Relax 'unfriendly' visa policies, foreign tourists urge Vietnam

By Hoang Phong   May 20, 2022 | 08:00 pm PT
Relax 'unfriendly' visa policies, foreign tourists urge Vietnam
American tourists wear Vietnamese conical hats 'non la' and traditional checkered black and white shawl 'khan rang' at a welcome ceremony in HCMC on April 8, 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Huynh Nhi
Though Vietnam resumed international tourism from March 15, foreign tourists feel current policies are 'unfriendly.' They want the government to extend tourist visa durations.

Justin Douglas from the U.S. said Vietnam should return to the old three-month visa policy to give tourists time to explore and discover the country at their pace.

Starting March 15, Vietnam has allowed quarantine-free travel and resumed its pre-pandemic visa exemption policy for citizens from 24 countries, including Japan, South Korea and European economies.

However, the country only issues a one-month single-entry e-visa to visitors from other countries, and has not resumed issuing three-month visas as was the norm earlier.

"A 30-day stay is too restrictive," Justin said.

"One thing I never got a chance to do before the pandemic is make a bicycle trip around Sa Pa and Ha Giang (in the northern highlands). It would be very difficult to do a trip like that in 30 days, which requires ample time to prepare in Hanoi beforehand and relax there afterward."

Justin said Vietnam is his favorite country and he has been waiting to go back, but with a 30-day maximum limit, he decided he would rather wait until the policies are relaxed further.

In the next two months, he will visit Thailand instead.

Justin is among many foreign tourists who want the Vietnamese government to issue longer duration visas and add countries with tourism potential to its visa exemption list.

Another American tourist, Jim Bresnahan, said current visa policies were "unfriendly" and that Vietnam should return to the old three-month visa policy.

"I will go to Vietnam again when I can get a visa for at least three months or more," he said.

"There are millions of retirees who like to spend winter months in a nice country like Vietnam.."

He said he had spent eight years in Vietnam and loved Vietnamese cuisine and its friendly people.

Eric Sabadin, also of the U.S., said he planned to fly to Ho Chi Minh City next month and wanted to stay there for three months but that is not possible now.

"I think the process to enter Vietnam is easy for U.S. passport holders. However, what I need is that the three-month visa on arrival program restarts as soon as possible," he said.

"Vietnam should be doing everything they can to attract tourists dollars away from Thailand, Cambodia and Laos."

Australian Peter Scott, a Queensland native, said that he wished the Vietnamese government would make visa free for Australia and New Zealand soon.

"Thailand and Malaysia offer free visas for 90 days. So why would more tourists fly halfway across the world to Vietnam for a one-month holiday that is too short for pensioners like me?"

Many travel firms also say that current visa policies are among barriers preventing foreign tourists from returning to the country in greater numbers.

Pham Ha, CEO of Lux Group, who has over 20 years of experience in the tourism business, asserted that getting visas was one of the most annoying problems for foreign tourists.

He said; "If the country wants to compete with neighboring countries like Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore, we should follow them and offer a friendly visa policy."

He proposed that the length of visa-free stay for tourists from Japan, South Korea and Western European economies be extended from the current 15 days to 30; and that visa exemption be granted to tourists from Europe, Australia, New Zealand, North America and India.

"Visa policies show respect for tourists and the tourism industry. A friendly visa policy means visitors feel welcomed and want to visit that country," Ha said.

Experts from the government-run Private Economic Development Research Board earlier this month petitioned the government to expand the visa exemption list for potential tourism markets like Australia, Belgium, Canada, India, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the U.S.; and expand visa-free stay from 15 to 30 days for tourists from the U.K., France, Germany, Spain and Italy.

The council said the current visa policy is "yet to meet the demand of post-Covid travel, and was not competitive compared to the policies of countries in the region." A friendly visa policy should be the top priority to lure foreign tourists' return, it added.

Foreign tourists entering Vietnam now only have to show travel insurance of at least US$10,000.

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