Phu Quoc Diaries Day 1: Should We Have Got a Vietnam Visa?

We were finally leaving Mallorca to go to Phu Quoc. The idea was to spend a couple of weeks relaxing on the beach, drinking beer at sunset and making tough decisions such as which scrummy beach barbecue to eat at each night.

Toni knew where we were going as I’d made him guess by deciphering a series of clues on his actual birthday! And he was delighted.

If you don’t know about the surprise trip to Phu Quoc for Toni’s birthday, read here first.

Over the next few weeks I am going to share my Phu Quoc diaries with you. Some of the posts will be written a bit differently to normal, as I have copied my actual diary entries from when we were away, so you can follow along and really step into my shoes and experience Phu Quoc the way I did myself. Although to be honest, if you really want to experience Phu Quoc, go there! You won’t regret it at all.

The Phu Quoc Diaries

Finally, after all that planning on my part, we were off. I had been reading and planning for six months!

Cati picked us up before 8am. She had Martin in tow and was dropping him off in Santa Maria before leaving me and Toni at the airport. Rather Martin than me: it was cold and miserable and rain was forecast. Not a nice day to be pruning olive trees or whatever it is that he was doing.

Our Air Europa flight departed on time from Palma at 10:15, landing in Barcelona before 11am. That gave us four hours before our “big flight”. Not that we needed four hours. We simply had to collect our bags, go upstairs to departures and check in. I really do prefer flying long haul from Barcelona than Madrid; the airport is so much more user friendly.

phu quoc diaries beer in bcn

Waiting for the flight to Doha at Barcelona Airport

Vietnam Visa: To get it or not?

We hadn’t bothered to arrange a Vietnam visa because, as of this year, if you are from a select few countries, there is a visa exemption for people staying up to 15 days. Spain and UK are two of these countries.

We were staying in the country for exactly 15 days. And trust me, I had done my research: I checked every web available and still nearly applied for a visa anyway, just in case. Until the visa website itself told me I didn’t need one and to pull myself together.

phu quoc diaries vietnam visa - 1

So when we were checking in at the Qatar Airways desk I was surprised that the assistant asked us how many days we would be staying in Vietnam. She had our itinerary on the screen and could see that we would be staying for 15 days.

“Er, 14 days.” I don’t know why I said 14 days, but it just came out. I knew I was lying but I didn’t really know why. What she said next rocked my world: “Good that it’s just 14 days, because if you were staying for 15 days you would need a visa.”

Whaaaat?

Do you need a visa to visit Phu Quoc?

My advice to you is to check here. I find this website user-friendly and clear.

Vietnam is not one of those easy visa-on-arrival places – you have to do it all in advance. And I happen to know that if you need a visa and don’t have one, the airlines don’t even let you fly.

I just smiled weakly, took our boarding cards and scurried off. Toni was blissfully unaware that there was anything wrong until I turned to him and said that we were staying for 15 days! We got straight on the internet and rechecked. Everything we could find said that we could remain in Vietnam without a visa for 15 days.

My mind should have been at rest but it wasn’t. Still, what can you do? We just had to cross our fingers and hope we would have no problems entering the country.

Our route with Qatar Airways was Barcelona-Doha, Doha-Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). The flights were long. Very long. But well, that’s something to expect when you are flying from Europe to Southeast Asia.

Doha Airport

When we got to Doha, the same thing happened to us that has happened to us there before: there were screens with hundreds of flights showing, but ours was not there. There was a BA flight at 2am going to HCMC and an S7 flight (whatever that is) at 2am going to HCMC but the Qatar Airways with our flight number said it was going to Phnom Penh! What?

And as usual at Doha Airport there was no one to ask.

All those other flights said gate D2 so we started to make our way there. We came across a Qatar Airways info desk so we asked there about the flight. The snotty woman insisted that our flight was on the board and implied that we were stupid.

“The airport code is SGN, it’s not going to say Ho Chi Minh City, you know.”

Oh really? Well thanks for pointing out that Ho Chi Minh City and Saigon are the same place but the board says Phnom Penh! Is that the same place too? Because there was I thinking it was in a different country! Just shows what I know.

So are we going on a surprise trip to Phnom Penh?

It turned out that it was a shared flight and the plane would be stopping at both Phnom Penh and Ho Chi Minh City.

At the gate we asked the Qatar ground staff where the flight was going first and we were told that it would go to Phnom Penh and then on to HCMC. I couldn’t believe it; there had been no information about this at the time of booking or on my flight itinerary or any of the emails I’d had from Qatar Airways. Still, there was nothing we could do but board.

The flight was painfully empty and we got a row each. Not that I got much sleep, worrying about whether or not they would let us into the country for 15 days with no visa!

When the captain announced the route it became clear that we were actually going first to HCMC. That’s why we’d received no info about Phnom Penh! God knows what was going on with the ground staff at Doha.

When we arrived in HCMC at 13:10, 21 hours after leaving Palma de Mallorca, we headed to passport control with our fingers crossed. The agent wanted my passport, boarding pass and written itinerary…

Stay tuned to find out what happened next at the Vietnam border.

Filed Under: asiafeaturedPhu QuocSaigonvietnam

About the Author: Based in Mallorca, obsessed with the world and have a lot to say about both... Step into my shoes and join me on a journey...

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  1. Susan Sykes says:

    Omg can’t wait to hear what was said about not having a visa!!!!

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