Visa Issues in Vietnam
Oh dear, not a great start to our visit in Vietnam. We had Visa Issues in Vietnam, at the border. Not that this will deter us. Our first days in China were not great and then we had a lovely month there. All part of life's journey. If you are going to Vietnam from China - read this and learn from my mistake.
It was the early hours of the morning when we arrived at Dang Dong, the Vietnamese border. A rather forlorn place with broken paving with a painting of blossom that was trying to cheer the place up. Everyone queued outside and waited their turn one-by-one before entering the Border office. As you can imagine, this took quite some time and we were near the back of the queue.
Tim went in before me. I had been counting how long each person was taking; he was way over the average time. Oh dear, my heart sank. I realised something was up. I was called to join him and was notified that our visa was incorrect. Here we were at Dong Dang, but on the E-Visa I had put Huu Nghi as the entry point, a few km down the road.
Let me explain why.
When I completed the E-visa online, Dong Dang was not included in the dropdown. What to do? I researched, tried to contact the Vietnamese embassy and even asked people on Facebook and TripAdvisor. No help. I then checked where Dong Dang was on the map and saw that it was very close to Huu Nghi. That must be it – and chose this for our E-visa entry point.
The border security guard informed us that Huu Nghi was the road border crossing. Also that it is NOT POSSIBLE to use an E-visa for entering Vietnam by train. WHAT?
He said we should have gone to the Vietnamese Consulate. And I think this should be stated on their website. (I have rechecked, nothing, nada)
He graciously granted us a 15-day visa and said that we could extend this at the Immigration Centre in Hanoi.
We returned to our compartment feeling rather frustrated, but with the sway of the train, we quickly drifted off to sleep. At 5:30 the train guard opened the door with a rapid knock. We had arrived at Hanoi. After negotiating with a taxi driver where we still paid over the odds we arrived outside Red Doorz, our accommodation. It had no red door though – instead, a glass front with the shutters half down and no-one to be seen.
I had already checked with the owner that someone would be there to greet us. We sat waiting, wondering what to do. I noticed a phone number on the window, so rang it. Miraculously it was answered, I say this as I didn’t think that my Chinese sim would still work and thought I had data only. A weary young man on the other end sleepily responded and said he would be with us shortly.
Thirty minutes later, we were still waiting. I phoned again – he had fallen back to sleep. Apologising, he arrived quickly. All booked in, we climbed five long flights of stairs carrying our bags and finally arrived in our nice spacious room for the next four nights.
After some sleep, writing and out to a delicious and cheap lunch at a vegetarian cafe, plus seeing some interesting views of Hanoi, we arrived at the Immigration Centre. It was hectic. To cut a long story short, one lady pondered for ages, decided she couldn’t help us with our visa extension and passed our request to her colleague. She ummed and ahhed and then informed us that she also couldn’t help. We would have to go to a Travel Agent. I had read this so was not surprised.
Across the road was an Agency with a sign that said “Visa Applications for foreigners”. We walked in, explaining our situation, which surprised them. We were shocked to hear that the extension cost was US$100 each. Luckily they must have felt sorry for us, adjusted the price. In the end, it cost us £50 each. Phew!
Tim hopped on the back of one of the Agents’ scooter to get more money out at the ATM. On the fourth attempt and a rather exciting journey through Hanoi traffic, they safely returned.
Their service paid, we left our passports with them, but not before they gave us two notarised copies to provide our next two accommodations. We need to return on 12th, the day our visa ends and hope that our extension is successfully completed. Fingers and toes crossed.
I did feel bothered. I had worked hard to get all the visas done, they were not easy and I had an uncomfortable feeling about this one. Tim commiserated and with a moment or two, I was back to normal.
We decided to walk the 50-minute journey back to our accommodation. Sorry, Hanoi – but what a mess. The noise and pollution of all the petrol-driven mopeds, the rubbish strewn everywhere and trying to walk on the pavement is a joke; motorbikes take precedence over pedestrians. We have read that there are 5m motorbikes in Hanoi with 7m people, and the government think that they will ban these by 2030. A lot to do!
We did have some respite from the traffic by walking passed Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum in the centre of Ba Dinh Square. Above the final resting place of the President, the sky was an incredible purple.
It was lovely to see people jogging, walking hand in hand or exercising, getting some time outdoors without the disturbance of scooters whizzing past and hooting.
We walked by the bright yellow Presidential Palace (no photos allowed) where Ho Chi Minh refused to live for moral reasons, only using it to received state guests, and came to the Botanical Gardens. We again took advantage of having some peace from the traffic and entered the garden even though it was dark. (It only cost us 7p each) Unfortunately, the gate at the other end, where we wanted to exit, was closed, so we had to retrace our steps and walk around the gardens to eventually get to our apartment.
Oh well, not the best of days, but then we hope others have learnt from my Visa issues in Vietnam mistake and avoid this hassle. Onwards and upwards.