How to do a Visa Run in Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam

Every Vietnam expat dreads having to spend a whole day doing a visa run. The process is confusing, stressful, and full of scammers. Or maybe that was just because it was my first visa run. Anyway, I made a bunch of mistakes during my first visa run (even though I had a Vietnamese girl I met on Tinder helping me), so here is a guide on how to properly do a Vietnam visa run.

What do I need to bring on my Vietnam visa run?

  • Visa approval letter. Get this at least 7 business days before you plan to leave.
    • You have a few options for this:
      • You can do a 1 or 3 month single entry.
      • 1 or 3 months multiple entry.
      • 1 year tourist (have to leave the country every 3 months)
      • 1 year business letter (don’t have to leave the country every 3 months).
    • Get your visa letter through an agent:
    • PRICE: $18-$135. This changes frequently, so speak to an agent.
  • 3 passport sized pictures. The travel agencies on Bui Vien should be able to do this for you.
    • PRICE: $2-4
  • $100 in US currency (minimum). I prefer carrying $5 bills because everything seems to be priced in multiples of $5. Bring 5-10 $1 bills too in case you have to do some convincing.
    • You can convert VND to USD at any gold shop in HCMC.
      • Kim Mai Gold Shop (84 Cong Quynh, District 1) was where I did it. They gave me an extremely good rate.
    • PRICE: $100 minimum.
  • 500k in Vietnamese Dong. Three 100k notes and ten 20k notes should be good.
    • PRICE: 500k (about $22).
  • Bus ticket.
    • This costs 40k ($1.67) each way.
  • A black or blue pen.
  • 7-8 hours of time.
  • Passport… duh. You can’t do a Vietnam visa run without a passport.
    • PRICE: N/A

How to do the visa run?

Step 1: Go the bus station

You’d think this would be easy, right?

This is Vietnam. Everything is needlessly complicated. The bus we want is located at the end of 23/9 Park.

The bus number is #703 and the name is “Ben Thanh-Moc Bai” (even though it isn’t at Ben Thanh). It leaves the station every 30 minutes starting at 6AM. I’d recommend leaving before 1PM because the last bus to leave Moc Bai leaves at 7PM.

The bus will park near the entrance on the side near Nguyen Trai St.

Step 2: Arrive at the border

The bus ride takes about 2-3 hours depending on traffic. You can just take a nap and you’ll wake up near the border.

You’ll walk off the bus, but you won’t see the border. Again, this is Vietnam and everything is needlessly complicated. You’ll have to walk 5-10 minutes to get to the border. Or you can pay one of the 100 motorbike taxis 20k to take you to the border gate.

Here is a map I drew in MS Paint in case you feel like walking. You start at point #1 and walk to point #2:

Step 5: Exit Vietnam

You’ll get to the big Vietnamese building. Walk in and walk all the way to the right and keep walking until you see a big wooden booth with a Vietnamese official sitting in it. You’ll see a bunch of people waiting in line, but they’re just waiting for their name to be called.

Cut all those people in line and give the official your passport.

Alternatively, you can pay someone 50-100k to cut those people in line and give the official your passport like a VIP. That is what I did since I’m too shy to cut people in line… I also had no clue that those people weren’t actually in line.

Once you do that you walk through and begin the 5 minutes walk to Cambodia.

Step 6: Enter/Exit Cambodia

This step is much easier on the Cambodian side. Walk up to the booth outside (#3 on the map) and give Somchai your passport. He’ll ask for $30. Give him $30 and he’ll glue a visa into your passport.

Walk inside and give your passport to Somchai #2. He’ll ask you to put your fingerprints on some scanner.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not giving that shithole country my fingerprints. I paid a handler $10 and didn’t have to give my fingerprints. $10 is expensive, but I don’t want the Cambodian government having my fingerprints.

Somechai #2 will give you a departure card. Fill this out.

Walk outside, hand your passport to Somchai #3 in the booth, and exit Cambodia.

Step 7: Enter Vietnam

Walk back to the Vietnamese building. As you walk into the building on your right hand side you’ll see a small aluminum building with a little glass window. Inside the window is Phuong the Border Guard.

Sometimes Phuong is on lunch break, talking to his wife, or just not doing his job.

I had to wait 1 hour for Phuong to get back from his 3 hour dinner break.

Anyway, once Phuong gets back you give him your Vietnam visa letter and passport. He’ll ask for the stamping fee and an extra $10.

Don’t bother arguing with him. Just give him his tea money and get your passport with a fresh Vietnam visa. Walk to the gate and have Phuong #2 stamp your entry to Vietnam.

Step 8: Walk Back to the Bus

Now just walk the way you came back to the bus stop. Hop on the bus and get back to Saigon.

Moc Bai Border Crossing: Video

This video isn’t mine, but he does a good job explaining the whole process for those of you that are visual learners.

Final Thoughts

The Vietnam visa process for those of us living in Ho Chi Minh City sucks because of Moc Bai. However, Cambodia does have a simple visa process despite being such a poor country.

The Vietnamese just do not have a good visa process.

I’m never going to Moc Bai again. My next Vietnam visa run will involve flying to Bangkok or Malaysia with a one year visa letter for Vietnam.


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