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Truth about passport rules in Vietnam

Nha Trang, Vietnam
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Truth about passport rules in Vietnam

There is a lot of controversy and discussion by travelers on what in fact the Passport policy is in Vietnam. I have encountered travelers that angrily argue red faced with receptionists that the Passport is the property of their government and that a photocopy would have to suffice. The receptionist is simply doing her job and fulfilling the local authority’s requirements.

All hotels are required to register you in a government database for your protection and theirs. It used to be (and still is for some) That the original passport be taken to the local police station to be recorded and then returned to the hotel to be kept on the travelers behalf for the duration of their stay. Nowadays, many hotels are computerized and the information as of 2010 can be entered via an online web site. Many of these hotels are located in larger cities and tourist areas where the local authorities would be overwhelmed by the amount of registrations so the local municipality and police district have adopted the process of the hotel copying your passport, recording the information and submitting the information in bulk. Often your passports will be returned to you after copying. Many of the smaller Guesthouses and B&B will want to retain your passport for assurance that a person will not check out without paying. (It happens more than you think) So…. In most tourist areas you will find that a photocopy of your documents will be enough to satisfy the authority’s requirements BUT……

If you are the type to adventure away from the main tourist areas and see a bit of “Real Vietnam” you will find in many cases that the local wards will still require the original passports be presented to the police for recording purposes The hotel will then be required by the police to keep your passports on hand to be presented whenever they decide to pop by for a late evening inspection to check the occupied rooms against the guests. If for any reason the hotel does not have them on hand, the establishment will be fined the equivalent of 250 USD, and with the inexpensive rates the guesthouses charge, that fine would wipe out a months profits. In areas such as District 1&3 in Saigon, the old quarter in Hanoi along with the tourist areas in cities and locations such as Mui Ne, Nha Trang, Hoi An, a person may be able to retain their passport and leave a photocopy with the hotel (usually 3 star or better). Non computerized Guesthouses may require passport. Outside tourist areas and in places such as Tuy Hoa, Buon Ma Thuot, Kom Tum, Quy Nhon and other more out of the way places will be required to hold onto your passport….. End of story. The hotel has no say in the matter.

Arguing red faced with a receptionist or pointing at the property of line in your passport makes no difference. Save yourself the frustration and if you want to stay, be prepared to leave your passport with the front desk. Believe me that it is in the best interest of the hotel not to lose your documents. Hotel owners (in my province) were recently forced to attend a mandatory seminar on the security for travelers that included the handling of passports. The authorities take this matter very seriously (so it would seem). Please ignore the people who tell you photocopies are ok….. They are mistaken. There are also those that worry about not having identity cards with them……. No problem, the government knows who and where you are through this same system. As long as you have a bank card, or even your name sewn on your underwear, you can be identified. Most people have something else with them…. ie a credit card, also, if you need to rent a motorcycle, you are probably already in an area where they can return your passport without fear of liability.

There you have it…. Vietnam’s passport game. You want to stay? You got to play.

Owee

www.owee58.com

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Pattaya, Thailand
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for Pattaya, Ho Chi Minh City
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1. Re: Truth about passport rules in Vietnam

I agree little late to whinge when already booked and def no need to create a scene with the hotel reception. As you aptly put it they are only doing their job.

The key is to do your homework before you stay and ask what a hotel's policy regarding passports. :)

Port Hedland...
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2. Re: Truth about passport rules in Vietnam

Owee....Thank you for your great detailed information (once again)

Possibly a good one to post up in the articles or top Q's sections.

rural West Aussie
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for Perth
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3. Re: Truth about passport rules in Vietnam

Made it a Top Question :-) Quicker and easier than a sticky.

Edited: 11:46 am, January 05, 2012
Nha Trang, Vietnam
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4. Re: Truth about passport rules in Vietnam

Only makes it marginally (like 0.0005%) more likely that it will be read before someone asks it again :-(

Tarentum...
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for Da Nang, Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park
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5. Re: Truth about passport rules in Vietnam

I don't understand the reluctance to part with the passport....Only once did I have a problem...left for the airport very early and forgot to get my passport...who's fault...both of ours I guess. As to retrieving my passport from the desk to book airline tickets or change money at a bank, there's never been a problem....I simply return it when finished. I have seen people who have lost their passports or have had them stolen......have never seen that happen at a hotel though.

6. Re: Truth about passport rules in Vietnam

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rural West Aussie
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for Perth
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7. Re: Truth about passport rules in Vietnam

True, OAOR, but it's easier for the rest of use to find and post the link ;-)

Nha Trang, Vietnam
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8. Re: Truth about passport rules in Vietnam

I do understand the reluctance, drifter1dc, and I hate to part with mine. I surrender it though, because I have to.

It is a personal, very personal document and it contains a lot of information that can be used against the person it was issued to.

In my opinion a passport has no business being in the care of a hotel reception, let alone be thrown carelessly into an unlocked drawer in the counter, which happens frequently.

Alas, that is the way it has to be, but we do not have to like it. Same as taxes, a necessary evil.

Edited: 12:36 pm, January 05, 2012
Union, Kentucky
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9. Re: Truth about passport rules in Vietnam

The Tour company we are using says that we can just show the copy of our passport at our hotel.

Melbourne, Australia
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10. Re: Truth about passport rules in Vietnam

Thanks Owee for the info.

Does that mean we need to take our passports with us when we head to Sapa for a three day/one night homestay trek and a one night Ha Long Bay tour or do we need to leave them at our hotel in Hanoi that will be our base?

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