The much-touted initiative, aiming to woo more tourists, was off to a rough start as many could not access the English website.


Foreign tourists walk around the ancient quarter of Hanoi. Photo by AFP 
Vietnam's brand new electronic visa system for foreign tourists did not have a smooth start on Wednesday as many reportedly had difficulties accessing one of the main websites.

As of late afternoon the English site could not be loaded on different internet browsers.

Under a government directive released in late January, citizens from 40 countries will be eligible to apply for e-visas right on the site, as well as the Vietnamese website, starting Wednesday, February 1. For the full list of eligible nationalities, click here.

For now, according to some local media reports, applicants can instead go to this page and follow the instruction:

VnExpress International could not immediately confirm if the page is free of technical issues. It should also be noted that Wednesday was the last day of the country's week-long Lunar New Year break.

"The authorities should have ensured that the website was ready for foreign visitors to apply for e-visas on the launch date,” the Saigon Times quoted Tu Quy Thanh, director of Lien Bang Travelink (a local travel agency), as saying on Wednesday.

Foreign tourists and industry insiders were very excited about the initiative, Thanh added.

The government directive said it will take three working days for tourists to find out if their applications have been approved or not. Successful applicants will be able to print out their e-visas.

Visitors with e-visas can touch down at any of Vietnam's eight international airports, including Tan Son Nhat in Ho Chi Minh City, Noi Bai in Hanoi and Da Nang in the central region. They can also arrive via land at 13 international border gates, and via sea at seven ports across the country.