Moving to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Before I get into the actual process of what we had to go through in order to move to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam during the Coronavirus pandemic, I'm going to give a little background information. In February 2020, my boyfriend and I moved to Prague to teach English. Shortly after, the pandemic went into full effect and everything got shut down around the world. This meant that we weren't able to get our visas processed and had to return back home to LA in June- only 4 months after moving there.

So basically ever since getting home in June 2020, we have been trying to find a teaching job abroad again. We went through so many ups and downs in this process- being hired by many schools, but then somehow it not working out or the start date kept getting pushed back due to different visa regulations from COVID-19.

Finally in December 2020, we found the company we really wanted to work for in the location we really wanted to live in! EMG Education in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. They hired us pretty quickly and told us we would be flying to HCMC on January 21, 2021. We were so excited!

But then, we told them Nick only had 1 page left in his passport, and they said he needed to get a new one before he comes to Vietnam. So he went to expedite the process that day, but again, due to COVID-19 the fastest option was 4-6 weeks- which was when we were supposed to be on the plane!

They told us his passport needed to be back by January 11 if we wanted to be on the January 21 flight, and we just knew that wasn't possible. So we were pretty bummed and started looking for other positions. AGAIN.

But on January 14, Nick's passport arrived and we just thought let's just ask and see if it's somehow still possible. And it was! We just took our COVID-19 test and were on the plane a week later. It was crazy.

Before Departure

In order to board the plane and get a visa upon arrival in Vietnam, we needed to bring the following documents with our passport:

  • Negative RT-PCR COVID-19 test

  • Visa welcome letter (given to you by your school/company)

  • Original Bachelor's degree

  • Apostilled Bachelor's degree

  • Original teaching certificate

The Journey

Our total journey was 40 hours. We had a 16 hour flight from LAX to Dubai, a 17 hour layover in Dubai, and a 7 hour flight to HCMC.

We arrived at LAX 3 hours before our flight. For check-in, we needed our negative COVID test and our passports. We checked in our luggage, got both boarding passes, and a free hotel voucher for our layover in Dubai. Then, we went through security like normal and went to our gate. In total, everything took about 30 minutes, so we were there extremely early. But better safe then sorry!

We flew with Emirates airlines, and it was so nice! The TV screens were huge, the food was good, and since the plane was so empty- everyone had their own row to lay down. The only thing that was different from a flight before COVID was that everyone had to wear their masks the entire time, and the flight attendants were wearing hazmat suits and clear face guards over their masks. Overall, the 16 hours went by really fast.

When we arrived in Dubai, we just followed signs to exit the airport. In order to exit, we had to show our negative COVID test and go through customs/immigration. It was super fast and very relaxed- not a hazmat suit in sight. Then, we went to the Emirates hotel desk and they called the shuttle bus for us to take us to the airport hotel for the night!

In Dubai, it's illegal for unmarried people to spend the night together or even show public displays of affection. So Nick & I were given separate hotel rooms and were very aware of making sure we didn't touch in any way.

We checked into our rooms and then went down to the hotel's Italian restaurant for a free 4-course meal (thanks again Emirates!). Then, we headed back upstairs to shower and fall asleep.

We both woke up really early since our sleeping schedule was off and we decided to get an Uber and go see Dubai for about 2 hours before we needed to get to the airport. It was so awesome because we didn't think we'd be able to go out and see the city due to the pandemic. We got the best Uber driver who was just supposed to take us to the downtown area and drop us off, but he ended up just being our tour guide for the 2 hours and showed us all the top spots in Dubai!

After we were dropped back off at the hotel, we grabbed our bags and took the shuttle back to the airport. We already had our boarding pass so we headed straight for immigration and security- we got through in about 10 minutes.

Then, we boarded our flight to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. This flight was definitely more full than the flight from LA to Dubai, but we were still able to have our own rows to completely lay down and enjoy the 7-hour journey.

Arriving in HCMC

HCMC airport was the complete opposite of the Dubai airport- everyone was in hazmat suits and it was a lot more strict with all the paperwork. It took us about 3 hours from the time we landed to get through all of the steps in the airport and get to our hotel. This is exactly what we had to do:

Step 1: Health Check

Right after exiting the airplane we had to wait in a health check line. We didn't have to do a COVID test or even take our temperature, all we had to do was scan a QR code and fill out a health declaration form online. But this line took FOREVER. After about 1.5 hours of waiting in line, we finally got to the front. We showed them our phone with our personal QR code saying we completed the health form and we gave them our negative COVID tests. Then, they printed out an official form stating that we're approved and don't have COVID.

In a perfect world, that would've taken literally 2 minutes. But with all of the people from the plane in line and only 2 people checking/printing the forms it took SO long.

Step 2: Visa On-Arrival

Once we had the health form, we followed the signs to go to the Visa On-Arrival desk. Then we waited in line again to submit our paperwork for our visa approval. In order to apply you need:

  • Passport

  • Visa welcome letter (given to you by your school/company)

  • Visa application (can fill out there or print it out in advance before your flight)

  • 1 Passport photo

Once we got to the front of the line, we gave them our documents and passports, then waited to be called. It took about 10-15 minutes before they called our names. Once they did, we went up and got our passports and paid them $25 USD each with exact cash- they don't have change so it needs to be exact.

Step 3: Immigration

Now it was time to enter Vietnam! We followed the signs for the immigration counter and waited in line yet again. Once we got to the front we gave the officer our:

  • Passports (with visas in them)

  • Boarding passes (from the flight we were just on)

  • Health forms (from the first line we waited in)

Step 4: Luggage

Since it took so long to get down to the luggage carousel, someone had already taken off all the luggage and separated it. So we found our bags very quickly which was awesome!

When we moved to Chongqing and Prague our luggage got lost both times, so Nick and I were just hoping that they wouldn't be lost this time! We were very happy.

Step 5: Getting to Quarantine

Once we had our luggage, someone in a hazmat suit came up to us and asked us which hotel we were quarantining at. Our company had already told us in advance which hotel we were staying at and we submitted the payment while we were still at home.

Once they confirmed our names on the list of people staying at that hotel, they gave us hazmat suits to put on and had us wait for more people before the shuttle bus could take us to the hotel. Once there was about 8-9 people, we were escorted outside to a shuttle bus.

Step 6: Checking In

Once we pulled up to the hotel, the driver took out all of our luggage and sprayed it with disinfectant spray. Then, one group at a time we went into the hotel lobby. There was a table with individual stacks of papers and keys, so we just had to find the stack with our name on it. We grabbed our papers and keys, then went up to our room. Since we were required to pay in advance, it was a completely contactless check-in! It was super quick, which was nice because we were exhausted.

Now what?

Vietnam requires a 14-day quarantine where we were not allowed to leave the room. Our meals were delivered to us 3 times a day and we just put the trash outside for someone to clean up.

Stay tuned for my blog post going into more detail about what exactly we went through in quarantine!

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