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Southeast Asia Visa Requirements and Considerations

Luke Armstrong | Dec 21, 2020

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Traveler's Visa

The visa situation in Southeast Asia can be a major headache. And getting it wrong can really wreck a trip. I remember when I first traveled to Vietnam. I had read online that a tourist could get a visa upon arrival. So I stopped my research there, booked my ticket from the Philippines and planned to get a visa upon arrival. What I dint account for was that you needed a letter in advance from the Vietnamese government in order to get a visa on arrival. The Vietnamese customs were poised to send me back to where my connecting flight was in Singapore. I gave the customs agent my sad puppy face while giving them my smile that said, sorry, I am a stupid gringo and everything confuses me. So after a $300 “fee,” I was granted a 2 week emergency cuida instead of the 60 day tourist visa all the other gringos who’d down their due diligence got.

Even professional travelers make big time travel mistakes! And I don’t want that to be you, so as the publishing of this article, here is the up to date info for the visa situation for 10 most popular Southeast Asia destinations.

What are Entry Requirements?

Many countries require only a valid passport for citizens of the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. For an up-to-date listing of passport requirements around the world, go to the "Foreign Entry Requirement" page of the U.S. State Department at www.travel.state.gov.

Note that Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia require all visitors to have entry visas. Though most international airports offer visas upon arrival, and there are more overland points where you can apply with passport photos and money when you arrive, if you plan to enter Vietnam, Laos, or Cambodia from rural overland points, you often need to obtain a visa beforehand (you may even need to specify which entry point). And be aware that in Vietnam you need to fill out a form online to get your visa. https://vietnamvisa.govt.vn/vietnam-visa-on-arrival/

To simplify most matter, there are companies like Evisa Asia where you can fill out one form that they then use to procure your visa to the countries they work with.

Visa for Bali (Indonesia)

Visitors from the U.S., Canada, most of Europe, Australia, and New Zealand are given a visa upon arrival for a fee of $10 (£6.65) for stays of 7 days or less and $25 (£17) for stays of up to 30 days. The only official gateways to Bali are Ngurah Rai Airport or the seaports of Padang Bai and Benoa. If you want to stay longer than 30 days, you must get a tourist or business visa before coming to Indonesia. Tourist visas cannot be extended, while business visas can be extended for 6 months at Indonesian immigration offices.

Visa for Indonesia


As of March 2016, the Indonesian government allows citizens of 169 countries to enter visa-free.  USA/UK passport holders in particular may get one of these, but the fee depends on how long you plan to stay (30 day maximum). For more information, read this article: Indonesia Travel Information.

To apply for an Indonesian visa, proceed to the Embassy of Indonesia's site for consular services to get started. https://consular.embassyofindonesia.org

The embassy will not accept cash for visa fees; only company checks, cashier checks and money orders.

Visa for Cambodia

All visitors are required to carry a passport and visa. A 1-month visa can be obtained upon entry at the Phnom Penh or Siem Reap international airports for $20. Applying online (http://evisa.mtaic.gov.kh) for a 1-month e-visa costs $25. The procedure is simple, straightforward, and will save you time and energy. Bring one 4*6-inch passport photo for your application, or be fined. Visa on arrival is available at several land crossings, including Poi Pet (Thailand), the boat-crossing point from Chau Doc (Vietnam), and Dong Kralor (Laos) for $22.

Visas for Laos

Visitors need a valid passport and visa to visit Laos. There are a number of entry sites where visas are granted upon arrival: by air to Vientiane or Luang Prabang, or when crossing from Thailand over the Friendship Bridge between Vientiane and Nong Khai, or between Chiang Khong and Houay Xai in the far north, and Mukdahan and Savannakhet or Chong Mek and Vung Tao (near Pakse) in the far south. A 30-day visa at these arrival points costs $30. You will also need a passport-size photo. When coming from Vietnam, be sure to have a prearranged visa. At an embassy outside of Laos, the going rate for a 30-day visa is $35; you'll have to wait up to 5 days for processing (less in Bangkok). For a fee, travel agents in Thailand and other countries in the region can help you jump over the bureaucratic hurdles and get a visa in 1 day.

Visa for Malaysia

To enter Malaysia, you must have a valid passport. Citizens of the U.S. do not need visas for tourism and business visits. Citizens of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the U.K. do not require a visa for tourism or business visits not exceeding 1 month.
Singapore — To enter Singapore, you'll need a valid passport. Visas are not necessary for citizens of the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Australia, and New Zealand. Upon entry, visitors from these countries will be issued a 30-day pass for a social visit only, except for Americans, who get a 90-day pass.

Visa for Thailand

All visitors to Thailand must carry a passport valid for at least 6 months. Technically, you need proof of onward passage (either a return or through ticket), though this is rarely requested. Visas are not required for stays of up to 30 days for citizens of the U.S., Australia, Canada, New Zealand, or the U.K., but 3-month tourist visas can be arranged before arrival.

Visa for Vietnam

Residents of the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the U.K. need both a passport and a valid visa to enter Vietnam. A tourist visa usually lasts 30 days and costs $65. You need to specify your date of entry and exit. Though there's no official policy, tourist visas can commonly be extended with little hassle. Multiple-entry business visas are available that are valid for up to 3 months; however, you must have a sponsoring agency in Vietnam, and it can take much longer to process. For short business trips, it's less complicated simply to enter as a tourist

Visa for Myanmar

In Myanmar
you need a valid passport with at least six months' remaining validity, and a valid visa for Myanmar. The “visa on arrival” scheme has been discontinued for tourists; only business visa applicants can get one.

Fortunately for U.S. travelers, Myanmar offers an “e-Visa” - just log onto their official site (evisa.moip.gov.mm) to apply. The e-Visa costs $50 (payable via credit card); you'll also need to upload a recent color ID image along with your passport and ticket details. Without an e-Visa, US passport holders must obtain pre-approval for a visa from the nearest Myanmar embassy or mission. Find out more at the Embassy of Myanmar's official site.

Visas for the Philippines

US passport holders may enter without a visa, for stays not exceeding 21 days. Visa extensions can be obtained from Philippine Embassies, Philippine Consulates, or from the Bureau of Immigration within the Philippines..

Visas for Singapore

US passport holders are not required to obtain a visa to visit Singapore; the Entry Pass permits a maximum stay 30 days. Read this article: Singapore Travel Information. For more information on Singapore visas, proceed to the Singapore embassy's official site.

General Visa Tips

* Plan your trip around the length of stay mandated by your visa.
* If you plan to stay longer, apply for a longer visa from the embassy in your home country or from an embassy in a neighbouring country. Alternatively, investigate the ease of extending a visa within the country
* Stock up on passport photos; you’ll probably need at least two pictures each time you apply for a visa.

* Have the correct amount of local currency (or US dollars) to pay the on-arrival visa fee.

* Dress smartly when you’re visiting embassies, consulates and borders; you may be judged on your appearance.
* If entering by land or sea, check if the border post offers visas on arrival; some do not.

* Be aware that travellers are often targeted by transport and foreign exchange scams at land border crossings.

Passport Smarts

To enter most countries your passport must be valid for at least six months from your date of entry, even if you’re only staying for a few days. It’s probably best to have at least a year left on your passport if heading off on a big trip around Southeast Asia.

Border guards may refuse entry if your passport doesn’t have enough blank pages available. If you are reaching the end of your passport pages, get more pages added before you travel (if this is a service offered by your home country), or apply for a new passport. Once on the road, you can apply for a new passport in most Southeast Asian capitals at your home embassy or consulate.

About the Author

luke armstrong

Luke Maguire Armstrong is the author of "The Nomad's Nomad." He has spent the last decade traveling, writing and designing, and funding philanthropic programs around the world.

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