As the Vietnamese government starts considering the relaxation of visa rules to boost a recovery of tourism, foreign tourists are waiting for new entry policies.
Michael Burger, an American, told VnExpress International he hoped the government would expand the list of countries eligible for visa-free entry into Vietnam as Thailand and other Southeast Asia countries have done.
“The maximum [visa-free] stay needs to be a minimum of 30 days, which would allow visitors to maximize their time in Vietnam,” he said. “This would be a good step in the right direction.”
Vietnam waives visas for travelers from 24 countries compared to 162 for Malaysia, 157 for the Philippines and 65 for Thailand.
The visa-free stay is 30 days for ASEAN members, 90 days for Chileans and 15 days for tourists from other countries.
Ken Rafter, a retiree from Australia, is also waiting for a breakthrough in Vietnam’s visa policies next year. He hopes Australia will be added to the list of countries eligible for a visa exemption.
“Vietnam is on my overseas travel map for 2023,” Rafter added. “I’m planning to visit Sa Pa and Nha Trang, but certainly Hoi A once more.”
Justin Douglas, an American, expects Vietnam to return to the former three-month visa policy to give tourists more time to explore remote parts of the country.
“One thing I never got a chance to do before the pandemic was to make a bicycle trip around Sa Pa and Ha Giang,” he said. “It would be very difficult to do a trip like that in 30 days, which requires ample time to prepare in Hanoi beforehand and to relax afterward.”
“I would rather have a longer length of stay whether a visa is required or not,” Douglas added.
Vietnam now offers a one-month single-entry e-visa to visitors from 80 countries. The multi-entry three-month visa that was available before Covid has not been brought back yet.
Being tired of visa runs every month, Peter Zimmermann of Germany also hopes to see the three-month visa policy take effect again next year.
“After a 45-day visa free in Thailand my wife and I are currently in Vietnam on a 30-day e-visa,” he said. “On January 2 the time is up and we’ll have to leave Vietnam.”
Zimmerman said that he and his wife are retired and want to escape the cold winter in Europe, but that leaving the country every 30 days and paying a lot of money to do that is not feasible.
“We would love to come back to Vietnam in 2023,” he added, “but only if there are visas for three months again.”
Industry insiders agree that the current visa policy is one of the main bottlenecks hindering the recovery of tourism in Vietnam. They say the country will likely only get around 3.5 million international visitors this year, much lower than its target of five million.
Several of Vietnam’s Southeast Asian neighbors such as Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, and Malaysia have already achieved their targets.
Amid the gloomy outlook for the industry, Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Nguyen Van Hung proposed the government consider extending visa-free stays for foreign tourists to 30 days and granting e-visas to the citizens of all countries and territories.
Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh ordered relevant agencies to better facilitate tourist entry and develop new tourism products to boost recovery in the travel sector to pre-pandemic levels.
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