All you need to know about filming in Vietnam
Apply for film permit
Why need a Vietnam film permit?
It is regulated by Vietnam law that all foreign production companies, movie studios, TV channels, or independent filmmaker who wish to film in Vietnam must apply for film permit to Vietnam Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) or Vietnam Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism (MoCST).
A film permit benefits you. MoFA or MoCST will assign at least one film officer to process the application. The film officer will work closely with a local fixer in Vietnam to prepare for your filming in Vietnam. Vietnam film fixer can approach individuals, a private company, independent activist, economist, analyst… But for state-owned company, organization, contributors who are governmental official, film officer needs to send them an official letter to ask for their permission to be filmed.
Processing time and fee to obtain a Vietnam film permit?
The standard processing time for the Vietnam film permit is 7 to 10 working days from the day of submitting all needed documents. As mentioned above, MoFA will assign at least one film officer to process the application. It depends on the overall scale of the production (number of crew members, shoot days, locations...). You are required to include the salary and expenses of travel, accommodation, and meal for the film officer(s) into your budget.
The fee for Vietnam film permit is charged on daily basis. But for large-scale projects, which include a large number of crews, many days of shooting, and a lot of filming equipment, the fee will be charged on a package basis.
Before MoFA issues the film permit, they will first request Dept. of Immigration (under Ministry of Public Security) to process and issue a journalist visa for all members of the film crew. Once the journalist visa approval letter is released by the Vietnam Dept. of Immigration, the fixer in Vietnam will send a copy to your crew by email. Your crew prints and presents the letter at Vietnam airport upon arrival to pick up the visa. The other option is to claim a journalist visa at the Vietnam embassy in your country to avoid queuing up for hour(s) at a busy airport.
The fee for visa stamping is around 25US$/person. Each member of the film crew is required to bring two passport-sized photos with him or her. Otherwise, you will have to pay 2US$ for your photograph to be taken at the airport’s visa counter.
Vietnam is not a carnet country. So before you arrive, the film officer will work with airport customs to arrange equipment clearance for your crew.
The film officer also informs local authorities of all film locations about your filming in Vietnam.
On behalf of the crew, the film officer applies for a drone permit to the Ministry of Defense. Fixer in Vietnam needs to provide film officer with information about locations (latitude, longitude) where you want to have drone flight and date of flying.
Can Vietnam fixer facilitate permits for filming in Vietnam?
Vietnam fixer can definitely facilitate a film permit. I will work closely with your film crew and film officer to finalize the filming plan and submit the application to the film officer. We will work together closely to prepare the following documents for submission: Completely filled out Press Request Form, purpose or synopsis of the shoot, daily shooting schedule, list of equipment, and copy of passport.
After the submission, we can change the filming plan slightly. For a major change, we need to discuss carefully with the film officer because the change may result in resending documents to local authorities. We may not have enough time to do this.
Will film officer accompany your crew during your filming in Vietnam?
According to the law of Vietnam, film officer(s) will accompany your crew all the time. Duties of film officer include - but not limited to -process film permit, drone permit, journalist visa; arrange equipment clearance at the airport customs and entry through immigration; approach governmental organization & official; liaise with local authorities of shooting locations prior to crew arrival and during the filming to ensure your filming in Vietnam goes smoothly. The film officer is very helpful and resourceful in case we have to change the filming plan urgently.
Transportation for your filming in Vietnam
The road condition in Vietnam is good now. There is a system of the expressway connecting different parts of the country. There are 5 major cities in Vietnam: Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang, Hai Phong and Can Tho. It is convenient to fly between these cities and from these cities to other provinces. The 3 biggest air carriers are Vietnam Airlines, Bamboo Airways, and Vietjet Air.
The most popular vehicle for filming crew to travel is 16-seater Ford Transit and 7-seater car like Toyota Fortuner, Innova
Can fly drone without permit?
Recently, some people have sent me emails to ask for consultancy on whether or not they can bring in drone and have drone flights in Vietnam without a Vietnam drone permit. My advice is you should apply for a permit if you are a professional film crew. With all kinds of the permit in your hand, we can focus 100% on filming.
If you come to Vietnam as tourists, you can bring in and have drone flight without Vietnam drone permit at locations which are not touristy or most-visited tourist attractions but you should mentally prepare yourself to cope with the fact that your drone can be confiscated and your footage is deleted. This is the biggest risk of having a drone flight without drone permit Vietnam.
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There is not absolutely right or wrong period of time for your filming in Vietnam in terms of weather because in almost months during the year you will see both sunshine and rain in different quantities. Vietnam is a country with over 3,000km of coastline and has three different weather systems.
Vietnam is typically hot and has high humidity, the weather can change dramatically from one part to another part due to the length of country.
Sometimes, there has been snow in the mountainous northern part of the country while in the south, people can enjoy the life under the sun in beautiful beaches.
Typically, Vietnam has three main geographical parts. The North, The Central and The South with different destinations.
Mountainous Far North
Sapa and Mu Cang Chai rice terraces, the beauty of the mountains in Ha Giang, Bac Ha market, Ban Gioc waterfall, Ba Be National Park...
The weather in Sapa and Vietnam’s far north-west is divided into two seasons: the dry season runs from October to late March with the wet season lasting from April to September. It can get very cold in December and January, especially at night.
The best months to travel in the north-east (Ha Giang) is during the dry season, from October to April, although December and January can get very cold. We recommend avoiding traveling in Ha Giang during the rainy season (May to September).
Trekking and adventure:
The best trekking conditions in Sapa and the northwest are from September to November and from March to May. Daytime temperatures range from 15-28°C, and night-time temperatures from 10-18°C. Trekking and cycling are possible year-round, however, the wintertime can be rather chilly, and the summer rather wet.
Hoi An ancient town, Danang, Imperial city of Hue, Quy Nhon & Nha Trang beaches
Hoi An, Hue & Danang in the centre of Vietnam have hot and dry weather from mid-January to late August, with temperatures often reaching the mid-30's °C. During the winter months the rainfall increases with October and November achieving peak levels, occasionally in the form of typhoons.
Hue is often cooler than Hoi An, especially early in the year. In addition, with each sitting on opposite sides of a small mountain range the weather can often differ between the two greatly on any given day.
Quy Nhon is a six hour drive south of Hoi An and shares a similar weather pattern although the dry season is slightly longer due to its proximity to the southern system.
At the far south of Central Vietnam, Nha Trang benefits from a longer dry season (typically January to September), with high temperatures and little rain . The rainy season runs from October to early December with almost half the annual rainfall falling in October and November.
Ho Chi Minh City, The Mekong Delta area, Cai Rang floating market, Da Lat city & Phu Quoc island...
With temperatures remaining constant year round the climate of the south is split into two simple seasons, wet and dry. The dry season begins in November and ends in April/early May with late February to May being slightly hotter and with higher humidity. The wet season lasts from May to early November with the months from June to August receiving the highest rainfall of the year. Throughout much of the wet season, rainfall is generally heavy but short lasting, often occurring in a mid-afternoon heavy downpour.
The average temperatures in the South range between 25 - 35°C year round.
In the far South, the beaches of Phu Quoc enjoy a monsoon climate with two seasons; wet (late-July to late October) and dry (November to July). Visits to Phu Quoc can be made year-round although the best time is during the dry season (outside of October the chances of sunny days remain high).
Da Lat is wet from June to October making outdoor pursuits problematic. From November to May it is far dryer although cold in December & January.
Countries have visa exemption arrangement with Vietnam
Recently, to promote the tourism industry, the Vietnam government has promulgated a decree to allow nationals of certain countries to enter Vietnam without a visa for a period of time:
The United Kingdom 15 days
France 15 days
Italy 15 days
Spain 15 days
Germany 15 days
Belarus 15 days
Japan 15 days
South Korea 15 days
Sweden 15 days
Norway 15 days
Denmark 15 days
Russia 15 days
Finland 15 days
Cambodia 30 days
Thailand 30 days
Malaysia 30 days
Singapore 30 days
Indonesia 30 days
Laos 30 days
Philippines 21 days
Brunei 14 days
Myanmar 14 days
Crew members who are citizens of these countries can enter Vietnam without a visa but the film officer will work with the Immigration Department to check the status of entering the country with journalism purposes before issuing a film permit. This is an internal process.