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Return to Vietnam: Expats share their preparations

Expats who wish to return to Vietnam following the partial resumption of commercial flights are advised to be psychologically prepared for the legwork and waiting, according to fellow expats who have successfully returned to Vietnam.

Return to Vietnam is “not easy”

“I flew from France, transited in Thailand and arrived in HCMC on Jan 5,” said Jerome Ly, a French citizen.

Ly stated that he prepared a checklist of required documents and received assistance from an agent in Ho Chi Minh City in order to proceed with the trip. The documentation included People’s Committee permission letters, Immigration Department approval letters, visa/TRC or approval letter for visa on arrival (VOA), immunization certificates, PRC test results, hotel and vehicle bookings. He also completed the QR code form on the website https://tokhaiyte.vn.

Ly gathered all of the documentation in less than four weeks and thought the $250 he paid the agent was a fair price.

Locals and foreigners finally return to Vietnam, arriving at the Tan Son Nhat Airport in HCMC from Cambodia on January 1, 2022. It was the first regular commercial flight to Vietnam since the pandemic. Photo: Vietnam Airlines
Locals and foreigners finally return to Vietnam, arriving at the Tan Son Nhat Airport in HCMC from Cambodia on January 1, 2022. It was the first regular commercial flight to Vietnam since the pandemic.

Ly, a businessman who had lived in Vietnam for three years, had gone abroad and returned to the nation for the first time since Covid-19 erupted in early 2020.

“The travel plan was not easy for me,” he said. Ly had fled the nation in mid-October 2021 and had been waiting for a chance to return until Vietnam announced the partial restoration of commercial flights.

Ly was meant to return to Vietnam on a charter airplane in early December 2021, but it was canceled many times. Then he learned that commercial flights between Vietnam and Thailand would reopen on December 15, so he opted to purchase a ticket to Bangkok instead.

When he landed in Thailand, the Vietnam Civil Aviation Administration (CAAV) declared that regular commercial flights to selected routes will resume on January 1, 2022. So he lingered in Bangkok for another two weeks, emailing the carriers every day for developments.

Before boarding, Ly inquired about the quarantine rules of the local authorities and double-checked the airline’s website.

On arrival, he was put into home quarantine for three days under the supervision of local wards, and on the third day, he had a PCR test.

“Now I have come back to Vietnam and I am very happy about it.”

The process may take around six weeks to finish

Lars Jankowfsky and his Thai fiancée landed in HCMC on a commercial airline from Germany on January 13 after transiting in Singapore.

Jankowfsky gathered documentation for quarantine at home with the help of his employees in Vietnam, including permissions from the People’s Committee and the Department of Immigration, certification of vaccination, PCR test results, and a health insurance certificate. The process took about six weeks to finish.

Jankowfsky had hired an agent to arrange his documents for his previous return journey on a charter airplane, but not this time.

He left Vietnam in June 2021 because he couldn’t find a job for his fiancée as a skilled worker. As a result, they spent Christmas and New Year’s with his family in Germany.

He had no idea what would happen once they were tested when they arrived in HCMC.

With a negative COVID test result, Jankowfsky and his fiancée were permitted to return home for quarantine, which he considered suitable.

Jankowfsky said that Vietnam will relax laws in the near future, enabling foreigners to enter the country since companies had a high need for their skills.

“Do not lie and follow the rules”

On January 9, Paul Hui, a Canadian, travelled from Canada to HCMC through Japan.

Foreigners must ensure that they are authorized as “essential foreign workers” by the local People’s Committee where they are working for a successful return to Vietnam, he added.

Following this approval, foreigners must get permission to enter from the immigration service. They are then forced to phone all major airlines with offices in Vietnam in order to locate flights, rather than booking flights online through third-party sites. He stated that he may use the People’s Committee clearance he had secured for charter flights in 2021.

Passengers get off a Vietnam Airlines plane on January 1, 2021. Photo: Vietnam Airlines
Passengers get off a Vietnam Airlines plane on January 1, 2021.

Furthermore, there has been considerable misconception regarding requesting permission to house quarantine, according to Hui, “but this is not true.” People only need to register their address upon arrival and make sure they remain there until the local medical department calls them.

“If they cannot find you, well, you are in trouble. The key here is do not lie and follow the rules.”

Hui described the three-day home quarantine as a “huge relief.” On the third day of being quarantined, people can request a private PCR test provider to have the test conducted at home, and if the result is negative for the virus, they can leave.

Be prepared for pricey tickets and other fees

Marianne Therese Prado arrived in HCMC on January 13th on a commercial airplane after flying in from the Philippines. She had returned home for the holidays and New Year’s to meet her family after a two-year hiatus.

Prado began arranging her travel documents about a year ago, even before she was vaccinated. According to her, the most important aspect was the re-entry permission to Vietnam secured by her company as a foreign expert.

She advised people to be prepared for pricey tickets and any additional fees that may occur, and to constantly monitore social media for current information.

She tested positive for the new coronavirus upon arrival in HCMC and was ordered to quarantine in a field hospital.

She said: “I’ve tried to be mentally prepared for any situation that can happen.”

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