As the government begins moving ahead with relaxation of tourist visas, foreigners are hoping the three-month visa policy will soon be resumed to give them more time to explore the country.
Eric Warnken from Germany, who says he is tired of having to make visa runs every month, felt a little hopeful after Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh earlier this week ordered officials to waive visas for more countries and to extend the length of stay for foreign tourists to speed up the recovery of tourism.
“It was problematic to leave the country every 30 days,” he said. “We flew from Nha Trang to Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur to spend 3-4 days there and return with new e-visas. Those AirAsia flights and hotel stays cost us around $1,000 every 30 days.”
Due to strict visa policies, Eric had to move to Thailand for his recent winter vacation where he can easily get a visa for longer stays or in Malaysia, where there is a visa-free entry for 90 days.
“We and many of our friends would love to come back to Vietnam next fall and winter but only if there are finally visas for at least three months like before the pandemic,” he added.
“We’ve waited very long for Vietnam’s 3-month visa policy,” he added, “but nothing has changed until now.”
Eric said he hopes new relaxed visa policies will soon be issued.
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.
In a response to the prime minister’s order, the Ministry of Public Security proposed Friday to prolong the duration of e-visas granted to foreigners entering Vietnam from the current 30 days to a maximum of three months to boost tourism.
Pritesh Meta from India said a 30-day visa is not enough for him to explore rural parts of northern Vietnam, where he wants to get a deep understanding of local cultures.
Pritesh visited Vietnam last month and he spent 28 days riding a motorbike from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City. Due to the restrictive visa, he had not been able to travel further north to areas where he wants to learn more about ethnic minority groups with their distinctive culture.
Pritesh Meta stands in front of a bar in Hue, central Vietnam, on a rainy day in February 2023. Photo courtesy of Pritesh Meta
He said he hoped the three-month visa policy would soon be restarted to give him more time to explore remote parts of the country on motorbike.
Australian John Rafter and his family is preparing to visit Vietnam next month and that he is waiting for “major changes” in the visa policy.
Rafter said he hoped the duration of maximum stay for foreign tourists would be extended up to three months like it was before the pandemic as some tourist destinations in Vietnam “are really beautiful.”
Since Vietnam reopened its borders in March last year, the number of foreign tourists has remained low while Southeast Asian neighbors with open visa policies have already recorded significant increases in international tourism.
Despite being one of the first Southeast Asian countries to fully reopen to international tourism post Covid, Vietnam only received 3.6 million foreign tourists last year, around 20% of pre-pandemic levels.
With disappointing numbers, tourism industry insiders have been calling on the government to lift visa barriers to help the tourism industry to take off again.
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