We knew that getting a visa for China was going to be a little bit tricky, but what we didn’t know was that getting it in Vietnam was going to be an odyssey. We arrived in Vietnam thinking it would be just a matter of filling in a form, maybe booking some hotels, buying a train ticket, presenting all the papers at the embassy, paying the 30$ fee and wait. But after reading a bit on the web, we realized that getting it by ourselves at the embassy in Hanoi (without the help of an agency) was impossible and that our only alternative was to try luck at the consulate in Ho Chi Minh city. It seems that the Chinese embassy in Hanoi only process visas for Vietnamese residents and not for tourists.
Before heading to the consulate, we spent one day doing our homework. We filled in and printed the forms, we defined our itinerary, we booked hotels, we had flight reservations, our insurance information… we even printed our bank statements to prove we had sufficient funds while traveling in China. We thought that with all these information it was going to be difficult for them to reject our application, but they did.
Even though we arrived with a bunch of documents and printouts as soon as they realized we didn’t have an invitation letter they said no. We tried to reason out with the woman at the desk, we explained we didn’t know anybody in China, but it was impossible. She made it clear that unless we had an invitation letter and flights for getting in and out of the country she wasn’t going to accept and process our application. We felt helpless and a bit infuriated, specially because the invitation letter it’s not a must when applying for a tourist Chinese visa in your home country, but it seems it’s a requirement in Vietnam.
We contacted friends and family hoping somebody would have a little angel in China that could help us getting an invitation letter. But we were running out of time (our visa in Vietnam was only 30 days and we didn’t want to get stuck in Ho Chi Minh City for 10 days), so we had to discard this option quickly. Thanks to Leo, Philip and my dad for trying!
We were now left with only two options: trying luck with an agency (either in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City) or flying to Hong Kong (but this second option was more dear and interfered with our itinerary). So, feeling a little bit defeated, and after shopping around within the streets of Ho Chi Minh city, we left our passport at Sunrise Travel Vietnam. This agency was the one that gave us the lowest price (70 USD for processing it in 1 week and 100 USD for doing it in 3 days) but we didn’t have any guarantee and we didn’t know how much to trust these agencies as they all seem a mafia.
Three days after leaving our passports, we headed to the agency a bit nervous to discover that we had our Chinese visas!!! We don’t know how they did it, but our visas came from Hanoi. So now we are the very proud owners of two 30 days single entry Chinese visas!!
So from our experience we can say that if you want to process the visa for China on your own in Vietnam, these are our recommendations:
1. Try to do it in Ho Chi Minh City and not in Hanoi. This is the address of the consulate in Ho Chi Minh City:
175 Hai Ba Trung St, District 1
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
2. Bring the following information with you to the consulate:
- Filled in forms A and B. We had read that some other consulates request the form to be filled in the computer before printing. So we did just in case.
- One passport size picture.
- Flight tickets for getting in and out the country. We learned that train tickets can only be bought if you have a Chinese visa, so not an option.
- Invitation Letter. The letter must indicate the duration of your stay and contact information and address of your invitee. Sample invitation letters can be found on the web.
- Copy of your passport and copy of your Vietnamese Visa.
- Accommodation information. If you are going to stay in a hotel, bring a copy of the booking confirmation.
- Insurance. Copy of your insurance policy.
- Bank statement. To prove you have sufficient funds when traveling in China.
3. Bring enough USD to pay for the visa. We were told that for Spanish passport holders the visa fee is 30 USD.
4. Arrive early and dress smartly. The consulate opens at 8.30 so try to arrive early or you will have to queue for a while.
5. Be patient and don’t argue. In case they try to put any obstacles, try to reason out with them.
6. If you are lucky you will have your visa in 5 working days. We were told that there is no express or rush service.
7. Good luck!
Sunrise Travel Vietnam
Sunrise Travel Vietnam has a couple of offices in Ho Chi Minh City. We asked in two of them if they could help us arranging the Chinese visa, and while both said yes, surprisingly they gave us different prices.
- In the head office at 28 Do Quang Dau Street, they asked for 115 USD for processing it in 1 week and 50 USD extra for doing it in 3 days.
- In one of the branches at 285 Pham Ngu Lao Street, they asked for 70 USD for processing it in 1 week and 30 USD extra for doing it in 3 days.
Note. The above is for Spanish passports, might be different for other passports. We went with the cheapest and the fastest option, and we paid 100 USD for getting our visa in 3 days.