When planning my trip to Southeast Asia, I decided to head to Cambodia before Vietnam in large part because, as an American, I had to apply for a visa before I traveled to the latter country. I didn’t want to go to the expense and trouble of sending off my passport to the Vietnamese embassy while I was still in the U.S., and a little on-line research told me I could easily get a visa for Vietnam once I arrived in Cambodia. Once there, I was thrilled to learn just how easy it was.
There are little travel agencies in Phnomn Penh and Siem Reap, where you can fill out an application and hand over your passport along with a fee, and they’ll go get your Vietnam visa for you. A Vietnamese embassy is in the capital city of Phomn Penh, so if you’ll be spending some time there you can take your passport to the embassy, apply for the visa yourself, then wait a few days before returning to pick up your passport with the visa inside.
I’d read that getting a Vietnam visa from the Vietnamese Embassy in Sihanoukville, Cambodia was an inexpensive same-day process, so I decided this was the best option for me. For three weeks I stayed in the rural community of Kampot in southern Cambodia, where I found many tiny travel agencies with whom you can book tours and trips. For a 10 or 15 USD fee, these agencies will take your passport and visa application to the embassy in Sihanoukville and get your visa for you. If you’re going to be staying in Sihanoukville and need a Vietnam visa, it’s a no-brainer to just get it from the embassy there yourself. I didn’t stay in Sihaoukville, but this little beach town was just a two-hour journey from Kampot, so I decided to try to take a day trip to see if I could possibly get my visa in the morning and then lie on the beach all afternoon. It worked.
I booked a trip on a bus from Kampot which arrived in Sihanoukville at approximately 10:45 a.m. Many, many tuk-tuk drivers were, of course, awaiting our arrival. I told one of them I wanted to go to the Vietnamese Embassy, we settled on a price for the ride, and he took me on the 15 minute trip to the small, unassuming building on the outskirts of town.
Once I arrived, I walked into a small room with a wooden table just inside the door, around which sat about half a dozen other Westerners, all filling out the simplest one-page form I have seen in my life. The most difficult question was “Date of Travel.” You need to have the date you’ll be traveling to Vietnam in mind, because on your visa they type in the earliest date on which you’re allowed into the country along with the last day you are allowed to depart. I decided to head to Vietnam on the day my Cambodia passport expired.
I handed my application to a man behind a counter at the rear of the room, along with my passport. He then asked for a passport-sized photo, which I had stupidly left at my guesthouse in Kampot. No problem. He quickly made a copy of my passport photo on his copy machine, free of charge. I then handed him 45 USD for the visa and sat back down at the table. Approximately 15 minutes later he called my name, I walked to the counter, and he handed me my passport with my new Vietnam visa glued inside.
My tuk-tuk driver then motored me to Otres beach, where I watched the waves, strolled, ate two meals and got a massage in the sun before I took an inexpensive taxi back to Kampot. If you’re going to be staying in or around Sihanoukville, getting your Vietnam visa there is the absolutely best way to go.