The websites listed provide downloadable passport applications, as well as the current fees for processing passport applications. For an up-to-date, country-by-country listing of passport requirements around the world, go to the "Foreign Entry Requirement" Web page of the U.S. State Department at http://travel.state.gov.
For other information, please contact the following agencies:
For Residents of Australia -- Contact the Australian Passport Information Service at tel. 131-232, or visit the government website at www.passports.gov.au.
For Residents of Canada -- Contact the central Passport Office, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Ottawa, ON K1A 0G3 (tel. 800/567-6868; www.ppt.gc.ca).
For Residents of Ireland -- Contact the Passport Office, Setanta Centre, Molesworth Street, Dublin 2 (tel. 01/671-1633; www.irlgov.ie/iveagh).
For Residents of New Zealand -- Contact the Passports Office at tel. 0800/225-050 in New Zealand or 04/474-8100, or log on to www.passports.govt.nz.
For Residents of the United Kingdom -- Visit your nearest passport office, major post office, or travel agency, or contact the United Kingdom Passport Service at tel. 0870/521-0410 or search its website at www.ukpa.gov.uk.
For Residents of the United States -- To find your regional passport office, either check the U.S. State Department website or call the National Passport Information Center toll-free number (tel. 877/487-2778) for automated information.
Vietnam recently began granting 5-year visa exemptions to all overseas Vietnamese in over 90 countries. The exemption applies to individuals who have Vietnamese nationality and foreign nationals of Vietnamese origin. If you are the spouse or child of someone who qualifies, you can have your very own visa-free status, so long as your husband, wife, or parent has obtained the exemption first. Check out http://mienthithucvk.mofa.gov.vn for instructions and regulations. It can be a lengthy process, so apply at your nearest Vietnamese embassy or consulate well ahead of your trip.
Residents of the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom need both a passport and a prearranged visa to enter Vietnam. A tourist visa lasts for 30 days and costs $65. You'll pay a bit more through an agent but will save yourself some paper shuffling. Note: If you're planning a side trip to Angkor Wat but your return flight leaves from Vietnam, make sure to get a multiple-entry visa to get back into the country. A multiple-entry 30-day visa costs $110. A visa takes 5 to 7 days to process. Applicants must submit an application, a passport, and two passport photos. U.S. citizens can obtain a visa application from the Vietnam Embassy in Washington, D.C., online at www.vietnamembassy-usa.org, or by calling tel. 202/861-1297. Mail the completed application with your passport and your passport photos using an express carrier (Federal Express, US Express, or Priority Mail with delivery confirmation) to the embassy (1233 20th St. NW, Ste. 400, Washington, DC 20036), including a self-addressed stamped envelope from an express carrier (with delivery confirmation). Processing time is usually 5 days, but for a small fee, you can expedite it to as few as 2 days, and even less in last-minute circumstances (call to see what you can arrange). The embassy is open Monday to Friday from 9:30am to 12:30pm. The fax number is 202/861-1297.
Although there's no official policy, once inside Vietnam, most tourists can extend their visa twice, each time for 30 days, but this is done on a case-by-case basis, and it's possible only through a travel agent (government-owned Saigontourist is a good bet; for more information, call tel. 08/3824-4554 or go to www.saigontourist.net). If someone gives you trouble about extending your visa, stick to your guns and ask around. Multiple-entry business visas that are valid for up to 3 months are available, but you must have a sponsoring agency in Vietnam and it can take much longer to process. For short business trips, it's less complicated simply to enter as a tourist.
You no longer need to specify an entry point; Vietnam visas are good for any legal port of entry -- land, sea, or air -- but remember that your visa begins on the date that you specify on your application.
In a bid to boost investment and cooperation, Vietnam has lifted visa requirements for Japanese and Koreans -- a good sign that visa restrictions for Western visitors might loosen up soon.
For information about Vietnamese visas, go to www.vietnamembassy-usa.org and click on "Visa -- Consular Services." Or go to one of the following websites:
Australian citizens can obtain up-to-date visa information from the Vietnam Embassy at 6 Timbarra Crescent, Malley, Canberra, ACT 2606 (tel. 2/6286-6059; www.vietnamembassy.org.au), or at the Consulate General of Vietnam at 489 New South Head Rd., Double Bay, Sydney, NSW 2028 (tel. 2/9327-2539; www.vietnamconsulate.org.au).
British and Irish subjects can obtain up-to-date visa information by contacting the Vietnam Embassy at 12-14 Victoria Rd., London W8-5RD, U.K. (tel. 0171/937-1912; fax 0171/937-6108) or by visiting the "Vietnam Visa" section of the website at www.vietnamembassy.org.uk.
Canadian citizens can obtain visa information from the Vietnam Embassy at 470 Wilbrod St., Ottawa, ON K1N 6M8 (tel. 613/236-1398; www.vietnamembassy-canada.ca).
Citizens of New Zealand can obtain up-to-date visa information by contacting the Vietnam Embassy, Level 21 Grand Plimmer Tower, 2-6 Gilmer Terrace, Wellington (tel. 4/473-5912; www.vietnamembassy-newzealand.org).
What You Can Bring into Vietnam -- The first and most important thing to remember is, don't lose your entry/exit slip, the white piece of paper that will be clipped to your passport upon arrival. If you do, you might be fined. If you are entering the country as a tourist, you do not need to declare electronic goods and jewelry if these things are for personal use. Declaration forms are only to make sure you're not importing goods without paying a tariff. You must declare cash in excess of $3,000 or the equivalent. You can also import 200 cigarettes, 2 liters of alcohol, and perfume for personal use.
It is unlikely that you will be hassled in Vietnam for bringing anything in, but be careful if bringing excessive equipment. Adventurers with bicycles or special kites for kite surfing will have to prove that they will be taking their expensive items home with them and not selling them in Vietnam. Commercial photographers or amateurs who work with professional, high-end equipment should be wary of bringing the whole studio with them. The atmosphere is lightening up, but foreign journalists still provoke fear (the Communist Party still hopes to maintain their information vacuum). More than 30 rolls of film is suspect, but just play dumb and there'll be no problem.
What You Can Take Home from Vietnam -- For information on what you're allowed to bring home, contact one of the following agencies:
U.S. Citizens: U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP), 1300 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20229 (tel. 877/287-8667; www.cbp.gov).
Canadian Citizens: Canada Border Services Agency (tel. 800/461-9999 in Canada, or 204/983-3500; www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca).
U.K. Citizens: HM Customs & Excise at tel. 0845/010-9000 (from outside the U.K., 020/8929-0152), or consult their website at www.hmce.gov.uk.
Australian Citizens: Australian Customs Service at tel. 1300/363-263, or log on to www.customs.gov.au.
New Zealand Citizens: New Zealand Customs, The Customhouse, 17-21 Whitmore St., Box 2218, Wellington (tel. 04/473-6099 or 0800/428-786; www.customs.govt.nz).
There are no specific health requirements for entry into Vietnam.