Disclaimer: The below suggestions, opinions, and experiences are my own. Speak to an agent for your own personal needs and advice.
After four months of being in the United Kingdom (UK), I finally returned to Vietnam three weeks ago. As Vietnam slowly reopens, I know many will be embarking on the journey back from abroad.
When I was preparing to return, information was scarce, and I had little idea of what to expect – so hopefully this article will give you that peace of mind. This is about my experience and some suggestions on how to better prepare for your return and quarantine:
- Documents to prepare
- Flight rescheduling
- Advice and tips
- What to expect upon arrival in Vietnam
- Advice and tips
- Hotel and Home Quarantine
- Covid-19 Testing
- WiFi and Food Delivery
Documents to prepare
There are two essential documents I needed to enter Vietnam. These are the (1) immigration letter and the (2) People's Committee of HCMC letter. This is coming in on an expert visa. As far as I am aware, you have to have a valid Temporary Residence Card (TRC) and a work permit to get these as your employer will need to sign off on certain documents for you to re-enter the country.
In addition to these, in order to be allowed to board the re-entry flight, you must provide (3) proof of quarantine booking, (4) proof of transport booking from the airport to your quarantine hotel (5) proof of international insurance. You cannot book the hotel or transport until the immigration and people's committee letters have been issued. If you wish to do 8 rather than 15 nights quarantined, you must provide your quarantine with (6) proof of being double vaccinated (a PDF version of the NHS Covid-19 pass is accepted. This can be downloaded from the NHS website, which has details of all your vaccinations complete with QR codes).
I also had to fill in a (7) health declaration form (https://tokhaiyte.vn/) before I boarded my flight from Singapore to Vietnam. Make sure you select ‘Entry Declaration’.
Last but not least, regardless of vaccination status, you must (8) produce a negative PCR test within 72 hours of arrival in Vietnam (48 hours of transit through Singapore). In the UK most PCR tests take around 24 hours and cost £100+. In Singapore, most PCR tests take around 24 hours and cost 200 SGD.
Summary of documents required to enter Vietnam:
- Immigration letter
- People's Committee of HCMC letter
- Proof of quarantine booking
- Proof of transport booking from the airport to your quarantine hotel
- Proof of international insurance
- Proof of being double vaccinated (PDF copy) to reduce quarantine from 15 days to 8 days
- Health declaration form (‘Entry declaration’)
- Proof of negative PCR test within 72 hours of arrival in Vietnam
It took under a month to get the initial immigration letter and peoples committee letter from when my agent submitted the necessary documents. However, they could give me no guarantee on the time frame, and this was largely to do with the status of the immigration department.
It took considerably longer for people who submitted their documents in July/August. Once the two letters were issued, obtaining the other documents was instantaneous.
After, I had to submit all my documents to Singapore Airlines no less than 7 days before my flight to Singapore from the UK.
Overall estimated timeline:
- Document preparation: 2 weeks
- Time to obtain Immigration letter & People’s Committee Letter: 1 month
- Time to obtain documents (3-6) : 3 to 5 days
- Submit documents to Singapore Airlines: 1 week
Estimated total time taken: 2 months
Tips and advice
- Print everything in advance (I suggest two copies)
- Have it in the app etc.
- Do the health declaration from your laptop and not your phone
I was out of the UK for 3 months but this was longer than expected due to the situation in Vietnam. I booked my return flight on Singapore Airlines before I left in early June.
From my initial departure date, I had rescheduled my flight five times due to the situation happening in Vietnam. Of the five times, three times were complimentary and the other two times cost me approximately 200 USD in total.
Singapore Airlines allows for complimentary rescheduling during this time granted the price of both flights is the same. I was able to reschedule my flight easily via direct communication (email or call) with the Singapore Airlines office in Saigon. They speak English.
Arrival Process at the Airport
At Vietnamese immigration, they want to see the two letters (Immigration and People's Committee of HCMC letter) as well as your TRC. For me, this took almost no time at all.
However, I have heard stories of it taking hours. Once you come through, you change into protective clothing (provided by the airport) and then collect your baggage. After, you’ll be asked for your name and assigned to a driver who will then take you to the minibus and then your hotel.
Advice and Tips
Check your flight’s test requirements thoroughly. At Heathrow, a Singaporean woman was denied boarding the flight as she had done an antigen test rather than a PCR. She was adamant her son had flown from London to Singapore the previous week on an antigen test so had not bothered checking. She then demanded to be given a PCR test right there at the airport, not seeming to realise the results take considerably longer than the two hours she had before the flight departed. All of this would have been avoided had she just read carefully the emails that Singapore Airlines had sent her.
I did my quarantine at the ibis Saigon Airport Hotel for 7 nights (8 days). I recommend bringing tea, coffee, a yoga mat, a skipping rope and an HDMI cable.
During my stay, I tested on day 1 and day 7. If you test negative on day 7, you’re then released on day 8. After, I had to do a 7-day home quarantine in my apartment. During this time, I was not given any self-testing kits or visited by any health official.
WiFi and Food Delivery Options
The Wifi was on the whole pretty good. Some glitches during Zoom sessions but overall it was fine. On the food front, it was okay - there were some great meals and some less so. I definitely recommend opting for the ‘Asian’ option than the ‘Western’ option on the menu at the Ibis Saigon Airport Hotel.
Also, there are plenty of room choices available at the Ibis Saigon Airport Hotel; treat yourself to more space as the ability to move and work out will become increasingly valuable throughout the course of your quarantine.
As for food delivery, I was able to accept food delivery from third-party apps (GrabFood, Baemin etc.) and friends. However, all payments needed to be done by card and no cash exchanges were allowed.
Freddie Sherwood is an English expatriate who has been living in Vietnam for 3 years. During the day, he is a history teacher at the French International School HCMC and enjoys exploring the sights, scenes and sounds of Vietnam on the back of his motorbike.
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