The relief at Vietnam resuming regular international flights is turning into stress over uncertainties as foreigners make travel plans to and from Vietnam.
“I have booked tickets to Hanoi from California, the U.S., but I have no information about immigration approval,” said Jack Chan, a Hong Kong American hoping to reunite with his Vietnamese wife and child before the Lunar New Year after more than two years of separation.
He said that he’d asked the airline and an agent in San Francisco about the immigration arrival and they were not able to procure him one.
With a five-year visa exemption certificate by virtue of being married to a Vietnamese citizen, Chan is looking for a travel agent who can offer him a package to help him to see his family, which can cost anywhere from $2,000 to 4,000.
He said the good news is that Hanoi is allowing people who are fully vaccinated or recovered from Covid-19 to self-isolate for just three days when arriving from abroad.
Chan is among foreigners who are feeling the stress of trying to return to Vietnam after the government approved resumption of commercial international flights to nine destinations that have managed high vaccination rates and good pandemic control.
A foreigner at Hanoi’s Noi Bai airport, March 2020, Photo by VnExpress/Ba Do
From Hanoi, American James Ross (name changed), an English teacher, said he was planning to go to the U.S. to see his family in mid-January and stay there for one month.
Ross has not met his family since 2020 and he has missed some important events. His grandmother calls every day to tell him to come back home cause she “will not live longer.”
To implement his travel plan, Ross needs to request his school to meet local authorities and obtain approval for his re-entry to Vietnam. He started the process late December and people told him to wait, also saying it could take a month.
He has also been asked for have different documents to make sure he will not be “stuck” somewhere on the way back to Vietnam if he lacks one of them.
Ross has realized it’s no longer about buying tickets and having a passport, there are ever-changing requirements “which is upsetting.” He is also worried that the process might make returning to Vietnam more expensive than he first thought.
One airline he contacted told him to “just go” and things may get worse or get better, because they did not know exactly what kind of re-entry permit he needed.
Ross said he respected Vietnam’s policies in dealing with the pandemic, but was worried that there were no official documents related to traveling.
“It’s really difficult to plan a trip to go home. I am really upset.”
In India, Divyansh Jalan said he was looking for a way to return to HCMC after returning to his hometown early December for a family emergency.
Jalan is considering flying to Phnom Penh (Cambodia) of Bangkok (Thailand) to enter Vietnam, as the two cities are in the list of eight routes that Vietnam has licensed domestic carriers to resume commercial international flights to. He is also considering Dubai in the UAE as another option, taking a special flight for investors.
The problem is that he is waiting to have approval documents for his re-entry which may take a month. An agent in Vietnam is helping him to collect the papers but he is not sure if he can get them on time to see his Vietnamese wife and child before Tet.
Jalan is also anxious about the quarantine regulation in HCMC. Though the authorities have announced that people testing negative can self-isolate, the agents may ask him to quarantine in a hotel that could cost around $3,000 for seven days.
“When I exit the airport, I fear that the agent may ask me to book a hotel for quarantine.”
Several people in Europe who are eager to come to Vietnam said they were waiting for clarity and paperwork before finalizing their plans.
Mia Smith (name changed), a British citizen, said she hasn’t decided to buy tickets for her family to return to Da Nang because she was waiting for approval papers from Vietnam.
For example, she needs to have approvals from immigration and health departments in Hanoi, where she is scheduled to land, but she has not heard much about it. If she has enough documents, Smith will fly to Hanoi after transiting in Doha, one of eight approved routes that may require additional papers.
Smith’s family has been living in Vietnam for seven years and see it as their home. She has been trying to return since September 2021.
“Travel planning is very stressful for us as our children need their education, we are still paying rent for our home, and we need to run our business.”
Peter Johansson and his wife and son in Sweden in late 2020. Photo courtesy of Peter Johansson
In Sweden, Peter Johansson said his family was waiting for paperwork to go back to Phu Quoc in Kien Giang. Once he got it, he would examine which route he could choose, with transit in Singapore, Cambodia or Turkey.
Johansson left Vietnam in March 2020 and could not return. So his Vietnamese wife and son went to Stockholm for a reunion at the end of the year. Now they want to come back and take care of his wife’s parents who are old and sick.
At the moment, Johansson is not sure about quarantine rules in Vietnam as his children, one 8 years old and the other two months old, have not been vaccinated. Therefore, he does not know what they need to do to arrive home in Kien Giang “without problems.”
“We don’t expect easy rules and laws but this time we need to see clear ones to plan our travel,” he said.