1. Visa Requirements for Vietnam
If you’re an ordinary passport holder visiting the Vietnam mainland, you’ll need a Vietnam visa stamp, except for those on the visa exemption list. If you’re transiting through Vietnam, here are your options:
1.1. If you have a layover in Vietnam for only a few hours and plan to stay inside the transit area until your next flight, you won’t need a Vietnam transit visa. The Tan Son Nhat airport in Ho Chi Minh City and Noi Bai airport in Hanoi offer comfortable sleeping services and food and beverage options for transit passengers who don’t enter Vietnam.
1.2. However, if you have a stopover in Vietnam for more than 6 hours and plan to visit the mainland, you’ll need to obtain a Vietnam transit visa. The most suitable option is a Vietnam single entry visa on arrival, which allows you to enter and exit once within one month. Processing time takes between 2 hours to 2 working days from when you apply for the visa online. Be sure to double-check all information provided with your passport, as mistakes can cost both time and money. It’s recommended that you apply for the visa prior to departure, as it’s significantly cheaper than using the urgent requirement (for example, a normal visa for one-month single entry charges a visa service fee of USD 10 per person, while an urgent 2-hour visa for the same duration costs USD 40 per person). Once you have the visa approval letter, print it out and get a visa stamp at the landing visa counter upon arrival. The shortest length for a visa is 30 days, during which you can enter and exit once or multiple times, depending on the type of visa you’ve chosen.
2. Worthy experiences during your transit
If you don’t have a member card, you can still access the Lotus Lounge at a fee of approximately 30 USD, where fresh food and drinks are served around the clock. However, if your layover in Vietnam is between 8 and 35 hours, we recommend some of the best experiences in the transit cities: Hanoi (located at Noi Bai International airport) and Saigon aka. Ho Chi Minh City (located at Tan Son Nhat International airport). You can easily book tours with a tour desk at the airport or with a local Vietnam tour operator.
2.1. Ho Chi Minh City
While transiting in Ho Chi Minh City, you can choose from a variety of activities:
- Downtown Sightseeing: Visit historical buildings in the city center such as Independence Palace, Notre Dame Cathedral, War Museum, and Saigon Post Office, which are just a 30-minute drive from the airport. They’re all open during the day, except during lunch break.
- Cu Chi Tunnels: Take a half-day trip to Cu Chi Tunnels, which is just an hour and a half drive from Tan Son Nhat airport. You’ll get an amazing visit to the extended underground life of Vietnamese soldiers during wartime. You can also visit the battlefield and try out a shooting range. It’s open daily from 7 am to 5 pm.
- Authentic Vietnamese Food: While there is a wide choice of food at the airport, for more delicious and authentic options, take a taxi downtown where you can savor banh mi or various kinds of amazing street food. Some safe choices near the airport include Pho Phu Vuong restaurant (339 Le Van Sy street) and Com tam Ba ghien (84 Dang Van Ngu Street).
- Shopping: Shopping is also a great way to kill time, as Saigon offers many shopping centers like Takashimaya, Saigon Square, Bitexco, and Ben Thanh market. Bargains can be found in the markets rather than in modern shopping centers.
Activity options during transit in Vietnam’s airports:
- Massage: Relax at the spa after a long trip. The foot spa is located on the third floor, and there is a relaxing lounge and Vietnamese traditional spa on the second floor of the domestic terminal at Tan Son Nhat airport.
- Golfing: Play golf at Golf Tan Son Nhat, one of the top golf courses in southern Vietnam, if you are a golf lover.
Transiting in Hanoi? There are many things to do:
- City tour: Take a 4-hour city tour around President Ho Mausoleum, One Pillar Pagoda, The Temple of Literature, Hoan Kiem Lake, and Hanoi Old Quarter. These sites aren’t too far from each other and can be reached within 45 minutes by driving.
- Visit Viet Phu Thanh Chuong: This miniature northern village covers 8000m2 and includes many traditional patterns and artefacts. It is just a 20-minute drive from Noi Bai airport and more informative with a tour guide.
- Try authentic Hanoi food: Taste must-try delicacies like pho, bun cha, and banh cuon, which you might find in the airport’s food court. However, the best places to taste them are in the Hanoi Old Quarter. Some addresses for first-time travellers to Vietnam include Banh Cuon Ba Hoanh (66 To Hien Thanh Street), Bun Cha Dac Kim (1 Hang Manh), and Pho Bat Dan (49 Bat Dan Street).
- Shopping: Choose from shopping centres like Trang Tien Plaza, Vincom Ba Trieu, Lotte Mart or shopping streets like Pho Hue Street, Hoi Vu Street, Pham Ngoc Thach Street. Don’t miss the famous Dong Xuan market in the old quarter.
- Massage: Find spas in the airport or downtown such as Midori Spa or La Spa Trendy.
- Playing golf
- Van Tri Golf, Legend Hill BRG, and Hanoi Golf Club Soc Son offer modern facilities and are located within a 20 to 30-minute car ride.
- To visit the mainland, you need to obtain a Vietnam transit visa, which can be obtained by getting it stamped at the embassy in your country or through a quick online application. However, if you do not plan on traveling to the mainland, then a Vietnam visa is not necessary.