Vietnam is a land of irony. As a tourist, you’ll first be advised to keep your passport with you at all times. Then, each hotel requires you to leave your passport with them for at least part of your stay. You start to get overly comfortable. Eventually, your passport may be lost or stolen. That’s when everyone starts telling you not to worry.
DON’T LISTEN TO THEM! When I tell you that you need to take your passport wherever you travel in Vietnam, I mean it. And I speak from experience.
Among other myths about your Vietnam visa and passport, everyone who tells you that you don’t need to travel with them is ignoring one simple fact: you have to be registered with the police wherever you spend more than one night. And they need to see both your passport and the official visa stamp in order to register you.
Yes, that’s why your hotels keep requesting your passport from you.
How we got in trouble with the police
There was three of us on my trip to Ben Tre.
My one friend had her passport card. My second friend, who is Vietnamese, had brought her Vietnam passport with her.
Guess what. Neither were enough.
Here’s the full story.
Our nha nghi (motel) in Ben Tre doesn’t get many foreigners. So, you might imagine we already stick out like a sore thumb. Can’t help your race, though. When you travel in Vietnam, you have to trust that bad things will happen to you cause you’re foreign. It’s sad but tends to be true.
But, lucky us, we happened upon the one nha nghi that was being staked out by the police.
Not for us, of course. There was some bad guy, it seems, who had stayed at the same motel recently.
When we checked in, the police noticed and decided to check us out.
That’s when we got a knock on the door. The policeman stuck in his head, and all he could do to me was smile, because he had my visa and passport in his hands.
My friends, though, weren’t so fortunate. The police wanted to see the visa stamp on my first friend’s passport, and claimed that they had to see the American passport of our Vietnamese friend. My friends, therefore, had to go downstairs and argue their case.
No use arguing with the police, though. The hotel got fined for accepting our “invalid” identification. We are fortunate that the hotel didn’t hate us for the incident.