One of the questions that we get asked a lot, and was actually the most confusing part of planning for our trip to Vietnam, was the visa process. Yes, you do need a visa, and no, you do not have to send your passport away to get it. Here's how we did it:
There are a number of companies that offer this Vietnam visa service. I chose the website that I did based on ease of use on their website. If it flowed, I stayed with it. If ever I got confused, I went to another one. I am just sharing my experience. This is the company I used: http://www.vietnamvisa.govt.vn
The cost was US$60 and covered 4 of us. You will see the rate changes depending on how many you are purchasing at a time. If you are traveling as a group, it is a good idea for one person to do this process and settle the IOUs as needed. It just makes the process smoother. You will see on this website how clear the directions are to apply for a visa. After applying and paying, they will send you an email that has an official Vietnam Visa Approval Letter. It was very prompt. The letter gives you further instructions on what to do. This is not the visa, but you can take this letter with you and turn it in FOR the visa once you arrive. There is a pdf form that they also send you, which must be turned in with the approval letter and 2 passport photos.
My only problem with this process was that the visa approval letter not only included our names and passport numbers, but also a number of other people on the SAME letter. I am somewhat uncomfortable with other people having my passport info, but not so much that I cancelled, and not so much that I wouldn't recommend this company.
So, you arrive in Vietnam. And you just walk with the other passengers to the arrival area. You will see signs, but I did not write down what the exact wording was. There was a sign that said no photos. We stood in line, and waited our turn. Once at the window, we turned in our letter and our passports, then we were directed to a seating area to wait.
Note: We had scheduled a flight to DaNang for 2 hours after we landed. Luckily, the airlines had earlier rebooked us for an hour later than that. If that hadn't happened we may have missed that flight, or at least we would have been stressed about it. So, give yourself plenty of time for this process. We had 3 hours, which was perfect.
I believe we waited about 30 minutes. You have to be attentive and listen carefully when you hear sounds coming from a speaker, since you may not recognize your name read in a Vietnamese accent. For our trouble, we got a beautiful visa sticker for our passport. The immigration area is right there next to the arrival area, then baggage, then to the domestic terminal and then, onward to our Vietnam adventure!
I have traveled quite a bit, and am using this page to record some memories. Travel is a wonderful education, expanding your view of the world, of other cultures, of the beauty of diversity.