Vietnam visa on arrival – easier way to enter Vietnam

Vietnam is one of Southeast Asia countries which I really want to visit again. I was there only for 2 weeks but I easily felt in love with Vietnam. I believe you will be in love with this country as well.

But before starting to enjoy time in Vietnam, you first of all need to take care of your Vietnam visa. This is what you need to know:

Who need Vietnam visa?

Many countries travelers need a visa for Vietnam. Only under bilateral or unilateral visa exemption agreements granted by the Vietnam government don’t need it.

Under bilateral visa exemption agreement citizens of:

  • Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia – has free 30 days visa exemption;
  • Philippines – has free 21 days visa exemption;
  • Brunei and Myanmar – has free 14 days visa exemption.

Under unilateral visa exemption agreement citizens of:

  • Japan, South Korea, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Russia, UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy and Belarus – has free 15 days visa exemption.

The difference between bilateral visa exemption agreement and the unilateral one is that those under the former one can always visit Vietnam with visa exemption provided that their stay in the country is no longer than their exempted duration.

Citizens from the countries not mentioned in the list above, can visit Vietnam with visa exemption if their arrival date does not fall within 30 days from exit date of their last visit to the country.

If you are not from the country listed above. What should you do?

You need to obtain the visa for Vietnam. There are 2 ways:

  1. Get visa via Vietnam embassy in your country or nearest country that has Vietnam embassy;
  2. Get a Vietnam visa on arrival (VOA).

Which visa is better? I will give a brief guide for you.

Vietnam embassy visa 

This option will provide you a full visa beforehand. The issuing authority in this case is the Vietnam embassy.

Required documents: Normally, you will need to submit your original passport and a copy of completed application form. The form you need to download from the embassy to which you will submit your documents. Some embassies can also ask you to submit flight ticket, and other documents. So, you should contact them in advance for details.

How to submit: The embassy may accept application documents submitted in person, by post or by a third party with letter of authorization. But not all act in these ways. So, you are once more recommended to contact them for details.

Processing time: Normally, visa will be processed by the embassy during 5-7 working days. Sometimes, you may get it expedited faster paying extra amount of money.

The advantage and disadvantage of Vietnam embassy visa

Advantage:

  • Having visa already stamped onto your passport before your departure to Vietnam.
  • Applicable to travelers to Vietnam by any means of transport.
  • Making one-time payment for visa fee at Vietnam embassy.

Disadvantage:

  • Parting with your original passport.
  • Having to drive to the nearest embassy or send documents by post.
  • Dealing directly with Vietnam embassies.
  • Various visa fees and procedures at different Vietnam embassies.
  • Taking up to 3 days to get response for your emails.

Making visa to Vietnam via Vietnam embassy I suggest for those who are traveling to Vietnam through borders crossing and have enough time to wait till visa will be made. While for those traveling to Vietnam by air, I recommend Vietnam visa on arrival.

Vietnam visa on arrival (VOA)

In my opinion, this option is much more convenient, but for air travelers only. If you travel to land or cruise, you need to get visa from Vietnam embassy.

Unlike with Vietnam embassy visa, with visa on arrival, you will not get the full visa beforehand. You will get only the visa approval letter (it will be issued by the Vietnam Immigration Department via a travel agent), which will let you board the flight and get visa stamped upon arrival at Vietnam airport. But REMEMBER you need to get the Vietnam visa approval letter before departure as without it, in airport you can’t continue processing Vietnam visa on arrival.

Required documents: None at all for application.

How to submit: With Vietnam visa on arrival VOA, you only need to fill out an online form for visa approval letter. You can submit an online form for visa approval letter. This whole process is completed online. You just need fill travel and contact information an pay issuing fee with your debit/credit card. Don’t forget to fill this form at least week before you are planning to enter Vietnam.

Processing time: Within 2 working days from your submission of application form and payment of service fee, you will get the visa approval letter processed and sent to our email. You will need to print it before going to Vietnam and bring it to immigration office in airport. And then you will need approximately 15-30 minutes at Vietnam airport to get visa stamped into passport.

You can speed up processing of visa approval letter (even within 2-4 working hours) with a bit more money.

The advantage and disadvantage of Vietnam visa on arrival

Advantage:

  • No need to send your original passport away.
  • A complete online process – short time for Vietnam visa application.
  • No dealing with immigration agency. Agents deal with them on your behalf.
  • Especially convenient for those who are currently staying far away.
  • You know how much you pay at once.
  • You get prompt response and help online.

Disadvantage:

  • Queuing in front of Immigration counter at arrival airports in Vietnam to get visa stamp.
  • Possibly having names of other people on your approval letter.
  • Foreigners can’t apply for Vietnam visa on arrival themselves, the application must go through authorized travel agencies in Vietnam or organizations.

 

If you decided to make Vietnam visa on arrival and looking for further assistance, I recommend to check vietnam-visa.com with whom I have partnered preparing this post. This company already working more than 10 years providing Vietnam visa on arrival service, has only positive feedback and can be reached by hotline 24/7.

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  • Have you ever made any visa online? What was your experience?
  • Is Vietnam in your bucketlist? What you would like to see, do or try there?
  • Is this post useful for you to share it?

Useful? Great! :) You might also like these:

Travel tips for traveling in Asia
“Must” and “maybe” souvenirs from Vietnam
How to get Indonesian visa in Penang, Malaysia

How to get to Penang island in Malaysia?

There are many options how to get to Penang island in Malaysia. Everything depends on your travel habits, how much time you have and how much money you want to spend. Here are possible options how to get to Penang:

Hich-hiking

The cheapest and most adventurous way to get to Penang from any other country or any city in Malaysia. But can take some time. Nomad Travellers did that, so you can read about their adventures or ask advice.

AirportBy plane

The quickest way (from Kuala Lumpur to Penang ~1 hour) but as well the most expensive one (comparing with other travel ways).

Penang Bayan Lepas International Airport (IATA: PEN) is ~ 1 hour from George Town. This airport has direct flights with 8 countries.

Flights operated by Malaysia Airlines, Singapore Airlines, China Airlines, etc. For cheaper alternatives – Air Asia, Firefly Airlines, SilkAir, Korean Air, Wings Air, etc.

Sometimes you can get cheaper tickets in flight search sites like: 

Usually I check all of those sites (and more) before buying the flight ticket. Yeah, it takes time, but only in this way I can find the cheapest ones. Most often I buy (if long distance flight) one direction from one website, another from another. Sometimes the cheapest ticket price doesn’t mean that you will pay such amount – like in the last “pay” step – some sites put over their service taxes which rise the ticket price higher than possible to buy in another site.

How to go to the city from the airport
You can either take taxi. Takes ~45 min. to reach any place in downtown. Taxi counter is on the right side of the arrival doors.
Or you can take a bus, takes ~ 1 hour to George Town. Bus lines 102, 306 and 401E are Rapid Penang operated bus services, of which the 102 service goes to Teluk Bahang from Penang Airport via Komtar Shopping Center and the 306 service connects Penang Airport with Penang General Hospital via Air Itam, while the Rapid Penang buses from Penang International Airport all go to George Town and Balik Pulau.  The bus will stop at a number of halts until it gets to Komtar Tower and Shopping Center. Due to the many stops, this service is not as fast and if you are in a hurry you should take a taxi rather than the bus. As well buses come every ~30-40 min.

You can find Rapid Penang bus stop just after arrivals exit, passing couple of streets on the left side.

I found useful poster inside airport:

how to get to Penang from airport by bus
Click on photo to enlarge it

Important: in the buses you need to pay exact amount for a ticket (to George Town 2.70 MYR), drivers don’t have change. So before going to the bus stop change money in the airport any kiosk. Also inside the buses is quite cold – just have a jacket or something else to cover yourself. 

TrainBy train

Probably the safest way to get to Penang. But not so quick and not the cheapest way (depends what kind of class seats you will take).

Keretapi Tanah Melayu Berhad (KTMB), the national train company, serves a daily route to Butterworth from Kuala Lumpur. Daytime train from Kuala Lumpur will take ~6,5 hour, night train – 9,5 hours. If you travel to Penang by train you will need to stop at Butterworth station. From there you can take the connecting ferry (information about it below) to the island. You can also take a taxi at Butterworth train station, but it’s quite expensive. You can book train tickets online and get some discount.

The North south line starts in Singapore and goes all the way to Bangkok in Thailand.

  • More information about how to travel by train between Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Penang & Bangkok here.
  • Travelers experience using night train from Kuala Lumpur to Penang here.
  • Experience on traveling from Bangkok to Penang by train here.

CarsBy car (or motorbike)

Most flexible traveling way but costs and timing depends on the company with whom you are traveling, traffic on the way.

Most probably you will rent a car/motorbike? There are numerous car rental companies in Kuala Lumpur and also at Kuala Lumpur International Airport. For example you can check Easybook. If you are planning a one-way road trip to Penang, it’s best to find a rental company with an office at Penang. For motorbike you can check here.

The road from Kuala Lumpur to Penang is in very good shape. The North-South highway connects Penang to major cities on the West side of Peninsular Malaysia. Travel by highway can take anywhere from 4-5 hours with toll charges in between.

Once you reach Butterworth, which is the island’s main entry point from the mainland, you may take either the Penang Bridge or the ferry to cross over to the island, which still operates from Butterworth to Weld Quay and will transport your vehicle too at a small charge. Return trips from Penang via the bridge is free of charge.

BusBy bus

One of the cheapest and often quickest way to get from Kuala Lumpur to Penang. The trip by bus usually takes around 5,5 hours. The prices (35 to 60 MYR) depends on which day you leave, at what time and which operator you choose.

Buses depart at the main terminal in Kuala Lumpur, Puduraya bus station (known as well like Pudu Sentral station), to the central bus station Sungai Nibong in Penang (as well known like Express bus station).

There are almost 100 bus operators, offering regular bus services in Malaysia. Here, most of the bus services are operated by the state-run bus company intercontinental that covers wider bus route services in Malaysia. There are a number of renowned agencies that have a large fleet of buses operating on diverse routes on a daily basis. In Malaysia, buses are considered as a quite affordable medium of traveling. You will not only feel comfortable but also reach a particular destination promptly.  The most popular coach operators are Plusliner/Nice, Transnasional, Konsortium and Mutiara. The most luxurious and most expensive operator is Aeroline (but you will travel in a very comfortable manner to Penang).

You can also take the bus from numerous other locations within Peninsular Malaysia to Penang Island. For example there are daily buses from Kota Bharu, Johor Bahru (Singapore) and even Bangkok.
There are minivans/minibuses that drive between many places in Thailand to Penang, same goes for the trip between Penang and Kuala Besut (Perhentian Island). Minibuses are more expensive than regular buses, but offer a direct route to many destinations.

There are a number of online sites which offer e-ticketing. Here, you will get discounts on each booking which save your time as well as money. But you need to keep in mind: first, always book ticket from reputed online web portal for example Easybook (they as well provide car rental and other services), second boarding a bus, do check the current schedule of it, so that you’re late in reaching your preferred destination.

By the way, Sungai Nibong bus station in Penang is about 15 km South of the tourist/accommodation areas. Taxi drivers will try to convince you that the only way to go to downtown only by taxi. It’s not true – there is a local bus stop at platform 1. Bus 401 goes to downtown for 2 MYR. You might have to wait half an hour for one to show up.

My experience going from Kuala Lumpur (KL) to Penang by bus.
In my case,  we went to buy bus ticket to Pudu station 1 day before the journey (but you can go there just at time when you want to leave). Like there were many operators we just went to the nearest one. We told that we want to go to Penang port (Butterworth). The seller told that the ticket price is 55 MYR, I was surprised like I knew, it cost less. They tried to convince me, that the price higher because of National holidays. Official National holiday was held only 1 day (we wanted to go after this celebration) but he told us that holidays are all weekend. I thought “let it be”. But when they show the ticket it was written 30 MYR, when I asked about different prices, the guy suddenly changed the price by hand. I thought OK, maybe they included ferry price as well.
But I was surprised when they bring us to Penang Express Bus station, not Penang port (Butterworth), even if it was written on the ticket the final destination port. When I asked bus driver that we paid for a ticket till port, he just smiled and told that all buses stops here. So people in bus station was cheating with a prices (because real price was 30 MYR and National holiday was only 1  day, not all weekend) and final destination – they sold us what we needed but not what they provide :(. We overpaid and needed to find the way to get to George Town. So be careful buying tickets in Pudu Sentral station!

In general the trip with bus was OK, the bus not the newest one, but seats (even if already old and a bit damaged) quite spacious. But there is no toilets or electricity plug in (at least in the bus which we take). Only on the way, I don’t know why, we stopped and needed to go to another bus with all our stuff.

FerryBy ferry

Except if you fly, go by car or bus through bridge, to get to Penang island you will need to take a ferry.

Penang Ferry Service is the oldest ferry service in Malaysia. The Ferry operates a fleet of 4 ferries, with the first ferry departure from Butterworth (Sultan Abdul Halim) at 05:20 am, with the last at 00:40 am; and the first departure from Penang island (Raja Tun Uda) at 05:40 am, with the last at 01:00 am. You can reach Penang by ferry in ~15min. and the service runs every 20-30 min. You can buy tickets as well online.

Terminal location on Butterworth side

The Sultan Abdul Halim Ferry Terminal is right next to Butterworth train station and the bus station.
  • If you are arriving by train, keep to your left after leaving the platform and follow the covered walkway up a slope. It will only take you 1-2 min.!
  • The bus terminal is now located in front of the railway station.

Terminal location on Penang side

Ferries depart from the Raja Tun Uda Ferry Terminal at Weld Quay otherwise known just as Jetty.

From here you can catch a bus to anywhere on the island as the RapidPenang Jetty bus terminal is on both your right and left as you exit the ferry area.
You can also catch the “Free Cat” (CAT) Penang bus here which takes you around the old part of George Town past many of the George Town hotels and onto KOMTAR.
The free Penang bus now leaves from the new Terminal B, on the left hand side as you come down from the ferry. They depart every 15 min.

Coming down from the ferry, taxi drivers will offer rides but it’s easy to reach George Town even by walk. Even if  you are going to Batu Feringgi or somewhere else outside Georgetown you can use public buses.

Ferries from Penang International Airport depart in George Town, located ~16 km distance from the airport. A regular bus service operates between the airport and city center locations, as well as the bus terminal in Victoria Street, which is near the main Ferry Weld Quay. More information about ferries from Penang International Airport here.

 

How to get to Penang - Pinterest
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  • Which the most convenient way for you to travel?
  • Have you been in Penang island? What was you experience traveling there?
  • If you have been in Malaysia, did you find easy to travel inside the country?

 

 

 

Some information and pictures used from internet sources.

Useful? Great! :) You might also like these:

How to get Indonesian visa in Penang
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Facing my fears – first scuba diving in Bali

Do you know that feeling when you scared of something so bad that everything what is related with it, makes you feel uncomfortable? You don’t have such fear? Then you are the lucky one.

Because of few accidents in my childhood I need to admit that I’m scared of being in deep water. I could say – scared to drown. I can swim but I never swim to a places where I can’t touch the ground. So almost all water activities, no matter how entertaining, fun they are – not for me. I never tried surfing, I tried snorkeling twice but both of the times were unsuccessful. About other activities in the water I even don’t want to think. Probably you can imagine what does it mean to try scuba diving for person with such fear?

Cuttlefish - first diving in Bali
Cuttlefish. Photo by Wira Wijoga

Indonesia is one of the best dive sites in the world and I’m not able to enjoy it? I feel like my fear punishing me double. But after seeing many colorful, inspiring photos from diving in Bali, hearing the stories and seeing how easily people do it for first time, even getting diving certificates – I took all my courage and decided to try it. I didn’t know how it will be, but I was stressed already couple days before going for scuba diving. But I did it – my first scuba diving in Bali. Here is how I cope with my fear and what I discovered.

Preparation – know what you want before choosing where to dive

Diving in Bali - pinterest
Pin it for later! Photo by Wira Wijoga

When I was thinking about my fear I wanted to feel safe. For me, the most important things were:

  • patient, experienced, knowing how to deal with people who has deep water fear instructor. And who could speak properly in English;
  • dive alone with instructor, not in a group (usually 1 instructor dives with 4 divers). So instructor could be beside me all the time and I could feel calm that in any case I will get a help immediately;
  • I wanted to go to diving site where is not so deep but as well to see the turtles (I can’t explain why – but I really wanted to see them in their natural surrounding).

You can find many good instructors for diving in Bali, beautiful diving sites like Tulamben, Amed, Pemuteran, Padang Bai. Around Bali – Lembongan, Gili islands. Everything depends what kind of underwater world you want to see.

But after talking with experienced diver about my wishes, we decided for first time dive to choose Padang Bai. Mostly because of the recommended instructor and possibility to see turtles.

How everything went – dealing with the fear

We came in early morning. I had instructions about equipment, how to use it in underwater, how to communicate with instructor when you can’t speak and many other needed to know things about diving. Later on we went by boat to the first diving site. After it I understood that I scared not only to drown but as well breath underwater. So I got more stressed.

First diving site was near the shore. No corals, only sand and some small fishes – we went there just to see how I manage with being underwater with all equipment, how I understood and can follow instructions.

The first thing I needed to deal with is to go to the water from the boat without any equipment. It’s easier to put equipment on, when you are in the water. Even holding the boat side but knowing that in that spot is ~9 m depth already was too scary for me. Instructor was convincing me that it’s safe but only after 3rd time, I resolve to do what instructor was asking. This is how big is my fear to drown.

Flying gurnet - diving in Bali
Flying gurnet. Photo by Wira Wijoga

After testing the mask and equipment we dive. My breath wasn’t normal – I was so stressed that my breathing looked like I‘m doing some heavy physical exercises. After being underwater ~30 min. and going to ~3 m depth I show the signs that I want to go up. We had some rest in the boat and I decided that I need to go back, like if I won’t do it now, I won’t do it again later.

Second time we went straight to deeper place – ~9 m. There I saw already octopus, many different size, colors fishes and etc. My wonder of the things that I saw became bigger but I still was scared and intense.

Later on, we had ~1-hour rest in the boat but probably stress, moving water, changing the pressure in the water made me sick a bit. But in the second dive site we should see more colorful fishes, corals and probably turtles. I came to see turtles – so I wanted to dive again even if felt not so good already.

Scuba diving in Bali
My body language shows how scared I was. Photo by Wira Wijoga

And here you go! Still panicky breathing but feel a bit more comfortable moving in underwater we went a bit more than ~9 m. depth. There I saw 1st turtle, then 2nd one and the 3rd one! My instructor told me later that I first time smiled when I saw a turtle. Yes, in this diving site was already similar view that I saw in all those underwater pictures before. I saw even that cute small one fish (clown-fish) from cartoon “Finding Nemo”. I still didn’t feel free, I was trying to understand how to move properly and not to hit corals or go up, down too quickly. But with instructors help everything went well.

Green turtle - diving in Padang Bai
One of seen green turtles. Photo by Wira Wijoga

But most probably because of the same stress, excitement and etc. I felt not good and showed the signs that I need go up. We reached the boat and here came after-effect of half of the day intense, stress – I felt so dizzy and weak, I felt that my blood pressure went down as well. I just wanted to reach the shore as soon as possible.

After talking with experienced divers, they explained me that it’s normal condition after 1st time scuba diving, especially with my fear. That I just need to have good rest and I will feel better later. And it was like that – after half of the day rest – sleep, proper food, next day I felt like nothing happened. Even couldn’t believe that I did scuba diving in Bali.

Here are some useful articles if you want to try scuba diving but have the fear for it:

My discoveries after first time scuba diving

  • To put on the diving costume takes much more time and effort that I thought. I even got some scrape on my fingers when was I putting it on.
  • Ocean water is so salty that after I got it to the nose and mouth (by accident) I thought it will destroy everything inside.
  • Being underwater I was so thirsty, inside mouth was so dry I even couldn’t swallow saliva.
  • I expected that just after first scuba diving I will see those beautiful colors of underwater world but being intense I was mostly concentrated to do everything correct and not to drown, so haven‘t seen everything that was around.
  • I didn’t expect that I will feel dizzy, weak and willing to vomit – it’s as well normal thing for first time divers (not for all of them but it happens).
  • Try snorkeling was harder for me than scuba diving in Bali. After second dive I didn’t feel that I can drown.
Moray eel - diving site
Moray eel. Photo by Wira Wijoga

Tips for first time scuba diving

Please note that these tips are based on my own experience and advice of professional instructors but before first time scuba diving talk about it with your instructor.

  • Day before diving is recommended not to drink any alcoholic drinks and have good rest – quality sleep. I would say, even better stay overnight before diving day near scuba diving place.
  • All preparation, diving, rest after it and etc. will take more than half of the day. Don’t plan too many activities after diving, most probably you will feel tired.
  • One of the best time for diving is in early morning when the water is still clear. But every day the condition in ocean is changing so before diving talk with instructor if it’s good time to do it.
  • Ask questions – everything that is in your mind. Once my ex-boss told me “there are no stupid questions only stupid answers”.
  • Not all diving center provide snacks during rest time, so take with you some water and snacks. Can be that you will feel hungry and thirsty.
  • Take some remedies for bathing to wash salty water from your body and towel.
  • You won’t be able to make photos underwater on your first time dive but you can ask instructors to make some pictures of you while you will be diving.
  • Things your scuba diving instructor will never tell you
Lion fish - scuba diving in Bali
Lion fish. Photo by Wira Wijoga

Where I did my first scuba diving in Bali

First of all, you should try scuba diving in Bali. Why? Here are 10 reasons for diving in Bali.

Scuba diving in Bali I did in one of the diving centers near Padang Bai fast boats harbor. It’s a small diving center (you even won’t find them in internet) but I choose it because of recommendations from experienced diver. I’m very thankful for my instructor Wayan for patient, positive energy, help, dealing with my fear and all understanding my first time scuba diving.

If you will decide to have diving or snorkeling trip in Padang Bai, here are the places where you can stay.

 

Scuba diving in Bali - pinterest
Pin it for later. Photos by Wira Wijoga

 

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS

  • Have you tried scuba diving in Bali? Where and how was it?
  • If you didn’t try scuba diving, would you like to do it?
  • Do you have any other favorite water activities that would recommend to try?

 

Useful? Great! :) You might also like these:

How to extend Indonesian tourist visa in Bali
Uluwatu beach in Bali – where magic happen

 

Photos made by Wira Wijoga in Padang Bai diving sites where I made my first diving.