On the matters of getting a visa, should you do it yourself or turn it over to a pro?

An aerial view of the city skyline at dusk in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
(Tang Chhin Sothy / AFP/Getty Images)

I just finished reading Catharine Hamm’s article about getting a visa and traveling to Cambodia and Vietnam and disagree with her advice [“Stamp of Approval for Pros,” On the Spot, Dec. 9]. We traveled there this year, and I can say that visa procurement services are overrated and expensive.

If you read, follow the consulate advice and submit the proper documents, there is no reason to use these services. The Vietnamese Embassy will accept direct applications from a traveler, and the turn-around time is shorter than using a third-party service. The requirements are the same for either method, so there is no advantage to using an expediter.

As for Cambodia, we went to the honorary consulate in Long Beach and were out in 30 minutes without surrendering our passports.

John Stephens


Costa Mesa


We’ve traveled to about 60 countries in Western and Eastern Europe, Africa and Asia.

Here’s my take on the visa issue: If you can afford the trip, it’s worth a few extra dollars (and in some cases, especially if there are time constraints, more than a few extra dollars) to be certain you’ll be able to enter the country when you land at the airport or disembark from the boat.

If things haven’t been done properly, the consequences are dire. There are times to use a professional, and this is probably one of them.

To avoid problems, check not only your passport’s expiration date but also whether there are sufficient visa pages for visa stamps. Those blank pages at the back of the passport are for endorsements and can’t be used for visa stamps.

As far as drinking the water or eating the food, I agree with those who say “Peel it, cook it, boil it or discard it.” I can’t say I always followed this advice, but fortunately Pepto-Bismol tablets helped me deal with the consequences.

Daniel Fink

Beverly Hills

Dogs and sleds don’t mix

I was shocked and saddened to see a progressive paper like the L.A. Times promote and encourage dog sledding all in the name of a view and an adventure [“Arctic Escape,” by Scott Fritz, Dec. 9].

This has been proved to be a cruel practice for these dogs, and it has taken many years for animal advocates to expose the harm it does to them. These dogs don’t even have booties to protect their feet.

I hope you give these articles more thought on the repercussions that may result. Perhaps a counter article on the cruelty and harm sledding does to these beautiful creatures would help to reduce the damage done and cause people to give it a second thought before embarking on such a trip.

Bernie Joyce