The application for a Vietnamese visa seemed so straightforward at first. It was one of the three countries on our trip that require a visa at all and one of the two that require you to have it prior to entering the country (China being the other). There are as many companies dedicated to muddling this process and making it more confusing than it has to be and who try to trick you into paying between $50 - $150 for their services in addition to the price of the visa. Turns out, after emailing the Vietnamese Embassy directly, that civilians are capable of applying for their own visas rather than going through a 3rd party broker. It ultimately saves a minimum of $15 a person for express service, not to mention the fees (and it would have been more like $50 each if we had gotten a jump on things sooner and could afford for the Embassy to take up to 10 business days to process our request). But alas, I never do anything until the last minute and I had to pay the $20 extra for express 2-3 business day service. Not a big deal in the scheme of things.
I say that lightly now, but the biggest downside I can see about doing this myself is that the Embassy won't take express carriers like FedEx or UPS, they only deal with USPS. So that tacks on an additional two days in transit, which is VERY VALUABLE TIME. Especially when I've left myself only two days room for error. Attempting to go about getting my visa solo is a bit intimidating due to the hype that travel agencies spew (i.e. listing the documents you need to submit and claiming that they'll be there to take care of "any other paperwork that needs to be submitted on your behalf in case there are any issues"). Of course they say these things to drum up business but it works. Who knows what types of delays I could have at the Embassy without having someone watching over the process. Updates to come....
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