Thursday, March 1, 2007

Visa, Vaccinations, Ticket & More

This post is not an interesting read unless you plan to travel to Vietnam or China yourself in the near future. I recommend new and other readers to choose a different post from any of the menus on the left side, if you do not happen to be fascinated by visa applications, vaccination injections and plane tickets. I also will find it useful myself to be able to easily look up what I did and how I did it later on.

My first intention was to apply for visa in Sweden since I am a Swedish citizen, but complications quickly emerged due to the fact that I had to send my passport and cash by valued mail as well as including a valued pre-stamped return envelope. The systems are different from Germany (I live currently in Germany) and Sweden, thus that was not going to work. Second alternative was to apply for visa in Germany, but there are limitations on what type of visa I can apply for in a foreign country.

As a result, I contacted an agency in Vietnam that offers "visa-on-arrival". It works perfectly. The agency sends you a word document by e-mail to fill out. You simply enter your personal data and travel specifications, and send it back electronically. Quickly you get a reply that your invitation letter is in progress. A few days later you receive another e-mail with the invitation letter which you simply print out and bring to the immigration's office at the airport, and they issue your visa on the spot. The cost is about 20 dollars for the invitation letter and maximum 20 dollars for the visa, cheaper, or the same as in Europe, but much more convenient. It is only possible to apply for a 30 days visa this way, but since I will be 45 days in Vietnam I will later get an extension. This can easily be purchased and obtained in any large city in Vietnam. Rumours has it that it costs about 20 dollars.

I have not found a similar service for the Chinese visa. However, I face the same complications applying for a visa in Europe as with the Vietnamese visa. The solution is simply to apply and obtain a visa in Hanoi, Vietnam. This is both faster and cheaper. I could not apply for 3-month visa in Europe even if I wished to do so. The 3-month visa is effective on the day of issuing, thus I misuse 45 days of it travelling Vietnam, not leaving enough days to travel the 55 days I plan to in China.

My first thought was to keep the vaccinations limited, but once I got started and listened too much to the doctors and friends around me, I still ended up taking all the recommended injections. It is, nevertheless, a fairly affordable insurance to getting ill. Some of the deceases are actually also deadly, although the odds are very low. Vaccinations I have received:
Hepatitis A & B
Polio (tablets)
Malarone (Malaria preventive medication, tablets)

It is also recommended that you take Japanese B Encephalitis, but at 300 Euros I set my limit. The chances of getting infected are very, very small, especially if you use mosquito net, spray and lotion regularly. In any case, this will become a habit avoiding contracting Malaria. I have chosen a preventive medication for Malaria due to horrible experiences with Malaria pills in the past. Three hospital visits (two in Malaysia, one in Thailand), I know what I am talking about. Preventive medication means you do not regularly take any pills should you not feel any symptoms. If you develop a fever you take the medication and seek a medical facility.

I did a lot of research here, but already early on I found the cheapest flight from Europe with Cathay Pacific Airways in the beginning of April. It is a Hong Kong based airline offering great deals to China and South East Asia with connecting flights. I decided to only buy a one-way ticket to be as flexible as possible. A round trip with fixed dates would have been slightly cheaper but that offers no opportunity of altering my plans. Two flexible one-way tickets are too expensive, thus not an option.

Cathay Pacific Economy class has a 20 kg luggage check-in limit. This posseses a problem as my bike alone weights around 17 kg, leaving only 3 kg for remaining check-in luggage. Extra kilos are supposedly charged at about 35 Euros per kilo. Thankfully you are allowed 7 kg hand luggage, but it does not solve the entire problem. I guess I just have to put on the happy face that Monday morning, April 2, 2007, and do my best to charm the crew, because I will most definitely have more then 20 kg to check-in.


  1. Good luck on your trip. I haven't myself been to Vietnam, but I have been several places in East Asia. I am sure that you will have a wonderful time.

    I wanted to introduce you to a place where you can share information about bicycle touring worldwide and in particular about bicycle touring in Vietnam.

    Please take a look and perhaps add a review of your favorite place to tour. I would appreciate any contribution you could make to help future bicycle tourists!

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  2. I will add a link and make sure to comment on my destinations once I have visited them


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