Although there is a slightly different procedure to follow we can’t see much difference in an e-visa or visa on arrival. Again you apply for a letter of authorisation, (the previous link is valid), which you exchange for a visa at immigration.