Visa on Arrival
This is simple for many would-be visitors, because there is now a visa on arrival scheme in place which allows you to stay for 15 days providing you have a passport issued by one of the countries listed on your local Vietnamese Embassy website. You no longer need to apply for a visa beforehand, just get on the flight.
However, if you’re not from one of those countries or want to stay for more than 15 days, you do need to apply for a visa. Sadly, though mine is covered by the visa on arrival scheme, I’d forgotten about the limit and booked a non-refundable ticket for 21 days.
Visa for longer stays
You can apply online for these now, and, providing you provide the requisite information and a return envelope, the embassy will send your passport back after a couple of weeks processing.
My local embassy happened to be in Paris, so I took time out of a trip there to deposit my passport, forms, photos and money . There was a handful of people in front of the passport counter who looked as though they had been there some time, but the visa counter was empty, and served straight away.
The charming official checked my application form, promised to complete the bits I’d left out, carefully cut the photos to the right size, and gave me the correct La Poste certified mail form for the return of the passport. No knowledge of price, I’d need to see the cashier at counter 2 about that. The cashier, perhaps a touch less charming – and who could blame her, cashiers are not the most well-loved people in France, kept things to a minimum. “85 euros” was her sole effort at conversation. She took the money, stamped several forms, and gave me an anonymous receipt.
On price, I think 80€ was for the visa and 5€ for the return mail. I’ve since heard that a multiple-entry one-month visa costs 110€.
I’ll post my passport in next time around, now I know the procedure.