Vietnam! The programme “Luke Nguyens Vietnam” stirred up a thirst to visit this country, and after all the hullabaloo of trying to get a visa to visit Vietnam, I do feel lucky indeed, to be setting footsteps on Vietnamese soil!
There is no Vietnamese Embassy in Nairobi, and trying to find someone at the closest Embassy to us that spoke and understood English was so difficult that we had to resort to telephoning the Department of Immigration in Vietnam to find out how to get a tourist visa! No help at all, might I add.
Bear with me as I splurge out some useful information that I must share with my Kenyan readers who may want to visit Vietnam some day.
There is no Vietnamese Embassy in Kenya, and so you have to send your application to the Vietnamese Embassy in Dar-es-Salaam. The application process takes 3 working days, and your Passport and supporting documents can be delivered to the Embassy in Dar by DHL to the attention of the Visa Office.
DHL is paid for their services in Nairobi, and you will need to instruct them to collect a package for you after 3 days.
The application costs $40 (per person) and the Embassy told us to just enclose US dollars in cash, in the passport. Luckily we had a friend in Tanzania who helped out so we didn’t need to send money in our passports – I understand that DHL refuses to transport money!
The embassy contacts are as follows:
Plot No. 11, Bongoyo Road, Oysterbay, Dar es Salaam
P.O.Box: 9724, Dar es Salaam – Tanzania
There is an English speaking secretary who was kind enough to give me her contact details (contact me for them if needed) and she is so much more helpful than the Vietnamese officials who do not understand English and will confuse you as to what you need.
If you have a contact or someone in Dar whom you can send your passport and documents to – even better as they tend to respond to people better than to a DHL application.
So, after jumping through all these hoops, you can imagine that finally landing in Hanoi’s Noi Ba Airport was more exciting than words can describe! All excited, we headed towards the immigration desks and queued to wait our turn, only to be sent back to the Visa upon Arrival desk (which is before immigration) where we had to present all our papers to a Vietnamese officer for vetting before we were cleared to go through to immigration.
The first thing the officer did when he saw our passports was start laughing before spluttering out “Kenya! Where is Kenya?!!!” M and I looked at each other and thought we were going to end up in the can instead of traipsing around Vietnam!!!
What an “oops” moment. I am thinking, crap; we have come all the way to Vietnam only to be turned back because the officer has no clue where Kenya is? Anyway, we calmly ask to be shown a map of the world, and then point out Kenya on that map. Luckily our geographical skills convince him that this country exists and thankfully, seeing the visas of various other countries in our passports seemed to have also alleviated his concerns.
We were then asked for our return tickets, accommodation voucher; and 1000 plus US dollars (or more) in CASH. This is very important. Luckily we hadn’t spent all our cash prior to getting to Vietnam! The officer asked us to show him the money and count it in front of him. He then asked us whether we thought that $1000 was enough for 2 people for 4 days, and we had to show him credit cards to convince him that we did have enough money. After taking photocopies of whatever documents he wanted, he gave us a white slip and told us to proceed to the immigration counter to be stamped in to the country. Phew. Finally!
We didn’t have an airport transfer to our hotel, so the logical thing to do was stop by the tourist desk at the airport before exiting but they were charging $50 to get to Hanoi city so we decided to walk out of the airport and try our luck, which turned out to be the right thing to do! All major hotels are about an hour away from the airport and it cost us only $20 from the airport to our hotel!
Finally at our hotel, the Vietnamese adventure could officially begin. We stayed at the Crowne Plaza in West Hanoi and in hindsight, while a wonderful hotel I would not recommend it because it is too far away from any attractions and we ended up spending a lot more money on taxis and wasting a lot of time in taxis going to and from.