Transiting through Vietnam is tricky if you don’t have a visa. But it’s possible. Here’s how to do it.
Obtaining a visa in advance is not necessary if you arriving into Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, or Da Nang. You will, however, need to obtain an approval letter in advance to purchase a visa on arrival. I recommend Vietnam Visa to obtain one. You can also obtain a e-visa directly from the government for a bit cheaper.
But a visa is not necessary at all if you satisfy each of the following five guidelines:
- You must be transiting to a third country within 24 hours (for example, from Bangkok to Hanoi to Singapore – you cannot “transit” back to the country you started in, like Bangkok to Hanoi to Phuket)
- You must have a valid onward ticket
- You cannot leave the international transit area of the airport
- You must have a valid entry document to your final destination
- You must be traveling on a full-service airline (low-cost carriers like Vietjet and Jet Star will not transport you without a visa, even if you are quickly connecting to a third country)
Note, in particular, the last point. I nearly got burned recently because I was not aware that Vietjet and Jet Star automatically deny boarding to passengers without visas. I had booked a Vietjet ticket from Bangkok to Ho Chi Minh City and a connecting flight to Doha on Qatar Airways. Even though my layover was just three hours and I had no intention of leaving the airport, I was denied boarding in Bangkok.
> Read More: How I Nearly Ruined My Qatar QSuite Trip
Thankfully, I was able to buy a ticket on Vietnam Airlines leaving around the same time and successfully transit without a visa. I only had to present a copy of my onward itinerary (including confirmation code and ticket number).
One you arrive in Vietnam, simply follow the transit signs. In Ho Chi Minh City, the signs take you to a central immigration hall where you can collect your boarding pass for your connecting flight then re-clear security and proceed upstairs to the departure gates.
If you have arranged a visa on arrival, the visa desk is also in the same area.
Obtaining a visa isn’t a huge pain and will only set most passport holders back $35. But understand that it is often not necessary if you are just connecting. As long as you meet the five criterion above, you’ll have no trouble transiting without a visa in Vietnam.