Doing Business In Vietnam

  1. Vietnam is ranked 99th out of 185 economies in Doing Business 2013, with no change in overall ranking from last year.
  2. According to the latest Enterprise Surveys (2009), the top obstacles to running a business in Vietnam include Access to Finance and the Practices of the Informal Sector. 55.6% of firms reported competing with unregistered or informal firms, compared to 50.1% regionally. Only 49.9% of firms have a line of credit or loans from financial institutions, though that figure is higher than the regional average of 40.4%.
  3. Of the 33 sectors covered by the Investing Across Sectors indicators, 18 are fully open to foreign equity ownership in Vietnam, including manufacturing industries. Overt statutory ownership restrictions exist primarily in strategic services sectors, such as telecommunications (fixed-line and wireless/mobile), electricity transmission and distribution, and select transportation sectors.
  4. Vietnam’s economic freedom score is 51.3, making its economy the 136th freest in the 2012 Index. Its score is 0.3 point worse than last year, with a notable improvement in trade freedom counterbalanced by lower scores in government spending and monetary freedom. Vietnam is ranked 29th out of 41 countries in the Asia–Pacific region, and its overall score is lower than the world and regional averages.

Source: World Bank


Visa Information

Tourist visas allow visitors to enter and exit Vietnam at Hanoi, HCMC and Danang airports airports or at any of its plentiful land borders, shared with Cambodia, China and Laos.
Tourist visas are valid for a single 30-day stay. The government often talks about issuing visas on arrival to certain favoured nationalities, but as yet this sensible scheme has failed to materialise beyond the immediate Asean neighbours. Arranging the paperwork for a Vietnamese visa has become fairly straightforward, but it remains expensive and unnecessarily time-consuming. Processing a tourist-visa application typically takes four or five working days in countries in the West.
It is possible to arrange a visa on arrival through a Vietnamese travel agent. They will need passport details in advance and will send a confirmation for the visa to be issued at your airport of arrival.
In Asia the best place to pick up a Vietnamese visa is Cambodia, where it costs around US$30 and can be arranged the same day. Bangkok is also a popular place as many agents offer cheap packages with an air ticket and visa thrown in.
If you plan to spend more than a month in Vietnam, or if you plan to exit Vietnam and enter again from Cambodia or Laos, arrange a three-month multiple-entry visa. These cost around US$95 in Cambodia, but are not available from all Vietnamese embassies.
In our experience personal appearance influences the reception you receive from airport immigration – if you wear shorts or scruffy clothing, or look dirty or unshaven, you can expect problems. Try your best to look ‘respectable’.
Business visas
Business visas are usually valid for three or six months, and allow multiple entries and the right to work. Getting a business visa has now become cheap and easy, although prices are about double those of a tourist visa. It is generally easier to apply for a business visa once in Vietnam, after having arrived on a tourist visa. Or pick one up in Cambodia.
Re-Entry Visas
It’s possible to enter Cambodia or Laos from Vietnam and then re-enter without having to apply for another visa. However, you must apply for a re-entry visa before you leave Vietnam. If you do not have a re-entry visa, you will have to go through the whole visa process again.
Re-entry visas are easiest to arrange in Hanoi or HCMC, but you will almost certainly have to ask a travel agent to do the paperwork for you. Travel agents charge about US$25 for this service and can complete the procedure in a day or two.
Student Visas
A student visa is usually arranged after your arrival. It’s acceptable to enter Vietnam on a tourist visa, enrol in a Vietnamese language course and then apply at the immigration police for a change in status. In reality, the easiest way to do it is to contact a travel company and have them help you make the application.
Visa Extensions
If you’ve got the dollars, they’ve got the rubber stamp. Tourist-visa extensions officially cost as little as US$10, but it is easier to pay more and sort this out through a travel agency. Getting the stamp yourself can be a bureaucratic nightmare. The procedure takes two or three days and you can only extend one time for 30 days.
In theory you should be able to extend your visa in any provincial capital. In practice it goes smoothest in major cities, such as HCMC, Hanoi, Danang and Hue, which cater to regular visitors.

Business Etiquette

  • Appointments are required and should be made several weeks in advance.
  • The best means of doing so is through a local representative who can act as a reference and also translator/interpreter.
  • The Vietnamese are punctual and expect others to be so to.
  • Dress conservatively. 
  • Handshakes are used upon meeting and departing. Handshakes only usually take place between members of the same sex. 
  • Some Vietnamese use a two-handed shake, with the left hand on top of the right wrist. 
  • Always wait for a woman to extend her hand. If she does not, bow your head slightly. 
  • Business cards are exchanged on initial meetings and should be presented with both hands. When receiving business cards ensure you show proper respect to it and do not simply glance at it and put it on the table. 
  • Hierarchy and face manifest in different ways within business meetings. For example, the most senior person should always enter the room first. 
  • Silence is also common in meetings where someone disagrees with another but remains quiet so as to not cause a loss of face. 
  • Relationships are critical to successful business partnerships. Always invest time in building a good relationship based on both personal and business lines. Any initial meeting should be solely used as a "getting to know you" meeting.
  • The spoken word is very important. Never make promises that you can not keep to as this will lead to a loss of face.
  • Negotiations can be slow so it is important to bear in mind that decisions have to go through a lot of red tape and also group consultation. Be patient.
  • Business gift giving is fairly common at the end of a meeting or during a meal in honour of your business associates. Gifts should be small but not expensive. Something with your company logo or something typical from your country both make excellent gifts.
Doing business in Vietnam?
We can help you with Vietnamese translation services or even provide Vietnamese/English interpreters for meetings and the like.

General Business Hours

Vietnamese people rise early and consider sleeping in to be a sure indication of illness. Offices, museums and many shops open between 7am and 8am and close between 4pm and 5pm. Post offices keep longer hours and are generally open from 6.30am to 9pm. Banks are generally open from 8am to 11.30am and 1pm to 4pm during the week and 8am to 11.30am on Saturday.


Most government offices are open on Saturday until noon but are closed on Sunday. Most museums are closed on Monday while temples and pagodas are usually open every day from around 5am to 9pm.


Many of the small privately owned shops, restaurants and street stalls stay open seven days a week, often until late at night.


Lunch is taken very seriously and virtually everything shuts down between noon and 1.30pm. Government workers tend to take longer breaks, so figure on getting nothing done between 11.30am and 2pm.