Applying for a visa for Vietnam can be quite confusing, unless you know where to look.
I'm taking the family to Vietnam in July, but a bit bewildered about the need for visas and — if required — how to get them. There seems to be a proliferation of privately-operated sites offering services but they all smell like scams to me.
Ah yes, I found this process quite confusing when I applied for a Vietnam visa last year. I was told by Contiki that I could get a visa at the airport, but it was better to apply for one in advance. There are definitely a lot of not-so-professional looking sites out there and even the Vietnam Embassy's site looks like it was made for Geocities in 1998. Even though I eventually figured out what I needed to do, trying to go through it again to give you advice was just as confusing! So I emailed the embassy and received a quick response.
It costs $120 for a one month single-entry visa. To get it, you'll need to go to visa.mofa.gov.vn, which is the only legitimate website authorised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Vietnam and fill out the application form, which you then print and send to the embassy in Wellington with your passport and a cheque.
I received my passport with visa back within the week.
I also asked Peter Tuohy of Travcour for some more advice on the visa on arrival option.
He says: "There are numerous companies online (I assume based in Vietnam) who offer the services of arranging with Vietnam Immigration for a visa to be available at the airport of arrival.
"The traveller is sent a confirmation by email (that also lists other travellers, so not very private). On arrival the passenger swings by the 'Visa Collection' desk before passing through Immigration.
"I have tried both. The visa in advance cost more, but the visa on arrival was more hassle and time-consuming on arrival in Vietnam. I would recommend a visa in advance if time permits."
He also said Travcour obtained many visas every week for clients of travel agents without incident and that the Embassy of Vietnam is one of the better embassies they work with. So it seems like the visa in advance is definitely the way to go.
We're travelling to Morocco and Barcelona soon. I want to be able to use my cellphone over there in case of emergencies (and so I can prebook attractions and get the tickets sent to the phone instead of queueing!).
I have a Skinny phone that is unlocked. Do you have any idea how much sim cards and rates are over in either country? I can't seem to find any recent info. I don't really want to use roaming. Any info appreciated!
One thing I've learned from experience is that getting a local sim card beats roaming just about every time. Some cell companies will have data packs for various countries that seem reasonable, but still can't beat the cheapness of a local plan — often they put NZ plans to shame.
I've done a bit of research online using prepaid-data-sim-card.wikia.com, a handy resource.
In Morocco, you can buy a sim card called Jawal 4G at Marac Telecom stores for about 30DH, which is around $4. This comes with 10DH credit, which is enough for 1GB of data to use over three days. Though this might change, it's still bound to be really cheap.
In Spain, all SIM cards must be registered by law, so you'll need to have your passport with you. Go to a store run by one shop of the four network operators (movistar, Vodafone, orange or yoigo), which will be more reliable but cost more, or go to a smaller reseller that uses the same network. You can also buy SIMs at the airport, but apparently they're quite overpriced.
Charges vary between the networks from five to 10 euros ($7 to $15) - or some give them free if you choose a certain plan. I've seen Vodafone and orange recommended as the best networks for travellers. Data plans vary depending on how long you'll be there, but seem quite reasonable, if not as cheap as Morocco.
David Hughes has a few tips for road-tripping in the US and staying in motels along the way.
"My wife and I travelled the western states of the US and Canada in 2015 for three months with no prior bookings. We would get on the internet the night before we moved on to see what was available near our next destination.
"We tried not to spend more than NZ$100 a night and found you can get reasonable accommodation in most places. Don't stay in the cities if you can avoid it. We recommend Days Inn, Comfort Inns (Choice group), even Motel 6, which are basic, and the occasional local motel. It was surprising that a lot of them supplied breakfast (basic in some places).
"All in all we had no complaints except for a couple we thought were not up to scratch.
Avoid going to Las Vegas on a weekend and staying in San Francisco is expensive.
Because we are in our 70s we looked for three things: breakfast, Wi-Fi, and ground floor unless there was a lift and this was possible nearly everywhere. In fact we stayed in a lot of really nice places and enjoyed our stay."