How to get a Chinese visa in Hanoi?
Getting a Chinese visa in Hanoi doesn’t have to be a struggle. Many travellers claim it’s expensive, time consuming or nearly impossible. Fortunately, that’s not the case. I admit, it is a bit tricky and requires a hell of a lot of paperwork, but with our short guide and tips you will easily get your visa in no more that 4 working days, directly at the embassy. No more waiting for weeks and no more dishonest I-will-rip-you-off travel agents. Read on!
For the purpose of this guide, I assume that you are interested in getting 30 days single entry visa or 30 days double entry visa. Both are equally easy to apply for and both require the same documents to be attached to the application form. When applying for a double entry visa, you may be asked why you need the double entry. Whatever is the reason you need it for, just say you want to go to Hongkong and it will be good enough.
Normally it takes 4 working days to get the visa, including the application day. So if you apply on Monday, you will pick up your visa on Thursday. If you’re in a hurry, you can apply for the express service to pick up your visa on the third day or the rush service to pick it up on the second day.
At the time of writing, single entry 30 days visa was $30 and double entry was $45 for citizens of most countries. For citizens of USA, the fee was $140. Curiously, fee for Vietnamese nationals was $60. I guess it reflects foreign relations between the countries…
The extra fee for express service is $20 and for the rush service it’s $30.
Here comes the fun part. What you officially need is:
-Completed application form
-One passport-size photo
-Flight tickets (entering and exiting China)
-Hotel booking(s) for the duration of your stay
-Copy of insurance policy
-Copy of passport information page
-Copy of current and valid Vietnamese visa
-Letter of invitation
The last document is the reason why many travellers decide to arrange their visas through one of I-will-rip-you-off agents in the Old Quarter area. This sort of letter can be issued by a Chinese national (a friend or family), a Chinese tour operator or travel agent. It’s virtually impossible for most people to arrange it at no additional cost. The good news is that you won’t need it. It’s simply not required to submit your application, nobody at the embassy will ask you to show it. So it is required, but it’s not required – a little Chinese paradox. Now that you know it, the whole thing seems a lot easier, right?!
The application form consists of 4 pages and is probably the most extensive you have ever seen. But fear not! It’s all pretty standard information. You can download the form here to see what you’re about to deal with.
The Embassy of PRC is at 46 Hoàng Diệu street. Not too far from the old town, you can simply walk there. It’s open Monday till Friday, from 8:30am till 11:00am. Closed on weekends and all Vietnamese & Chinese national holidays. And there is plenty of them, so make sure your planned date of application doesn’t fall on one of the holiday days.
We got to the embassy just before 8:30 and there were only a few people waiting. It doesn’t seem to get crowded, so I guess you can arrive there at 10:00 if you want to sleep in, and still submit your application.
First of all, you don’t have to print the application form, they are available at the embassy, free of charge of course. You can sit down there and complete your application. Once completed, approach the guard who will check your papers, glue your photo to the form and let you go to the next room where you will submit the application. If you have a backpack, you will have to leave it in one of the lockers next to the guard. Lockers are permanently open (another Chinese paradox) and got no keys, so leave your valuables at your own risk.
Once you approach the window in the next room, hand over the application form and your passport first. Once it’s checked, You will then be asked for the other documents. Hand them over as requested. The lady will also ask you to write down your Vietnamese mobile number on top of the application form. Then you will get a small paper slip – a confirmation of submitting the passport and estimated pick up date. Keep it safe. That’s all for the moment. The lady will ask you to return the next day in the morning and if your application is accepted, she will give you a payment slip, ask you to go to the bank, pay and return with stamped payment slip on the pick up day. No need to return to the embassy straight after the payment, unless you applied and paid for the rush service.
You have to pay the application fee at ICBC Bank on 360 Kim Ma Street (ground floor of Daewoo Hotel). Once you exit the embassy with the payment slip, there will be at least a few taxi and moto taxi drivers willing to take you to the bank. We decided to go by public bus as it’s quick and cheap. If you want to do the same, turn right when you walk out of the embassy. Walk to Trần Phú and turn right again. You will see the bus stop on the other side of the road. Take the bus 34 towards My Dinh. The bus goes all the way along Kim Ma street. Get off on the big intersection next to the Lotte Hotel – the tallest building in Hanoi, can’t be missed. The Daewoo Hotel and ICBC Bank are right next to it. Bus fare is 7000VND.
ICBC Bank staff speak english and will guide you to the right person, so you can submit the payment. Pay in US$. If you have $100 note only, don’t worry, you will get the change in US$. Whole payment process is just 2-3 minutes. Once you’re out, you can take the bus 34 back to the Old Town.
1) Do I have to book a round trip flight?
No, you can fly into one place in China and exit from another one. In fact, you can book one way flight to China and it will be OK for the purpose of the visa application. Flight booking exiting China is just another regulation that is not enforced.
2) I don’t have a plan, how can I book hotels for the whole stay?
Don’t worry, just book one night at your first destination in China. It will be just fine, you really don’t have to book hotels in advance for every place you want to visit in China. If you submit your application form with booking for just one night, you will still get the visa. If you don’t want to prepay the reservation and you like to check out the place before you spend your money, just go to one of the hotel booking sites and find a hotel that can be booked without credit card. There’s a lot of them in China, look on Ctrip.com or Booking.com.
3) I’m not flying, I’m going to China overland, what about flight booking requirement?
Rules are rules. If you don’t have the flight booking, your application is likely to be rejected. It’s a stupid regulation, but there is a way around it. Just find one of those online flight booking agencies that accepts bank transfer as a form of payment. Book a flight, choose to wire transfer the money and then just don’t transfer it. After couple of days your ticket will get cancelled, but in the meantime you will have a fully confirmed reservation. Just make sure the agency does not charge any penalties or cancellation fees!
If you can’t find a fee-free agency, there’s just one solution – make a fake booking. Just make it smart. Use the actual flight times, airlines and flight numbers that really operate from A to B on the desired date. If it looks good, it’s less likely to be verified.
4) Are the documents submitted really verified?
Nobody knows for sure, but honestly I doubt that they go online to check every hotel booking and every flight reservation. There would have to be a special department in each embassy just to do that. So chances are that nothing is actually verified and you can submit fake hotel booking and fake flight booking and get the visa.
Just be prepared to have your application rejected and maybe even being blacklisted from entering the country. If you choose to fake the documents, you’ll do it on your own risk, OK?
5) I’m unemployed
There is a risk you will be rejected. If you’re unemployed, then how can you pay for your expenses in China, huh?!
But don’t worry, just choose „Company employee” in section 1.15 of the application form and give the name and address of your last employer in section 1.17. That will do just fine. If you still study, choose „Student” and use details fo your uni/school.
6) I’m not sure about my date of entry, what should I do?
Choose the date in section 2.4 wisely. The first visa we got allowed us to enter China within three months from the date of issuance and the second one only within one month. God only knows why it was different. So think it through and fill in the application form only when you roughly choose the date you want to enter the country. Only when you are sure that this date might change only by few days, not a month or two. The date you put on your application for does matter. Also make sure the dates in sections 2.4 and 2.5 match the dates of your (fake) flight booking and (fake) hotel booking.
7) I don’t have a fixed itinerary, how do I fill in section 2.6?
It’s OK, just use the date of your first entry (from section 2.4) and name and address of the hotel you (fake) booked for the first night. It’s enough and you will get the visa, don’t worry.
8) Information of inviter in China, section 2.8 – what is that?!
Just skip this part. Remember – you don’t need the invitation letter, therefore you don’t have to provide any inviter details. Leave this section blank and move to the next one.
9) I don’t have a Vietnamese phone number
It’s OK use your hotel’s number. It’s only a just-in-case phone number.
10) I don’t have US Dollars. Can I pay the visa fee in Vietnamese Dong?
Yes you can. The only downside is that the ICBC Bank will charge you extortionate service fee of 200000VND (about $10), so it makes more sense to buy $30 from one of the money changers in the Old Quarter, event if the exchange rate is horrible.
Many thanks to NOMADasaurus for their great Chinese visa guide! Read it here
That’s all. If you got any question about the application process, feel free to drop us a line or two. When completing the application form and the documents, be wise. Think it through and don’t stress out. Remember, „everything will be all right in the end, and if it’s not all right, then it’s not yet the end”.