Feeling the itch to travel again after returning from a crazy 3-week trip in Europe, I decided to book a short trip to Vietnam- which among the South East Asian countries, has among the fewest hurdles to cross before arrival.
In this post, I’ll be covering what you need to know before departing for Vietnam, what the on-arrival experience is like, how’s life in Vietnam right now, and the nitty-gritty things to note before returning to Singapore.
Travel to Vietnam: Pre-Departure Checklist
Vietnam reopened to all international arrivals on 15 March 2022, and surprisingly enough, there isn’t even a vaccination requirement.
|✈️ Checklist for travel to Vietnam|
You might have noticed that travel insurance is missing from the table above. Even though this government website states that travellers are required to purchase travel insurance with at least US$10,000 coverage for COVID-19 treatment, I was not asked for it at any time during check-in or on arrival in Ho Chi Minh City.
This tallies with what is mentioned on Timatic, which check-in agents consult regarding border measures, and also on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website for Vietnam.
Needless to say, it’s still a good idea to have travel insurance though.
Pre-Departure Testing from Singapore
Vietnam requires travellers to take either a RT-PCR/RT-LAMP test 72h prior to departure, or an antigen rapid test (ART) 24h prior to departure. No on-arrival/post-arrival test is required.
For my pre-departure test, I booked a supervised tele-ART appointment with Doctor Anywhere that cost me S$12.84 after a terrible experience with Kingston Medical. The cost of a tele-ART with DA has since increased to S$21.40 at the time of writing.
Supervised tele-ARTs are accepted for travel to Vietnam and I had no trouble using the certificate issued by DA at check-in and on arrival in Vietnam.
For a list of tele-ART providers offering pre-departure testing, you can refer to the article below.
|👍 Update: Effective 27 April 2022, international arrivals are no longer required to fill this up. (Source)|
All travelers entering Vietnam have to fill in a compulsory health declaration form online prior to arrival. This will be checked and verified at arrivals before you are allowed to clear immigration.
The entire form is pretty straightforward to fill up but I’ll be clarifying some parts which might cause confusion.
When you enter the health declaration website, click on the tab labelled “Entry Declaration” as that is the one you should be filling up as an international arrival.
On the first row of the form, there is a field called “Gate” which is where you’ll be entering Vietnam from. If you’re flying into Ho Chi Minh City, make sure you choose “Tan Son Nhat Airport” as your “Gate”. If you’re flying into Ha Noi or Danang airports etc., choose the appropriate airports from the dropdown list.
There is a section on the form which says “Departure Date” as well as “Immigration Date”. The “Departure Date” is the date that you are departing for Vietnam and the “Immigration Date” is the date that you will be clearing immigration on arrival in Vietnam.
Although not stated anywhere, the form does not allow you to submit it if your departure date is not within 1 day of you filling up the form.
There is also a section for you to upload your proof of vaccination and pre-departure test, but this is not a required field to fill in and I had no issues at the document check checkpoint in leaving this section entirely blank.
The rest of the form is pretty straightforward and once you’ve completed it, make sure you do not close the screen with the QR shown. You will NOT be sent an email confirming your health declaration.
Take a screenshot of this page as shown below, making sure that the information in red is visible as well:
This is the only acceptable proof of your completed health declaration that the officials will accept. If you showed them the copy of the form generated by pressing the green print button, you’ll be sent to the side to redo your health declaration form.
Travelers to Vietnam are also required to download the PC-COVID app, which is Vietnam’s contact tracing app. Again, it’s very straightforward to set up and if you’re encountering issues with entering your Singapore mobile number, it’s perfectly fine to leave that field empty as it’s not a required field.
Once you’ve successfully signed up, you’ll be issued a personal QR code for contact tracing around Vietnam although from the boots on the ground no one actually checks for it there. Initially, your QR background will be a shade of light green but after keying in your vaccination details manually, the background switches to dark green.
You can even toggle Bluetooth off to disable close contact tracing if you don’t wish to be contact-traced via Bluetooth.
Vietnam Arrivals Experience
My flight from Singapore landed at Ho Chi Minh City’s Tan Son Nhat International Airport. It was a short taxi to the gate and at 1855 I deplaned from SQ186.
From the gate, it was a short 5-minute walk to immigration and when you arrive near immigration you will have to join a queue to get your health declaration QR verified.
Once you’re near immigration, you will see instructions on the wall to fill in the health declaration form. For what it’s worth, the check-in desks in Changi did not ask for the health declaration QR and only asked for my negative ART/PCR test result. So at this point, if you haven’t already gotten your health declaration QR code ready you still have some time to do so.
I love what the authorities here have done to make it easier for everyone to complete the health declaration. When you connect to the “Medical Declaration” Wi-Fi access point, you will be automatically redirected to the health declaration website making it as seamless as possible to get it completed.
There was a rather long queue here to get your health declaration checked.
After 5-minutes, some staff realized that some of us queuing were from SQ186 and redirected us to a shorter queue which still took approximately 20 minutes to clear.
There was only a grand total of 3 booths in each queue which probably added to the time taken for the queue to clear. Before you approach the desk, make sure these documents are already in your hand to speed things up:
- Health Declaration QR (the specific format mentioned above)
- Boarding Pass – this will be stamped
- Pre-Departure COVID-19 Test showing Negative results
Just pick a counter you like, and pray that no one cuts your queue.
After the official has inspected all your documents and is satisfied with what you have presented, your boarding pass will be stamped which signifies that you’re good to go. If your boarding pass is not stamped, you will not be allowed to clear immigration. The immigration official will request to see your boarding pass before processing you.
After clearing immigration, simply head down the escalators to collect your bags from the…floor of the arrivals hall. Because of how long the entire process took, all the bags had been offloaded off the baggage carousel and placed on the ground neatly. Simply find yours, and you’re good to go.
Before you ask, no, there isn’t a special luggage pick-up area for Business Class or elite status passengers.
Along the way out to the pick-up area, there are many opportunities to get a local SIM so don’t worry if you gave the Viettel booth before immigration a miss.
I finally exited the arrivals hall almost an hour later at 1945 and walked straight out to the heat and humidity of Saigon.
Life in Vietnam
I stayed in Ho Chi Minh City for a total of seven nights and really enjoyed my time here. I didn’t get the chance to visit any nightlife establishments but from walking through both the city centre and visiting the Districts further out from District 1, life in Ho Chi Minh City is pretty normal.
Mask wearing is still compulsory both indoors and outdoors, but no one will give you rude stares even if you forgot to put it back on after a meal and start walking around. There are also no odd capacity caps and social distancing enforcements in the city as well.
Remember the PC-COVID app? Yeah, no one does that here. Even though there are QR codes placed outside every restaurant/mall/shop, no one, and I mean no one scans or checks for it.
In general, life in Vietnam is almost back to normal, and rightfully so. The only thing that makes it feel like we’re still in a pandemic is the mask-wearing. Although the locals here wore masks while riding even during the pre-COVID era so for them it’s pretty much the same as before.
Travel to Singapore: Pre-Departure Checklist
|⚕️ Testing: Singapore-Vietnam Travel|
|🇸🇬 Singapore||24h before departure (ART)||From S$12|
|🇻🇳 Vietnam||2 days before departure (ART)||From S$9|
Even with the new Vaccinated Travel Framework (VTF), pre-departure testing (PDT) is still required for travel to Singapore. This can be done within 2 days prior to departure through a PCR test or the cheaper and quicker antigen rapid tests (ART).
If you’re a Singapore Citizen, Permanent Resident, or a Long Term Pass Holder you can make use of supervised tele-ART providers based in Singapore to do your PDT.
If you forgot to carry an ART kit with you you can simply grab them at a pharmacy here. Alternatively, local in-clinic ART options are very affordable, and that’s what I opted for.
Klook / Traveloka have pre-departure testing packages with Diag Clinic which is a chain of clinics that can be found across Ho Chi Minh City. The cost of an in-clinic ART costs between S$8 – S$12 depending on the District you’re visiting.
Alternatively, if you do not wish to go through Klook/Traveloka you can simply head over to the Diag labs website which is in English to secure an appointment. Clinics are open 7 days a week and it’s best to check their website for the opening times as these differ on weekdays and weekends.
If you go through Diag Labs direct, prices are fixed at VND 140,000 for an ART regardless of clinic location.
I stayed at the InterContinental Saigon with a Diag clinic located just a short walk from the hotel so I made use of an in-clinic ART for my pre-departure test back to Singapore since it’s cheaper than doing a tele-ART myself.
There are a few things to note when doing an in-clinic test:
- You must have a Vietnamese phone number
- Results are sent to your phone via SMS with a link to a digital certificate/QR code around 30 minutes later.
I did mine at a Diag Clinic and it was very seamless. The results arrived in an SMS 30 minutes after my nose got violated and the results were both in English and Vietnamese. You could also request for a printed copy from the clinic but that will mean you’d have to wait there for approximately 15-20 minutes.
Travel is definitely back on the cards now with more countries dropping excessive testing and paperwork requirements.
Vietnam is an amazing country to visit and at the time of writing is still one of the easiest countries in South East Asia to fly to without excessive paperwork to be done. The on-arrival experience in Ho Chi Minh City is still considered pretty seamless in my opinion, just make sure your documents are all in-check and you shouldn’t face too many issues.
Are you considering a trip to Vietnam soon?