China fast-tracks visas to help Vietnamese fans reach U23 Asian Cup final on time

By Staff reporters   January 24, 2018 | 10:24 pm PT
China fast-tracks visas to help Vietnamese fans reach U23 Asian Cup final on time
A fan holds a paper cup while shouting "victorious Vietnam" in downtown Ho Chi Minh City after the national team beat Qatar at the U23 Asian Cup semifinal on January 23, 2018. Photo by VnExpress
Trips and tickets to the final are rapidly selling out despite additional flights.

The Chinese Embassy in Hanoi has launched fast-track visa services for Vietnamese fans who are planning to travel to China this Saturday to watch their team play in the final of the Asian Football Confederation Under-23 (AFC U23) Championship.

The priority service has been available since Wednesday and fans should be able to pick up their visas on Friday, an embassy official told VnExpress.

Normally it takes four working days to process a Chinese visa for Vietnamese people.

Fast-track visas will cost travelers $20 more than usual at $80, but some service firms that organize visas have doubled their fees.

The normal fee to a hire service firm is $150, but that's gone up to $300, said Ngoc, a representative of Danasea Tourist, a company in the central city of Da Nang.

Thuy, the director of the Ho Chi Minh City-based Umove Travel, confirmed the information with VnExpress.

The move by the Chinese embassy comes in response to a request made by Vietnam's Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday to allow additional flights from Vietnam and fast-track visa processing for Vietnamese fans wishing to attend the final in Changzhou, a city in China's Jiangsu Province.

Excitement is higher than ever across Vietnam after the U23 team secured a place in the final against Uzbekistan on Saturday with a dramatic victory over Qatar on Tuesday.

This is the first time ever in football history that a Southeast Asian team has made it to the final of the competition, and with the game taking place in China at the weekend, many fans do not want to miss the chance to be there in person.

China on Tuesday granted permission for six more flights from Vietnam to Changzhou on Thursday and Saturday mornings, according to the Chinese embassy, after a number of travel firms across the country launched tours to China for the once-in-a-lifetime match.

Sold out

The race is on now for Vietnamese fans who want to make it to China as tours to Changzhou from HCMC and Hanoi, either by air or land, almost sold in just a day after they went on sale.

Viettravel initially planned to serve 380 customers but they quickly sold out on Tuesday evening. After securing additional deals with local airlines, the firm sold a further 470 on Wednesday.

“With more flights from Vietnam to China operated by Vietnam Airlines and VietJet Air up and running, we are making progress to offer more tours to customers on Friday and Saturday,” a Viettravel representative said on Wednesday.

National flag carrier Vietnam Airlines has sold out of tickets from Hanoi to Shanghai, from where passengers can fly to Changzhou, and has only got a few seats left from HCMC to Shanghai.

HanoiRedtours is reaching out to local airlines to save at least 100 more seats for its customers. The travel company in Hanoi has already sold out the three-day tour for 50 customers from Hanoi to Shanghai and Changzhou it was offering.

Vu Van Thuan, director of Vinsmile Travel in Hanoi, said his firm sold out 40 trips to travel to China by land shortly after they went on sale on Wednesday morning.

On late Wednesday, the official ticket site for the AFC U23 final announced that only tickets costing 400 yuan ($64) are still available for the match.

Changzhou Stadium has a capacity of 30,000 but there were only 500 Vietnamese supporters and a few dozen Qatari fans at the semifinal on Tuesday.

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