I, unfortunately, fell into the trap of a visa scam. I would like to share with you my personal experience on how I ended up in this predicament.
Vietnam visa is required for Europeans and other non-ASEAN nationalities who wish to visit Vietnam.
At present, British nationals can obtain a 15-day visa-free entry to Vietnam.
I was back in Southeast Asia (Philippines) to visit my family and friends.
My friend and I planned to have a little getaway in Hanoi, Vietnam. I had heard so many good reviews about Hanoi.
On the day of our trip, upon checking-in at the airport, the lady at the airline counter would not let me board the flight without showing a visa letter from the Vietnam embassy.
The airline gave me an email address on which I should need to contact to help me source the approval letter immediately.
Stressed out with the whole visa situation only a few hours before my flight departure.
I immediately emailed them and received a prompt reply charging me for the expedited processing fee and the visa fee.
After a few minutes, they sent me the electronic copy of the approval letter.
When I received the letter, the airline let me board the plane and I thought that was it. Panic over, all set to see Hanoi.
After we went thru the immigration in Manila, I received a few more emails from the Vietnam visa company, charging me for more money!
The Vietnam Visa Corporation informed me they can’t issue a visa on weekends. Seriously!
They already charged me for the SUPER URGENT VISA on top of the regular processing fee.
At this point, I was so pissed off and clearly they were ripping me off with the visa fees.
I argued on my email that the only requirement to get the Vietnam visa from arrival is the Visa Letter (which I had already paid for and had received).
then after this, I received another email explaining the charge.
There is no such thing noted on their website about this “weekend processing visa fee”
At this point, with the anxiousness and stress from their threat to curtail my trip to Vietnam once I arrived, it left me with no other option but to pay the USD$152 for the limited days visa.
When I arrived at Hanoi airport…
When I got off the plane, there was a woman holding a name banner with my name on just before we reached the immigration border. She asked me to wait at one corner while she sorted out my visa.
Out of curiosity, I followed her as she went to the Immigration visa desk where all the other passengers that required a visa were waiting and processing their application as well.
I asked fellow travellers who were also waiting for their application about their Vietnam visa experience and they told me that all the immigration officer asked for at the Visa immigration desk was the copy of the approval letter, a passport picture and the visa fee of USD $45.
This just confirmed to me that my inkling that I was being scammed was true.
They immediately advised me to report it to the Vietnam embassy in the UK after my trip.
The visa lady came back to me and handed over my instant visa.
No fingerprints, no picture and no signature required, viola!
The 15-day visa mentioned by the Vietnam Visa Corporation was not given, I just received a 4-day visa.
I tried to confront the visa lady about it, but since she can only speak limited English it was very difficult to hold a proper conversation about this matter with her. All I got was just a shrug.
I managed to enter the Vietnam border, without questions too!
I tried to forget what happened that evening and just enjoy Hanoi as planned.
When I came back to the UK, I sent an email to the Vietnam embassy here in London and the reply I get was not satisfactory. What they basically replied about my complaint was they have nothing to do with it since they are not the one who issued the visa!
So I emailed again the company to file a complaint.
Here is their response.
followed by this email asking how long I wanted to stay in Vietnam.
They were completely oblivious about my details even though I had already sent all the details needed.
I never bothered replying to this email because I felt I was just talking to a brick wall and someone who does not care about the complaint and wants to cover their back with this scam.
I had charged it to experience and I would like to share this experience for British citizens and other nationalities who need a Vietnam visa.
You can also read and be aware of the other tourist scams in Southeast Asia that you might encounter.
ALWAYS look for a trusted and reputable company that process your Vietnam visa.
I consider this my rookie mistake on travelling but, that’s how you learn things and I want to warn others so they won’t fall for the same visa scam.
After this bad experience about my visa, I would still go back to Vietnam.
Here is a sample itinerary to Vietnam that I would like to do.