So you want to go to Vietnam?
You miss the sunny beaches? The Bia Hoi? The wonderful people? The amazing food? Can’t wait for the borders to open?
Well, you’re not in luck. Not what you wanted to hear? Read on – let me explain.
What’s the problem?
First a little back story. I’m currently employed in my home country, Denmark, and as luck would have it my company has offered me to be an expat in Vietnam. Due to this, I am right now sitting in a hotel near Tan Son Nhat Airport in Ho Chi Minh City with my wife and daughter of 8 months. We have no windows to open, we are not allowed to leave our room and we’ll be here for 22 nights followed by a strict 7 day home quarantine. It is, in all effect, a prison – a luxury prison but a prison none the less.
Why? Quarantine due to Covid-19.
Since I’m an expat I fit in one of the very few groups that are still allowed to enter Vietnam: Foreign experts and specialists. Even Vietnamese citizens have to wait months perhaps indefinitely to get in.
It’s so strict that only a few flights per week are allowed in the country, when you get there the airport is closed, as in you are the only people there when you land. We flew from Dubai and in the plane where a whopping 35 people, including first class. That’s in a 777 that can seat around 350 people.
There is a public list of every single person entering Vietnam. Go ahead, have a look.
The application process to go to Vietnam during a coronavirus pandemic
Enough chit-chat. Tell me what to do!
Alright, so as mentioned, first you have to become a foreign expert and have a reason to go here. Unfortunately, typical vocations like teaching English doesn’t count. They are very strict!
Some of the main rules include:
- A title like senior software specialist. Not just a software developer or senior consultant
- At least 3 years experience in the field
- Have a company host you, including assignment/job contract etc. You can’t just go there and find a job.
- An abundance of other minor rules
You have to make an application which takes months to handle and must be approved by the people’s committee and includes numerous original notarized papers such as your original graduate degree diploma physically sent to Vietnam as part of the application. Yes, even the original must be notarized! That’s right – your diploma will never look the same.
My title had to be approved (with physical stamps) by both the Danish Foreign Ministry, the local Vietnamese embassy and a representative union (in my case Dansk Erhverv).
They need a criminal record, marriage certificate, birth certificate etc. you name it.
And for all this? You get a 3 month visa. When you’re here, you can start all over again and apply for your workers permit since that requires physically showing up in Vietnam and for good reasons that can’t be done from home.
But wait!? That might take more than 3 months – what if your visa runs out? You extend it. More paperwork.
I won’t bore you with further details but I can assure you that I praise myself lucky that my company is taking care of this for me!
Ready to leave!
Not scared away yet? Alright. Let’s assume you did all that, got your visa, packed your bags and you’re ready to go. What to expect?
We flew with Emirates and had a 12 hour layover in Dubai which is a chapter in itself. But to sum it up, you need a negative RT-PCR test that’s no more than 48 hours old at original departure (possibly at departure in Dubai if you use Dubai Connect) and you need to send it directly to emirates who then pre-approve your certificate before you’re allowed to board.
We have a good public testing system in Denmark but they require up to 48 hours to respond and – well – that’s just not fast enough so we went with a private testing clinic.
Dubai is a surprisingly busy airport and all the shops are open by the way. Since we had a baby we were “priority” passengers and as such were allowed to board first and get driven around by those little golf-carts they have in many airports.
Well, we got in the plane (and had about 10 seats per person) and finally after a loong trip (with a baby) touched down in Ho Chi Minh City airport
Arriving in a locked-down post covid-19 Vietnam
Now, I’ve travelled a lot but this is still one of the wildest arrivals I’ve experienced. Think: If 35 confirmed cases where to tour a hospital – how would they be treated? With outmost care. The staff would be wearing protective equipment that’s for sure.
When you arrive you hand in your predeclared health card (you did that didn’t you?) and you’re escorted to the immigration counters. They are in full gear. This needs to be in your hand (not in your bag) at all times and you are regularly asked to show it.
You get your bags after a while (after they have been thoroughly sprayed by a guy with what looks like a professional fertilizer filled up with disinfectant). And proceed to another counter. You here note your name, your flight, your quarantine hotel etc. and put on full gear yourself, including sun glasses, gloves, and things for your feet.
After a while you get picked up by a car that looks like it has a kill room inside with plastic from top to bottom and you are driven to your hotel where you are again disinfected (yes you, your whole body is sprayed) and after a check in you are instructed to carry your bags yourself to your room. Lock the door and welcome to Vietnam. See you in 22 nights.
Fun detail, it used to be 14 days but while we were in here it was extended to 21 days due to a current outbreak. The people that were supposed to be arriving after we leave will have a problem with hotel availability and I guess they’re going to have to take a later flight. Also, they’re talking about completely locking down the country – even for foreign experts.
I’ll update further as we go…