Vietnam Visa Run in a Nutshell
Every traveler or long-term expat has to face one problem – an expiring visa. In Vietnam, it’s straightforward to get a tourist visa since you just need to apply for visa-on-arrival and you can choose between 1 or 3-month visa. The biggest problem is that you need to renew the visa every 1 – 3 months.
Visa extensions were cheap few years back, but now, it’s totally not affordable to do the extension since the quoted price is usually around $150 for a month extension.
Does it sound ridiculously expensive to you?
We will give you all the details to get your new visa without hurting your wallet!
Let us introduce you to the famous ‘visa run’!
Everyone is talking about it, and you probably heard about the term almost every day from travelers, but you probably don’t know much details!
Keep reading and get all the information needed to do Vietnam visa run!
What is a Visa Run?
Basically, a visa run is nothing more than leaving the country and getting back to the same country you just left.
For Vietnam, the most convenient countries to do the visa run are Laos and Cambodia since you can enter these countries by land.
To do the visa run, you need to stamp out of Vietnam, get a visa for another country where you’re entering and then stamp out that country and get a new visa for Vietnam.
Does it sound complicated?
Don’t worry! It’s a fast process which is usually hustle-free and won’t cause you headaches. After 30 minutes of processing the documentation you will be back to Vietnam with your new visa, so you don’t need to worry about anything for the next 1 – 3 months.
Let’s check it out where you can do the visa run.
Most Convenient Places to Do Vietnam Visa Run?
As we already mentioned, you need to get out of Vietnam and enter another country to get your brand new Vietnamese visa.
The most convenient countries to do so are Laos and Cambodia. You need to go to the international border crossing as these are the only places that will be able to issue a new visa.
Visa Run to Laos
- Tay Trang
- Chalo – It’s a bit busy border crossing in Quang Binh province, and it wasn’t possible to get a Laos visa without a prior arrangement. Right now, it’s possible to get a Laos visa with only filling the basic forms.
- Lao Bao – we wrote a detailed guide on doing the visa run from Da Nang to Lao Bao!
Visa Run to Cambodia
- Moc Bai – it’s one of the busiest border crossings since the border is on the route from Saigon to Phnom Penh. It’s very convenient to do the crossing there as the officials are very knowledgeable about the process and they are speaking English (well, some of them!)
- Vinh Xuong
- Tinh Bien – Locals usually use this border crossing, and it’s not a busy one, so if you don’t want to spend so much time on processing your visa, this might be the right crossing for you!
Now you have all the border crossings where you can issue a new visa!
Pick the one that is the nearest to the place you’re currently staying at, as the visa run usually takes a whole day of traveling there and back.
Believe us; it’s a struggle!
Documents for Vietnam Visa Run
Before heading to the border, be sure that you acquired all the documents for getting a new Vietnamese visa.
Here are the costs and details about the documents you’ll need:
Visa approval letter: Be sure that you get the visa approval letter at least a few days before actually going to do a visa run. It can be acquired through many travel agents. We always use services from Lynn in Da Nang, a lovely lady who did our letters so fast! The price for 3-month single entry approval letter is $25. Be sure that you have an original letter since on the land border the immigration requires the original one with the red stamp and signature. Be sure that the dates and the passport number is matching!
Passport sized photos: Don’t forget a few photos. Even if you don’t have passport-sized photos, you can use scissors to make one. If you don’t come with the photos, there is a usual penalty of $2. Also, you have to pay at the border to make the passport photo which usually costs around $10 for a single photo! You can get photos everywhere in Vietnam and it won’t usually cost you more than 50 – 100k VND.
Valid passport with at least 4 empty pages: Check your passport and be sure that you have at least 4 empty pages for visas/stamps + at least 6 more months before expiration!
A Step-by-Step Process for Vietnam Visa Run
Almost every border crossing has the same process, but some crossings will take you more time to get your visa which totally depends on the number of people and of course, language barrier.
We did a visa-run to Nam Phao border which is located in Ha Tinh province twice. The latest visa run was at the end of August 2018, so the information is still relevant and updated.
Here are the steps to complete the process of acquiring the Vietnamese visa:
- Get an invitation letter from the agency or someone affiliated with these agencies. Usually, it takes up to 2 days to get the invitation letter in your email address. You just need to print it and bring it with you. The cost is $25 for 3-month single entry Vietnamese visa. Contact us to get more information on the invitation letters!
- Book a visa van or a bus or simply drive on your own to the border. We recommend you driving on your own since the scenery is always stunning as you’re passing through breathtaking passes in the middle of Highlands to reach the borders. The van services usually cost around $30 – $50 depending on your location and how far is the border. It’s a very convenient option since the people there will support you and help you with the whole process of getting a Vietnamese visa. The bus will cost you the same, but there is a hustle since you will need to book two separated lines and probably you will spend much time there. Our advice is just to rent a bike and enjoy the ride!
- Once you’re on the Vietnamese border, you need to show the passport and the invitation letter. The immigration officer will check out everything, and if everything is okay, they will stamp you out of Vietnam. After that, you’re officially not able to stay in Vietnam anymore.
- At the border, you pass one more passport control and then you will head to Laos/Cambodia immigration office. On the way, there are usually a few cafes and restaurants where you can fill yourself up.
- Once you reach Laos/Cambodia immigration office, you need to show them all the papers including your passport, two pictures, and the invitation letter. Then you will get a few forms to fill up with your information, and after you’re done, they will ask you to pay for a 1-month visa that costs around $35. The cost varies on your passport, so it’s always best to check the costs beforehand! Once you have a sticker from a new country, you need to stamp out from the country and go to the immigration officer who will give you a few forms and the exit stamp. You’re done and successfully outside Laos/Cambodia and ready for a new Vietnamese visa!
- Once you reach the Vietnam border, the immigration will recheck your passport and visa and will point you in the right direction. Vietnamese visa sticker for 3-month single entry costs $25 on the border, and you get it by showing the invitation letter.
- That’s it! Congratulations, you’ve just been granted a new visa for Vietnam!
Does it sound like a complicated process? Don’t worry, there are many steps, but usually, it goes like a charm, and you spend about 1 hour for the whole process once you reach the border.
Here are some tips to make the process easier:
- Don’t forget to bring photos of you since they will charge you like $10 for a single photo. Also, they have penalties if you don’t have a photo prepared. Just don’t forget to take your photos as in Vietnam it usually costs $3 for a set of 20 pictures.
- Don’t forget to stamp out of Laos/Cambodia if you don’t want to walk twice. It happened to my friend once during the crazy high temperatures, and you simply don’t want that. Be sure that you check all the stamps in your passport before heading back to Vietnam border.
- If you’re traveling by bike, there is parking before Vietnam border where you can just park your bike for free and pick it up later when you’re done with the process.
- Pay in dollars! Change money before heading to the border as paying in local currency is always more expensive since officers like to get some money due to bad exchange rates they give you.
Visa Run to Laos – Nam Phao Border Crossing
We did the visa run twice already to the same border crossing, and nothing changed in these six months, so we believe the situation is the same. Nevertheless, it’s advisable to check with the immigration to be entirely sure!
We were living in the countryside in the heart of Nghe An province near the coast. Nam Phao is in Ha Tinh province, and it’s about 150 kilometers away.
The first time, we had an arranged driver, but as we volunteered as English teachers, we didn’t pay anything, so we can’t give you much information on that.
Although, the second time, we were doing a motorbike tour to Laos border and there is the experience with a cost breakdown just for you!
We started our trip around 8 AM as we wanted to be back before the night since driving through the night can be very annoying around the rice harvest time. There are many flies on the road, and it’s hard to see anything, so if you can, just start your trip an hour or two before.
The road we followed was mainly QL1 till Vinh City, and then we switched to a small road leading us through the stunning countryside filled with endless rice fields. The trail eventually leads you through the steep mountains, and that’s where the fun begins.
There are many rivers, beautiful passes, a random waterfall, a lot of trucks and bad roads filled with bumps on every meter.
I’ve almost lost an exhaust during the trip there, so you’ve got the idea what I’m talking about!
On the way to the border, there are many small towns where you can stop to eat and refresh yourself. Once you hit the mountains, be sure that you filled your motorbike and bought everything you need since there is nothing till the border (40 kilometers).
The whole journey lasted for about 4 hours to reach the border, 1 hour at the border and around 6 hours back since I was stopping many times to admire the view and the dark caught up with me, so it was hard to drive.
The process was exactly the same as we mentioned above, with the same costs for documentation.
You just add transportation cost and the cost of food/drinks:
- I needed to check the exhaust and put the new oil, and it cost me 150,000 VND.
- The gas refill cost me around 200,000 VND.
- I spent about 150,000 VND on the food and drinks.
- It was total of 500,000 VND for a self-arranged motorbike trip.
I was lucky since I have my own motorbike, but you need to count the cost of the renting if you don’t have your bike which will add up another 150,000 – 200,000 VND.
It’s just a bit cheaper than renting a visa van, and you need to do everything by yourself. The experience of riding around these curving highlands is terrific, and I will always choose that option, even if it’s more expensive than regular bus/van option.
It’s up to you!
Now you have every detail for doing your next visa run. Always do the cost and time analysis of your options and pick the best one for you.
For many travelers and us, the best option by far is the visa run.
If you have any question or any dilemmas, feel free to hit us up, and we will be more than happy to help you out!
Have a great time in Vietnam!