Cash Only: Landing in Hanoi, Vietnam

Monday, May 18, 2015


From my previous post, “36 Hours in Vientiane”, you know that Monday evening I boarded a plane to Hanoi, Vietnam.

But lets go into the details…

I arrived at the small international airport in Vientiane at exactly 6:30 pm. It wasn’t hard for me to find the Vietnam Airlines counter, as there was only one floor with three airline options πŸ™‚

Check in was a breeze, minus the slight heart-attack the airline representative gave me when he questioned my paperwork. After actually READING the paper, he corrected himself, and my mild panic attack subsided.

The paperwork…

When traveling to Vietnam you need a Visa. When most people think of Visas they think of going to embassies or sending their passport away, BUT when traveling to Vietnam and some other countries (like Myanmar) you can apply for a “Visa on Arrival” (VOA).

You kind find numerous agents online that will help you obtain the official letter of approval. I usedΒ, so I can vouch that is it 100% legit πŸ™‚ The processing fee was $18 USD.

A few days after submitting the online form, I got a PDF version of my approval letter, and the additional paperwork I would need to fill out.

Here is the letter (I covered the sensitive stuff):




Not sure if you can tell in the picture, but your approval letter may also include other travelers. Don’t be concerned, as long as your information is 100% correct (dates of travel, name, birthdate, passport #) then you are good to go.

Here is the paperwork I needed to fill out:




Y’all. Don’t forget to get passport photos. I got 2 for each country, just in case. It is not THE END OF THE WORLD if you don’t have one, but they might charge you more.

For more information in the VOA process try this website!


Ok, back to the flight.

Similar to leaving Thailand, I needed to fill out exit paperwork and get my exit stamp. Since it was a tiny airport, and I think there were only two flights that evening, there was no line! Sweet! Also, the guy who checked my paperwork/passport was super nice! I love it when they actually smile back πŸ™‚

While waiting for my flight, I met an awesome American who was finishing her solo 3-month trip around SE Asia. She gave me all kinds of advice, which is always much appreciated!

We were supposed to board at 7:15….


We did not board until 7:45. Ah, “Asia Time”.

Quick iPhone shot of the plane πŸ™‚




When boarding a lady was sitting in my window seat. I showed her my ticket and made gestures that she was in my seat, but she totally ignored me. I eventually had to get the attendant’s attention, who managed to convince her that she was in the wrong seat. She most definitely gave me evil/dirty looks the rest of the flight. Here is my sneaky photo of her…



Anyway the flight was super short (1 hr), and before I knew it I was being told to put everything away because we were landing. As we were descending I was thinking about my Visa, and then I remembered the VISA FEE.


All my USD was in my backpack, which I had checked. Yes, I know, very dumb, but I had totally forgotten that I had hidden my USD when traveling through Thailand and Laos. I had kip, but only about 20 USD worth of kip, and I knew the VISA was going to be more than 20 USD.

The entire walk to customs I kept hoping I would see an ATM. Nope.

When I didn’t see an ATM, I was hoping maybe we would get our luggage first then get our Visa. Nope.

Ok. Well, damn.

When I got to the VOA desk I turned in my passport, my paperwork, and my passport photo. I tried explaining my situation but he just kept say, “Wait over there”. When my VOA was done, and they called me to pay, I again explained my situation (to the same man), and he said…

“Wait over there”

Eventually, he sent one of his men to walk me to the baggage claim so that I could get my bag. YAY, THANK GOODNESS.

With my USD, I paid for my Visa, got my passport, and then got my arrival stamp.

It was almost 11 pm at that point, and I felt so bad for the driver that had been waiting for me. BUT I MADE IT. I WAS IN VIETNAM.

40 minutes later I was safely delivered to my hostel.

Big lesson of the night…

You pay for Visas with cash. Make sure you have your money on you and not in your checked bag!


Love always, Arianna the Wandering Pipette




Article Name
Cash Only: Landing in Hanoi, Vietnam
The Visa on Arrival process for travel to Vietnam.

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