The other night, I spent close to 3 hours researching where I want to go in Asia. Let me be honest, I’m not heading back to Asia for awhile yet (Oct/Nov 2016), but I made the mistake of going to a bookstore and I quickly became lost in the travel section. And I’m not talking about just any old bookstore, I’m talking about the largest bookstore in the WORLD, Powell’s City of Books. It takes up a whole city block in Portland, and the travel section alone is a good corner of that block.
I was so inspired when I came home that I continued my procrastination from doing work that pays me in favor of doing my own wanderlust research – hey, a girl has to travel somehow when she’s settled down in a city for a bit, even if it’s just through travel plans!
And that’s when I got onto the idea of visas. In my research, I even looked up the icky aspect of travel in the form of visas, so in a year’s time I could easily glance at my notes and know exactly what to expect. Did I ever mention that I like to plan things? Yeah, I’m one of those.
Well, I figured it would be a good idea to share what I found with my readers, since I won’t be using the information for awhile yet anyway. I’ll be updating this post again just before I leave for Asia, but for those of you going on a trip to this part of the world this year, this guide should hopefully be a help to your travel planning.
So without further ado – VISAS!
They’re the bureaucratic side of foreign governments, not the shiny postcard side of a new culture, but very important just the same to assure smooth travels. Visa language can be confusing sometimes, especially on individual government websites that explain the visa process in a variety of different ways. Instead of having to sift through government jargon, I’m going to make it clean and simple for you.
Visas don’t have to be something to dread or stress over, with this guide you can easily get an idea of what each country expects from foreigners on arrival. This guide is mainly going to focus on the standard tourist visa that most people use when traveling to these countries. There won’t be talk of obscure visas, but I will include a chat about visa extensions and even the odd work visa if it’s a popular one to apply for – I’m looking at you, South Korea.
I should also note that this isn’t every single Asian country, I’m mainly focusing on Eastern Asia/Southeast Asia and ones that tend to get the most traveler traffic to make it easier to sift through and applicable to a larger number of people.
Finally, I just have to say that although this is a good overview to get you started on visa preparation and budget planning, it’s always recommended to double check on the actual government’s website before arrival, especially for those countries that are always changing their visa regulations. Okay, so you may have to read through just a wee bit of government jargon.
VOA (Visa on Arrival)
Overview: Most travelers can get a tourist visa upon arrival, those from ASEAN member countries (other Southeast Asian countries) don’t typically need a visa.
Make sure to bring one-passport sized photo with you. It’s easier to secure a visa at major airports, Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, as opposed to land borders. Crossing at land borders, you may be hit up for more money to secure a visa.
The Cambodian government is now offering an E-visa that you can apply for before arrival. It’s a bit pricier, but if you don’t want to worry about it once you’re in the country it may be worth it for you. They cost US$30 + US$7 (processing charge), so US$37 all together.
Length of stay: 1 month
Price: $20 (on arrival), $37 (E-Visa before arrival).
Extensions: A tourist visa can only be extended once for one additional month and doesn’t allow for re-entry. However, you can get an unofficial extension in Phnom Penh through travel agencies and some motorbike-rental shops. They cost US$45 for one month, US$75 for three months, US$155 for six months, and US$285 for one year.
Tip: If you’re looking to work in Cambodia, go for a business visa at $25, which is much easier to extend than a tourist visa.
Government Website: http://www.mfaic.gov.kh
Apply for visa ahead of time.
Overview: Most foreign travelers need a visa to visit China, unless you’re heading to Hong Kong, Macau, or spending under 72 hours in Beijing, Guangzhou, Xi’an, Guilin, Chengdu, Chongqing, Dalian, or Shenyang.
Otherwise, citizens from Japan, Singapore, Brunei, San Mauritius, the Seychelles, and the Bahamas, are the only people who don’t need a visa.
If you’re not from these select countries, the Chinese visa can be expensive and tricky compared to most other countries in Asia, so bear with me.
You will need to get a visa before arrival either online from the popular China Visa Service which is known for its promptness, or the official Visa Office of the People’s Republic of China. Once you apply for your visa, it’s usually easiest to pick it up in person in either Hong Kong or Macau, if possible. It can take up to 3 weeks to process your visa through the mail otherwise. You can also apply in person for a China visa in Hong Kong, which takes about 1-3 days to process.
You will most likely be required to present:
- A copy of a flight confirmation showing a guaranteed departure out of China after your visa ends.
- For double-entry visas, a flight confirmation of ALL dates of entry and exit.
- A confirmation of where you’re staying for accommodation. If you’re staying with friends, you’ll need to present a copy of their Chinese passport or a copy of their China visa and a letter of invitation from them.
Tip: If you are a journalist or involved in the media, even if you’re just on vacation, there’s a good chance you won’t be approved for a visa. It’s best to put something else as your profession if you want a better chance at being able to see China.
*It should be noted that there are still a few restricted areas of China that need a separate permit, such as Tibet.
Length of stay: 30 days (standard single-entry), 6 months (multiple-entry visas).
- Standard 30 day visa: UK£30 for UK citizens, US$140 for US citizens, US$30 for citizens of other nations.
- Double-entry visa: UK£45 for UK citizens, $140 for US citizens, US$45 for citizens of other nations.
- Six-month multiple entry visa: UK£90 for UK citizens, US$140 for US citizens, US$60 for all other nationals.
Extensions: An additional one month visa is generally easy to secure, but after that it can be much harder. Extensions can take up to 5 days to process and vary in price depending on your nationality, ranging from ¥100 – ¥185 (US$16 – $29). Another option is going over to Hong Kong to apply for a new tourist visa.
Government Website: http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/mfa_eng/
No visa necessary.
Overview: If you’re only visiting Hong Kong and/or Macau and not mainland China, visas are not required for most nationalities.
Nationalities and regions that don’t need a visa are Australia, Canada, the EU, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, USA, UK, South African (and most other African countries), and those from South America and the Middle East.
Length of Stay:
- African, South American, and Middle Eastern passport holders can be in Hong Kong for up to 30 days without a visa.
- Australian, Canadian, the EU, Israeli, Japanese, New Zealand, and American passport holders can stay for up to 90 days without a visa.
- British passport holders can stay for up to 180 days without a visa.
Price: FREE (unless you choose to stay longer than the visa free period).
Extensions: If you know you’ll be staying longer than the above free periods, you’ll want to apply for a special visa before traveling to Hong Kong.
If you end up getting a longer-stay visa and want to extend it even further, you’ll have to go in person to the Hong Kong Immigration Department at least 7 days before it expires.
Government Website: http://www.fmcoprc.gov.hk/eng/
No visa necessary.
Overview: Similar to Hong Kong, most travelers can enter Macau with just their passports, no visa necessary. This includes travelers from the EU, Australia, New Zealand, USA, Canada, and South Africa.
Length of Stay: For those that don’t need a visa, you can stay between 30 and 90 days depending on your nationality. If you have to apply for a visa, it’s only valid for 30 days.
Price: FREE for most nationalities. If you do need a visa, you can get a 30-day visa on arrival for MOP$100/50/200 (US$13/6/25) for adult/child under 12/family respectively.
Extensions: A single one-month visa extension is available directly from the Macau Immigration Department.
Government Website: http://www.fmcoprc.gov.mo/eng/
Apply for ETA ahead of time, then you’re able to get a VOA.
Overview: Most nationalities (including USA, Australia, New Zealand, and some countries in Europe) can apply for a 30-day visa on arrival, but for longer trips you’ll have to apply for a 6 month tourist visa ahead of time.
For the visa on arrival, you’ll still need to apply online at the India Visa Online website for an ETA – Electronic Travel Authority. This will need to be filled out a minimum of 4 days and maximum of 30 days before arrival.
If you don’t fall under a visa on arrival or you want to stay longer than 30 days, you’ll need to apply for a visa ahead of time. This can be done a variety of ways, many people use separate private companies to process their visa, or you’ll have to apply in person at your local embassy as well as fill out an online application.
*Note: you may be asked for confirmation of your accommodation in India upon arrival, but this isn’t always the case.
Length of stay: 30 days or 6 months
Price: $60 to apply for the ETA for a 30-day tourist visa on arrival. It varies for 6 month tourist visas depending on the method or company you obtain it from.
Extensions: It’s recommended that you know how many days you’ll be in India ahead of time, and apply for the correct visa upfront because it can be difficult to extend visas. If you’re already in India and want to extend your visa, you’ll need to stop in at the Foreigners’ Regional Registration Office in Delhi. It’s less likely you’ll be granted an extension at regional offices.
Government Website: http://www.mea.gov.in
Overview: Most nationalities (including USA, Australian, New Zealand, and most European countries) can obtain a 30-day visa on arrival. If you want to stay for 60 days, apply in advance at your local consulate or embassy. You can also apply for an extension on the original visa once you’re in Indonesia, but it’s much more of a headache.
*Indonesia visa regulations are known to change often, so check on the government website ahead of time.
Length of stay: 30 – 60 days.
Price: US$25 (best to have exact change in US currency).
Extensions: You can renew your tourist visa for an additional 30 days for another US$25. You’ll need to go to the local immigration office at least one week before your visa expires. It’s sometimes easier to hire out a local agency to do this for you since it’s known to be a long full-day process of jumping through hoops.
Government Website: http://www.kemlu.go.id/Pages/Default.aspx?l=en
Overview: Most nationalities (including USA, Australian, New Zealand, and most European countries) are issued a visa on arrival for stays up to 90 days. As long as you’re not working in Japan, you’ll be issued a FREE tanki-taizai (temporary-visitor’s visa on arrival).
By law, you must supply evidence of an ongoing ticket outside of Japan with the 90 day visitor’s visa, but it’s not often enforced.
If you go to the Japanese foreign affairs website below you can find out more about the working holiday visa and the Japan Exchange & Teaching (JET) program.
Length of stay: 90 days
Extensions: Citizens of Austria, Germany, Ireland, Mexico, Switzerland, and the UK can easily extend their 90 day visa to a 6 month visa once they’re in Japan.
Government Website: http://www.mofa.go.jp
Overview: Visas on arrival are easy to obtain at airports and most land borders. You’ll need one passport sized photo and the name of the hotel or guesthouse you’ll be staying at.
Length of stay: 30 days
Price: Between US$20 and $42 in cash depending on your nationality. Canadians have to pay the most at US$42, while most other nationalities pay between US$30 and US$35.
Extensions: An additional 90 days can be added on to your original 30 day tourist visa, but the cost will be US$2 per day. Visas can only be extended in Vientiane and Luang Prabang.
Government Website: http://www.mofa.gov.la
Overview: Generally, citizens of most countries will be given a 60 day visa if you arrive by air, but may be given a 30 day visa if you arrive at a land border – although you can specifically ask for a 60 day visa if you wish.
Length of stay: 30 to 60 days
Price: Varies depending on your nationality for single/multiple entries. The USA is only RM 6.00 (US$1.50), but other countries such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the UK cost RM 20.00 (US$5).
Extensions: It’s relatively easy to get an extension at the immigration office in Malaysia to increase your stay up to three months total.
Government Website: http://www.kln.gov.my/web/guest/home
No visa necessary.
Overview: No visa required for stays of 30 days or less, but you must provide the name of your resort, hotel, or guesthouse at entry into the country, and sometimes even a return ticket out of the Maldives.
Length of stay: 30 days
Extensions: You can either apply for an extension through the Department of Immigration & Emigration, near Jumhooree Maidan in Male, or leave the country and come back.
Government Website: http://foreign.gov.mv/v2/
Apply ahead of time (give yourself a month).
Overview: Everyone needs a visa to enter Myanmar. Single-entry tourist or business visas are good for 28 days and can be extended. There is also a work visa you can get for 10 weeks.
Tourist visas are only available on arrival if you’ve already made arrangements with a travel agency that has done everything for you. Otherwise, you should think about getting your visa a month in advance, they take anywhere from a day to a week to process. You’ll need to go to your local Myanmar embassy to apply for a visa.
*No requirement to show an onward ticket.
Length of stay: 28 days (can be extended) or 10 weeks for work visas.
Price: Varies depending on the purpose of your visit. It’ll cost you US$22 for the standard 28 day single-entry tourist visa, and up to $150 for a multiple entry visa. Work visas are also available for US$30 (single entry) and US$150 (multiple entry), both for 10 weeks each.
Extensions: Visas are easily extended through the local immigration office. A two week extension will cost you US$36 and a month long extension will cost you US$72.
Government Website: http://www.mofa.gov.mm
Overview: 15, 30, and 90 day tourist visas are available on arrival. Make sure to bring two passport photos and cash in US dollars (especially if you’re crossing overland).
Length of stay: 15, 30, or 90 days
Price: For single-entry visas, costs are US$25 for 15 days, US$40 for 30 days, US$100 for 90 days. If you want to exchange your single-entry into a multiple-entry visa, go to the Kathmandu’s Central Immigration office, and trade in your single-entry visa for an additional US$20.
Extensions: Only available from immigration offices in Kathmandu and Pokhara and cost a minimum of US$30 for a 15 day extension and US$2 per day after that. To extend for a full 30 days, it will cost you US$50, and to extend a multiple-entry visa it will cost $20. Extensions can usually be done in a couple hours in the same day. In total, you can stay in Nepal of up 150 days within one year.
Government Website: http://www.nepalimmigration.gov.np
Overview: Most nationalities can get a 30 day tourist visa on arrival, but you will probably have to provide proof of an onward ticket.
Length of stay: 30 days
Extensions: To apply for an extension you’ll have to go through a Bureau of Immigration office, which can be found in most major tourist hubs. If you apply for an extension more than a week before your visa will expire, it will cost you P3030 (US$66) for an additional 29 days. If it’s less than a week before your visa will expire, a P1010 (US$22) fine will be applied as a penalty.
You are able to extend past 29 days, but there will be more fees involved. It’s best to check the government website for more information.
To make life easier, if you know you’ll be in the Philippines for longer than 30 days, you can apply for that 29 day extension at the airport on arrival. You can also apply for a 3, 6, or 12 month visa before you arrive in the Philippines.
Government Website: http://www.dfa.gov.ph
Overview: Most nationalities will be issued a visa upon entry that’s good for up to 90 days. Other citizens from India, the Middle East, Myanmar, and the Independent States of the Commonwealth must apply for a visa ahead of time.
Length of stay: 90 days
Extensions: Can be applied for online at the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) website – provided below.
Government Website: http://www.ica.gov.sg
Overview: Citizens of Australia, New Zealand, Britain, USA, most of Western Europe, and about 30 other countries, will receive a 90 day entry permit on arrival. Canadians are the one exception, receiving a 6 month permit on arrival.
Citizens that don’t qualify for an automatic entry permit, will have to apply for a visa ahead of time. This includes the Russian Federation, India, China, and Nigeria.
Work visas are also available. You can apply for a work visa once you’re already in Korea, but you’ll have to leave the country to go pick it up. Otherwise, you can apply for a one year work visa before entering the country, but expect at least a few weeks for it to process.
Length of stay: 90 days
Extensions: Generally, you’re unable to extend your standard tourist visa past 90 days unless it’s a medical emergency.
Government Website: http://www.mofa.go.kr/ENG/main/index.jsp
Apply ahead of time.
Overview: A 30 day visitor visa is available if you apply online in advance at www.eta.gov.lk. You just have to fill out the online application, pay with a credit or debit card, and print out your visa confirmation and bring it with you to customs.
Length of stay: 30 days
Extensions: You can extend a 30 day tourist visa twice within a year, for 30 additional days each time. Extensions aren’t especially hard to get, but they do require quite a few forms and planning ahead of time.
Government Website: http://www.mea.gov.lk
Visa not required.
Overview: Visas are usually not required for stays up to 90 days, as long as you have an onward ticket out of Taiwan. The one exception is citizens of Australia, Malaysia, and Singapore who only get a 30 day visa.
Length of stay: 90 days
Extensions: There are generally no extensions whatsoever given to the initial 90 day allowance.
Government Website: http://www.mofa.gov.tw/en/default.html
No visa necessary.
Overview: Most nationalities will fall into the category of the Tourist Visa Exemption Scheme and will not need a visa for stays up to 30 days, if arriving by air. If you’re arriving via land borders, you’re generally only given a 15 day period of stay. However, you can apply for a 60 day tourist visa ahead of time through an application at your local Thai consulate.
Length of stay: 15 to 30 days
Extensions: Visa extensions can be applied for through the immigration offices in Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Always do your own business, and always dress up for doing business in Thailand – it goes a long way!
Extensions generally cost around 1900B (US$54). For those issued 15 or 30 day visas, you can extend your stay for 7-10 more days. For those that applied for the 60 day tourist visa ahead of time, you can usually extend your stay for an additional 30 days.
If you don’t want to deal with the immigration offices, you can also just leave the country and come back overland for another 15 day visa. Just make sure you don’t get caught staying for over 90 days within a 6 month period and you’ll be fine.
Government Website: http://www.mfa.go.th/main/en/home
Apply ahead of time.
Overview: Almost all nationalities will need a visa to get into Vietnam which must be arranged for ahead of time. If you’re arriving by air, it’s best to apply for a visa through online visa agents, which are known to be much more efficient than embassies.
If you’re arriving by land, you’ll need to arrange getting a valid Vietnam visa through your local Vietnamese embassy ahead of time and/or getting an approval letter from them.
If you’re already in Asia, the best place to pick up a Vietnamese visa is in Cambodia, where it will cost between US$50 – US$60 and can be arranged the same day. Bangkok is the second best option for securing a Vietnam visa.
Tip: It’s good to look your best while going through Vietnam customs. Your appearance oftentimes determines what type of reception you’ll get from custom officials.
Length of stay: 30 to 90 days
Price: Single-entry visas cost around US$45, while multiple-entry visas can cost anywhere from US$65 to US$95. I believe my multiple-entry visa for Vietnam was in the $100s since I had to get a rush delivery from the Vietnam embassy in Sydney to get my passport back in time for my trip. Which brings me to my next point…plan WELL in advance for Vietnam! If you have to get a Vietnam visa from a local embassy, give yourself at least a month to have it processed.
Extensions: There’s quite a bit of bribery that goes on with Vietnam visa extensions. You’ll have to organize it through an agent, and they can even be approved for as little as US$10, depending on where you go. It can take up to 7 days to process, and you can only extend your visa for 30 to 90 additional days.
Tip: If you extend your visa in the same city you arrived in it’s much cheaper than if you extend in another city.
Government Website: http://www.mofa.gov.vn/en
Alright guys, if you made it this far I applaud you. As you can see, every single country in Asia is different when it comes to visa regulations, but if you do your research it shouldn’t be too stressful. I hope this guide can at least give you an idea of what to expect. Happy travels!
As a last note, always remember these 3 things when traveling around Asia:
- It’s always good to carry around extra US dollars in Asia. Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, and Myanmar, specifically, oftentimes prefer you to pay for your visa in American cash because it’s worth much more than the local currency. They are much more likely to take US dollars than pounds, euros, AUD, or NZD.
- Always make sure your passport will be valid for at least an additional 6 months throughout the duration of your stay in these countries just to be on the safe side.
- Bring a handful of passport sized pictures with you everywhere you go, it will make the visa process go so much smoother in a lot of Asian countries. It will also keep you from paying unnecessary extra fees at the borders.
Make sure to check out my Asia travel section on this blog to find more tips and ideas for your own travels!
Have you ever felt overwhelmed with all the different visa regulations in Asia? Was this guide helpful at all? Would you like me to write more guides similar to this?