Vietnam is a great country to explore, from unique culture, tasteful cuisine to breathtaking landscapes and endless adventures on motorbike. With the population of almost 90 millions and 54 ethnic groups, the country blessed with a diverse culture from North to South. Vietnamese cuisine has been popularized by being featured on top gourmet magazine, tried by celebrities chef. Gordon Ramsay once told audience of the Master Chef that he can never forget a bowl of “hủ tíu” he tried on Mekong Delta river. Thanks to the S shape, Vietnam lies through various geographical features, from mountain range to flat paddy field. It has been yearned by travelers around the world and is usually in the list of those who wish to travel the South-east Asia.
However, the visa overly complicated procedures is one of the issues preventing the country’s tourism from skyrocketing. Up to June 30th, 2015. Only 13 countries are exempted from Vietnamese visa requirements: Russia, Korea, Japan, 4 Nordic countries (Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark) and 9 ASEAN countries (Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Burma, the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Indonesia.)
Great news is that citizens from Western Europe(1) (Italy, U.K., France, Spain, Germany) and Belarus(2) are also enjoy visa-free when entering from 1st July, 2015. Travelers from Western Europe will be able to enjoy a 15-day-visit without any requirements until 30th June, 2016, while Belarus travelers won’t need obtain any visa in advance up to 30th June, 2016. According to some sources, Canadian, Australian and New Zealander soon will be dropped off visa requirements later this year.
Last year, nearly 8 million foreigners visited Vietnam, but arrivals dropped by nearly 13 percent in the first five months of this year to about 3.3 million, according to government figures.
Visitors from China saw a big drop of 30 percent after the parking of a giant Chinese oil rig near the Paracel islands last summer sparked widespread anti-China protests in Vietnam. The number of tourists from Russia declined by 16 percent, while arrivals from other European countries dropped by 7 percent. (3)
The visa lift-off is a good sign for Vietnam tourism since its UNESCO sites (Ha Long Bay, Hoi An Old Quarter, Son Doong Cave, etc) are worth a visit, and I know many travelers have put them onto their bucket list already. In the meantime, travelers from Western Europe and Belarus can rejoice and be mind free in exploring my country.