Following my visit a few days ago, I thought I’d leave some information here for anyone considering using this office to get a visa.
336 Nguyen Tri Phuong
Ho Chi Minh City
Tel: 08 834 6264
Fax: 08 834 6260
Visa department’s Fax: 08 927 1718
The office is to the west of centre - near the “Cho Lon” Chinatown area. A taxi from the centre will take 20 to 30 minutes and cost around VND40,000. (About NT$80.) It is rather too far to walk. The office is in its own building and clearly signed outside.
Nguyen Tri Phuong is very long and continues into District 5. Assuming you are approaching from District 3 or 1 (ie the centre) then from 3 Thang 2 (Ba Thang Hai) Street or Ly Thai To Street you should turn left into Nguyen Tri Phuong. From Nguyen Chi Thanh Street, you should turn right into Nguyen Tri Phuong. The TECO is located between these two intersections.
Its best to write down the address for the taxi driver. In Vietnamese (hopefully this works on your screen) its:
336 Nguyễn Tri Phương
(giữa 3 Tháng 2 và Nguyễn Chí Thanh)
This office is very busy and they have a ticket/number system. You must arrive 0800 to 1100 or 1430 to 1600 to submit documents. Whatever it is you wish to collect you must collect 1330 to 1430. They close for lunch between 1200 and 1300 - though once you’ve got your number you should be OK.
At the entry gate there is a security guy. They will ask you what you want and then give you a number or turn you away if you’ve come at the wrong time. They can also give you any forms you might need - but there are no photocopying facilities/proper writing desks etc. (There is a surface you can use in the waiting area.) Also any explanatory notes are generally in Vietnamese and Chinese only. Most of the staff can speak English - but its not the ideal location to have an in-depth chat - and you may find it difficult to get any advice at all. If at all possible, download any forms you need from the various websites and complete them before arrival.
Note that in my three visits there, I have never seen anyone who is not either Vietnamese or Taiwanese. The vast majority of applicants are youngish Vietnamese females - sometimes are accompanied by their older Taiwanese blokes. In fact if you’re a white westerner like me, you become the object of some curiosity and this is the main respite from the tedium.
Come prepared. Saigon is hot, but the TECO is hotter. Whilst waiting you must sit on plastic chairs under a tin roof. There is no aircon. It is a depressing place - complete with empty magazine racks and a couple of faded posters. Even the Taipei 101 poster looks like its been there 20 years. There’s also a large number of marriage notices posted - its easy to see where much of the business of this office comes from.
In my case I got my number at around 1030 and waited until 1130. It was obvious I wasn’t going to be seen before lunch so I left and came back at 1400 when they “finished off” the numbers they’d issued before 1100 but were not able to see by 1200.
When your number comes up, go to the window - pushing politely if necessary and then use your body mass to occupy as much of the space as possible. Do not be surprised if while you are exchanging opening pleasantries some un-numbered individual thrusts their tentacle under your nose, through the hole in the perspex and flaps their paperwork in the face of the person your speaking to.
Where to go for lunch/to cool down
I recommend the “Pho 24” restaurant - opposite and left a little down Nguyen Tri Phuong. It is well air conditioned and has the usual Pho 24 range of noodles, spring rolls and juices etc. This part of Saigon is otherwise devoid of the decent airconned places that proliferate in touristy areas.
If you need something copied
The TECO might take pity on a hapless foreigner - but really these facilities are not available. To copy something, turn left as you exit the TECO and walk about 50 yards. There is photocopying shop that will copy stuff for you.
Fees - important
These absolutely must be paid in USD cash. They have change if you don’t have the exact money. The general rule in VN that anything quoted in USD can be paid in the VND equivalent does NOT apply. Neither can you pay in Taiwan Dollars. None of the local banks change VND into USD. If you arrive with something else you must find a jewellery shop and take your chances - but English is not widely spoken and you could be cheated. So, make sure you go armed with USD. If you don’t have any, then buy USD in district 1 - my favourite forex place is in Le Loi (near the theatre - a few doors in from Givraly) - it is a souvenir shop with an “EXIMBANK” booth and clearly displayed rates outside. It is difficult to change Taiwan Dollars anywhere in Vietnam.
I was applying for a 60-day visitors visa. The fee is US$54 for a two day service and US$36 for standard service (5 working days I think). There was no same day service. I handed in the form, 2 photos and my UK passport. They gave me a receipt to take to the cashier who takes a copy. You then return 1330 to 1430 with your receipt on the appointed day to collect. They wanted a guarantee from Taiwan including a copy of an ID card. I didn’t have this, but they accepted a fax - so I got something faxed direct from Taiwan to their office.
All-in-all TECO Saigon is a pretty depressing experience, but with patience you should be able to get what you need there.