Last week, Viet Nam News asked readers for their opinions about the Government offering a single visa for Thailand, Cambodia and Viet Nam. The proposal is now under consideration. All responders supported the idea, but most expressed hope for an easier visa-application process. Here are some of the responses:
The Culture, Sports and Tourism Department of central Khanh Hoa Province has banned local travel agencies letting foreign visitors hire motorbikes without driving licences.
The move came after the National Administration of Tourism requested all tourism departments nation-wide to seriously follow regulations when hiring motorbikes to foreigners.
It said this was an attempt to ensure the safety of foreign visitors travelling in Viet Nam where the traffic often seemed out of control.
Under the regulations, all foreigners unable to get driving licences for the first three months of their stay can use licences issued in their countries or international driving licences.
What do you think about the crackdown? Would it discourage you from visiting many of the nation's distant attractions? Does the move conflict with policies promoting national tourism?
If Viet Nam allows foreign visitors to drive motorbikes without licences, do you think this is discriminatory in any way or a move in the genuine interests of safety?
Please reply by email to: firstname.lastname@example.org, or by fax to (84-4) 3 933 2311. Letters can be sent to The Editor, Viet Nam News, 79 Ly Thuong Kiet Street, Ha Noi. Replies to next week's questions must be received by Thursday morning, September 12, 2013. — VNS
Herve Nguyen, French, HCM City
I understand that some countries need the money to keep the immigration offices operating, but in asking tourists for high fees and creating complicated application procedures, they might have forgotten the bigger picture.
Even if visas are free, countries still gain because of the number of tourists who flock in. In many cases, tourists decide to visit a country partly because of easy visa procedures. Tourists often want to escape their frantic lives and head for quiet resorts overseas. So they avoid nations with complicated visa procedures.
Whether it is single visa for entry into multiple countries, or it is one visa for one country, the most important thing is to make the application easier for tourists. I love travelling, but I often feel terribly tired when I apply for a visa. Any new policy promoting easier visa application procedures, or visas on arrival, or better, no visa applications at all, makes life much easier.
Cu Hong Anh, Vietnamese, Ha Noi
I think the new policy will attract visitors to Viet Nam. The one-visa procedure for three countries will, I feel, also give tourism companies in Viet Nam a chance to integrate more with companies in Thailand and Cambodia.
However, to be effective, the three countries need a strategy to organise tours, hotels and other facility for tourists. I hope the one-visa policy is also expanded to other countries in ASEAN for the convenience of tourists.
John Boag, American, HCM City
The first impression a tourist receives of a foreign country is obtaining a visa. Therefore the process must be simple and honest. Unfortunately, Viet Nam's tourist system is ripe with fraud and abuse because many travel agencies deliberately deceive foreign visitors.
Tourists are often led to believe the cost of a visa is more than what it really is. The extra money extracted from them is pocketed by these scammers, making losers of both tourists and the Government.
Shane Isackson, Australian, HCM City
I think tourists would be much more motivated to visit Viet Nam if a Thai-style Visa on Arrival scheme was implemented. Many tourists can be quite turned off by the difficult and expensive visa process in visiting Viet Nam.
A single visa would definitely motivate tourists travelling around South East Asia to "pop over" to Viet Nam and have a look.
Personally, I would feel more motivated to travel around a bit more, especially into Cambodia. But importantly, a visa-on-arrival would motivate others travelling in places like Thailand and Cambodia to swing by Viet Nam.
David Wood, English, Nha Trang
What I am more concerned about is how much the total cost of this triple visa would be. In my opinion, for it to have any affect on tourism in Viet Nam, it needs to be free, as it is in Thailand.
It's all to do with the cost. Like most people, if I am in Thailand or Cambodia and find I have time for a visit somewhere else, I would be tempted, That's where a triple visa could be beneficial for Viet Nam.
Thailand has far more visitors than Viet Nam and even if only a small proportion of those tourists could be drawn away, it would benefit Viet Nam enormously, but they are only going to be tempted if it's free.
Andrew Burden, Canadian, Ha Noi
Visas are always an inconvenience. I receive upon arrival, a 90 day stamp in Hong Kong and Malaysia. Welcome! In the Philippines and Thailand, it's 30 days, but if I arrive overland in Thailand, it's only 15 days. And I have to pay in Cambodia, Laos, Viet Nam. Why?
If this proposed trilateral agreement means I can flit, fly and drive seamlessly, then I say bring it on. If I have to pay for this proposed Thai visa-then I am off to Kuala Lumpur.
Scams are many and they are disgusting. The late bus arrives at a specific hotel. It's always too dark to search for a better deal. The meal stops along the way charge double normal prices.
Travel agents charge a lot for a visa and going to embassies is time consuming and often results in shorter-length visas. The lesson is be independent and be punished. Grease some palms and become a rock star!
Cambodia's border scams me by requiring a hard copy photo, regardless that my passport is scanned and a camera is on the counter. The same scam exists at the airport in Ha Noi.
ASEAN's tourism ministers need to get real, get organised and stop ripping off international travellers.
Bob Christianson, American, San Diego
Combining the three countries into one visa is very "tourist friendly" idea and should increase visits. But please keep the costs down.
Charlie White , Australian, HCM City
It would be great if a single-visa scheme included other Southeast Asian countries like Laos, Malaysia and Singapore. This would cover the two trips I did many years ago.
Hopefully, they could also introduce a "barriers down" system like in Europe. This would mean trains would not have to stop at borders. For instance, they could go from HCM City to Phnom Penh, Phnom Penh to Bangkok and Bangkok to Singapore without a stop at Butterworth.
I hate plane travel and especially airports - and especially Bangkok airport! — VNS