Confessions of a Seasoned Traveller

Confessions of a Seasoned Traveller

A few iPhone shots along the way to our hotel. The only part of Vietnam we have seen yet.

It could have gone worse, but I am not sure how. The day started with forgetting my iPhone at my house and having to have the taxi turn back around. This put us a little behind schedule, not bad, but it set the tone for the rest of the day. We stood for what seemed like forever in the AirAsia queue for Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), but that was sort of expected, after all it is AirAsia. Once we made it up to the check in counter the normal questions were asked. They wanted to see our visa for Vietnam. We told them it was visa on arrival. So, we got our boarding passes and we were off.

After arriving into Vietnam we went to the line to get our visas. The first clue something was wrong was they needed photos, we didn’t have any. Then they wanted our letter from the government, an invitation of sorts. But we don’t have one, after all it was suppose to be a visa on arrival.

So, tonight, we are staying at a transit hotel in HCMC without our passports and under what is effectively “house arrest”. We are told we can not leave the hotel until they come to get us with our new visas tomorrow.

This was a neophyte traveler’s mistake. Not a mistake a seasoned traveler like me is ever suppose to make. I hesitate even to write this post as it is so embarrassing. But the fact is, mistakes happen to us all, even the most seasoned travelers. The question is how you handle them. We worked it out with the Vietnamese customs and immigration officer by being calm, humble and quite frankly contrite. After all the system maybe silly, but it is their system and I was the one that messed up.

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About The Author

Matt Brandon

Matt is a Malaysia based humanitarian and travel photographer. Well known as a photographer and international workshop instructor, Matt’s images have been used by business and organizations around the globe. Matt also on the design board for Think Tank Photo, a camera bag manufacturer. In 2013 Matt founded the On Field Media Project to train the staff of non-profits to use appropriate technology to produce timely as well as quality images.


  1. Dru

    Sorry your holiday was delayed, but it did give you a good blog post—turning difficulty into something positive. I like that! Good post, good reminder.

  2. Thomas

    Mmmh, ok, it was your mistake, Matt.
    I will probably make the same, if you’re not going to tell us, what the Vietnamese really mean by “visa on arrival” (o.k. I will make some nice photos of me for the immigration officer).

  3. Craig

    There are a lot of travelers who are getting caught up in this.

    The VOA policy there in Vietnam is indeed confusing at first blush. There is such thing as arriving at the airport and getting your visa there, but you need a pre-approved visa letter to obtain it (essentially a pre-arranged visa).

  4. John L Hall

    Go with the flow bro!

  5. Sabrina Henry

    Thanks Matt for the reminder that we’re all human. I’m sure you’ll have a good holiday once you’re over this hurdle.

  6. peter berg

    not only do you demonstrate humility by posting this – but also serve others (especially me) a huge favor! – I’ll be arriving in Vietnam (with my visa now) in about 6 weeks 🙂

  7. Anonymous

    So if you have an American passport, your better off just getting the visa before you arrive, as i assume getting a letter to enter would be more hassle then a visa. Never heard of that before for Vietnam, as i know i would have been right there with ya at the hotel too if i had gone. Visa on arrival pretty much says it all but i do know that for Cambodia i had to show up with 2 photos, wait in line for 20min, pay some money, then 10min later they gave passports back with the visa in it. Wasn’t hard but was kind of a waste of time considering they don’t even use the photo in the visa. Guess every country has it’s quirks…

  8. Suzeinasia

    Oh Gosh Matt – what bad luck! I did not even think to remind you about the visa thing – so sorry! I hope all has been sorted okay now and you are out from ‘House Arrest’ and able to start enjoying your visit to Vietnam!

  9. Matt Brandon

    Having a smoke on my new pipe whilst sitting on my balcony at the Le Belhamy in Hoi An. It is right on the beach. Got a crazy deal and then a free upgrade to a bungalo style cottage with split levels. So it’s got a large room upstairs, a sittingroom downstairs and bath in between the two foors, vaulted ceilings, covered in teak wood, even a private pool. The weather here is nice and cool. Wearing a sweater as I type this on my iPhone. So the hassles of yesterday are fading fast.

    Thanks for all the kind words and encouraging comments. You folks are great! Wish you were here…ah…not really.

  10. steve

    Went through a similar experience in Jakarta. Indonesia also has a visa-on-arrival, but the process is so arduous that It’s easier to pre apply and arrive with visa in passport.

  11. Emma_min

    Hi! I’m going to Vitenam in 4 weeks time, and only staying there for two weeks, so don’t want to get any visa-problems.. Do you/anybody else know where I can get one? I’m from Norway and Vietnam doesn’t have an embassy here :/


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