Backpacker Visa Guide To South East Asia

by stephmylifetravel

Planning and arranging your visas in South East Asia can be time consuming and stressful. The main problem I’ve found is that there is SO much information about visa requirements online and it’s hard to sift through it to find the information that you need. We’ve been travelling throughout Asia for a while now and I’ve collated all of the information I’ve learned about entry visas in this handy one-stop visa guide for South East Asia. 

A few points before you continue reading: this visa information refers to tourists, if you’re looking for working or business travel visas then the rules, fees and application process will be different.  Most of these countries require you to have at least 6 months left on your passport when you enter the country. You won’t be allowed to enter these countries if you do not have this, so make sure to check the expiry date on your passport before you travel!

Here are the visa requirements for the following countries;

 

 

While you’re here, find out what vaccinations you need to get for your holiday.

Cambodia

To enter Cambodia, citizens from most countries are eligible for a Visa on Arrival or eVisa. Check out the following visa policy map to see which you are eligible for. If your countries’ policy shows 30 / 21 / 14 days that means you will be allowed into Cambodia for that number of days visa-free.

 

Validity: Visa-free from 14 days, VOA 30 days

How to apply: If your country is marked yellow on the map then upon arrival in Cambodia you will be granted a Visa On Arrival (VOA) which is valid for 30 days. You will need to have a passport photo and 35USD cash to pay your visa fee. There is an ATM by the VOA desk if you forget to bring cash, and if you don’t have a passport photo with you then you pay around 5USD extra and they will take a photo for you.

You can also apply for an eVisa before you travel if you would like to skip the queues at immigration. Apply online here and pay the 35USD visa fee plus a 6USD processing charge.

Fees: 35USD VOA / 41USD eVisa

Limitations: This is a single-entry visa. Allow 3 business days after application for your eVisa to be granted.

Extension: You can apply for an extension to your Tourist Visa or eVisa at a travel agency. Your passport will need to be sent to the passport office in Phnom Penh so it’s quickest if you apply for your extension here. If not the agency will send your passport away for you.

China

Visitors to mainland China need to apply for a visa from a Chinese Diplomatic Mission – unless you are from one of the visa exempt countries coloured below. This visa will not grant you access to Hong Kong, that is a separate process which is outlined below.

As you can see, visitors from most countries will need to obtain a visa in advance.

Visa Guide South East Asia

 

Validity: Visa free from 15 – 90 days for 15 countries, an advance visa will grant you 30 days in the country.

How to apply: There are many different classes of visa for China which are outlined here. If you are going as a tourist you will need to apply for an L class visa. Along with the application form you will need to supply passport photos and proof of your flight details and accommodation details.

You will be granted a single or double-entry visa and processing time is 4 business days, but you can also apply for a rush service which takes 2-3 days.

Fees: $140 for a U.S citizen and from $30 for a non U.S citizen. Full fee breakdown, including express rates, can be found here.

Limitations: If you are travelling back and forth between Hong Kong and China then you will need a double-entry visa. They are very strict on overstaying your visa and conduct regular checks so make sure you don’t overstay. You’ll need to provide proof of onward travel.

Hong Kong

The Hong Kong Visa policy is very different to the Chinese visa policy, and is a lot more relaxed. British citizens are allowed up to 180 days visa-free in Hong Kong and all other EU citizens are allowed up to  90 days visa-free. As you can see in the policy map below, most countries are allowed a visa-free period from 7 days so you can enter the country without paying fees or arranging a visa.

 

Validity: From 7 – 180 days depending on where you’re from.

How to apply: If you are from a country that does need to apply for a visa then you can do so here.

Fees: If you need a visa it will cost $190.

Limitations: This visa does not allow you to enter mainland China.

India

Visitors from most countries (all of the orange ones) must apply online for an eVisa before they can enter the country. Japanese Citizens can get a Visa On Arrival and if you’re from Nepal, Bhutan or the Maldives you have freedom of movement to India.

 

Validity: An eVisa gives you 6 months, which allows you multiple visits into the country.

How to apply: You can apply online for an eVisa here. You will need to supply a jpeg photo with your application and a scan of your passport.  You can apply from 120 days up to 6 days before you travel to the country and you should allow three business days processing time.

Fees: Fees start at $40 for a 6 month multiple entry visa for most countries, that rises to $60 for US citizens and then $129 for UK citizens. Read more about the costs here.

Limitations: This visa cannot be extended. You may need to supply proof of onward travel when you enter the country on an eVisa – some people are asked and other aren’t it seems.

Indonesia

Visitors from most countries can enter Indonesia with visa for up to 30 days, which can be extended by a further 30 days.

 

Eligibility: Eligibility for the VOA is above, for the e-Visa there are 87 countries eligible. Click here to see the list.

Validity: 30 days e-visa or Visa On Arrival.

How to apply: Apply for a 30 day visa directly through the government portal here. Alternatively, can receive a Visa On Arrival when you land in the country if you do not want to or do not have time to apply in advance.

Extension: If you receive a Visa On Arrival, you will need to visit the local immigration office to extend this. Usually you need to pay 2-3 visits to the office to process the extension. So you must be in one place for a few days.  However, you can extend your E-Visa via the above link. Log into your account and select ‘extend’. The website is a bit tricky, so you will have to go back and forth to ‘my account’ and ‘extend’ to get to the payment stage – but you’ll get there in the end. And it’s a lot quicker than 3 trips to immigration which is the alternative!

Fees: Visas start from 30USD if you are from one of the grey countries in the map

Limitations: To enter Indonesia you need to provide proof of onward travel – they will usually ask for this when you check in for your flight or as you board.

Japan

The Japanese government currently allows visitors from 68 countries, including all EU citizens, to enter the country as a tourist without a visa for 90 days. These countries are marked in green in the map below.

 

Validity: From 15 days to 6 months depending on the country you’re from.

How to apply: If you’re from one of the grey countries above then check out the Japanese Immigration Website to find out about the application process.

Fees: 3,000 for a single entry visa and 6,000 for a double or multiple entry visa. If you’re visa-free you pay nothing obviously.

Laos

Most countries are eligible for a Visa On Arrival or an E-Visa which is eligible for 30 days. 15 countries are eligible for a visa-free period of up to 30 days. See the map below to find out which visa you are eligible for.

Green: Visa-free (30 days)
Blue: Visa-free (15 days) or eVisa (30 days)
Purple: Visa-free (14 days) or eVisa (30 days)
Yellow: Visa on arrival (30 days) or eVisa (30 days)
Grey: Visa or official approval required in advance

Eligibility: You can see an up to date list of countries eligible for an e-visa here.

Application: You can apply for your E-Visa on the official government portal.  or you can get a visa on arrival when you land. If you do a Visa On Arrival, bring $41 USD each as you will need to pay a $1 fee per person. You’ll need a passport photo, but if you don’t have one you can pay $1 per person and they will take one for you. If you don’t have enough dollars, you can pay the rest in Thai Baht (we did this).

Validity: Visa-Free from 14 days. VOA  or E-visa 30 days.

Extension: You can extend your Laos visa at the Immigration Department in Vientiane or the Immigration Division Office of the province you are in. You have to apply for a visa extension before your current visa expires. You can get an extension of your 30-day tourist visa only two times for a maximum stay of 90 day

Fees: The price of your visa varies depending on where you are from and should be paid in USD cash. It’s $40 for all foreigners except those from Vietnam and China, who pay $20.

Limitations: This is a single entry visa. It can be extended an additional 90 days at a cost of $2 per day, but only in major cities such as Vientiane, Luang Prabang, Pakse and Savannakhet. If you overstay your visa you will be charged 10USD for each day that you overstayed when you leave the country.

An eVisa can be used to enter through these following designated ports ONLY:

  1. Wattay International Airport (Vientiane Capital)
  2. Lao – Thai Friendship Bridge I (Vientiane Capital)
  3. Luang Prabang International Airport (Luang Prabang)
  4. Lao – Thai Friendship Bridge II (Savannakhet Province)
  5. Pakse International Airport (Champasack Province)
  6. Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge IV (Bokeo Province)
  7. Boten International Checkpoint (Luang Namtha Province)

Malaysia

Citizens of 63 jurisdictions, including all EU citizens, are allowed up to 90 days visa-free travel in Malaysia. This makes it very straightforward to enter the country and you just need to pass through immigration as usual. Citizens of a further 97 jurisdictions can enter visa-free for 30 & 14 days. Check out what your countries’ policy is below.

 

Validity: from 14 – 30 days visa-free.

Fees: No fees if visa free, if you are from a country above that requires a visa in advance then apply online here.

Limitations: None

Myanmar

As you can see in the map below, visitors from most countries (orange & yellow) require an eVisa to enter Myanmar. The 8 green countries can enter Myanmar for up to 14 days visa-free.

Validity: the eVisa is valid for 90 days and allows you to stay in the country as a tourist for 28 days or a business traveler for 70 days.

How to apply: You can apply for online for your eVisa here.

Fees: The tourist eVisa costs 50USD and takes three days to process.

Limitations: Allow 3 days for your visa to be processed.

Nepal

The visa policy for Nepal is pretty liberal and most countries are allowed to apply for a visa. With the exception of Indian citizens who are allowed free movement within Nepal, citizens from most other countries have to pay a fee for a Visa On Arrival. Check out the map below to see if you need to pay for your visa.

Validity: The visa is valid for 90 days and you’re allowed to stay for a maximum of 30 days.

How to apply: Visa On Arrival are granted at airports and border crossings. Unlike other countries that require visa fees to be paid in USD, you can pay Nepal VOA fees in foreign currency if you’re paying at an airport. If you would rather skip the queues then you can apply online here but it must be within 15 days of entering the country.

Fees:  A single-entry visa valid for 15/30/90 days costs US$25/40/100. You can convert this to a multiple-entry visa for $20 at the Kathmandu Immigration Office

Philippines

Most countries are eligible for a visa free period of 30 days, while others are allowed to enter the country up to 59 days visa free.

 

Validity: 14 – 59 days

How to apply: If you are from a country that requires a visa then you can apply here.

Fees: Visa fees start at 25 Pesos

Limitations: To enter the Philippines you need to provide proof of onward travel, you will either be asked to provide this at check in or when boarding.

Singapore

As you can see from the map below, citizens of most countries, including all EU citizens, are allowed to enter Singapore for 30 – 90 days without a visa.

 

Validity: 30 – 90 days

How to apply: If a visa is required you can apply here.

Fees: If you do require a visa the fee is 30USD

Additional Information: You are now required to fill out an SG Arrival card to enter Singapore (since 2020). This is not a visa, but a declaration of entering the country. It is free to fill out and must be submitted within 3 days of entering the country. Fill out the form here.

Sri Lanka

As you can see below the visa policy for Sri Lanka is  consistent across most countries. Visitors can apply online for an eVisa or get a Visa On Arrival when they arrive in the country.

 

Validity: from 30 – 150 days depending on where you’re from.

How to apply: You can either wait until you enter the country to get a VOA or else apply online and skip the queues.

Fees: 35USD if you apply online at the above link, or 40USD if you get your VOA at the airport or port.

Limitations: You need to provide proof of onward travel to enter Sri Lanka, you will either be asked to provide this at check in or when boarding.

Taiwan

Citizens from 63 jurisdictions, including all EU citizens, can enter Taiwan visa-free for up to 90 days. Canadian and UK Citizens can apply to extend this to 180 days.

 

Validity: from 14 to 90 days. VOA is 30 days.

How to apply: If you are from one of the countries that require a visa you can apply for it online here.

Fees: Fees start at around $50.

Limitations: You need to  supply proof of onward travel before you can enter the country. Unless you’re from Japan or the United States you can’t get in on an emergency or temporary passport. VOA cannot be extended.

Thailand

Thailand’s visa policy is pretty great, with citizens from most countries allowed to enter visa-free for 30 days. Check out the map below to see the Thai visa policy;

 

Citizens from the following countries may apply for Visa On Arrival which is valid for 15 days.
(Andora, Bulgaria, Bhutan, China, Cyprus, Ethiopia, India, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Maldives, Malta, Mauritius, Romania, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan)

Citizens from countries that are *not* listed above are allowed to enter the country without a visa on a Tourist Visa Exemption for a period of up to 30 days. You can pass through immigration without a visa and get your passport stamped. Sometimes they ask where you’re staying, and when you’re leaving – so have the details ready if you need them.

Validity: 30 Days Visa On Arrival (VOA), 45 Days Visa Exemption and 60 days with a tourist e-visa

Extension: The 60-day Tourist Visa can be extended for an additional 30 days, as can the exemption. If you are in Bangkok, you can extend your Thai visa on the official website here. This takes around 7 days for the standard service, and 3 days for the more expensive urgent service. So do it early, and you’ll save money. Documents needed are outlined here. Rhis service is new and is just available to those with an address / hotel in Bangkok, as you need to go to immigration to fill in your final forms. This will most likely be rolled out to other areas once they have tested the whole process.

How to apply: Apply for your e-visa here – when applying, you need to supply the following:

  • Passport or travel document with validity not less than 6 months.
  • Photograph of the applicant, taken within the past six months.
  • Evidence of travel from Thailand (air ticket paid in full).
  • Evidence of adequate finance (20,000 Baht per person and 40,000 Baht per family).

Fees: VOA is 2,000THB / No fees for visa exemption.

Limitations: Foreigners who enter Thailand under this Tourist Visa Exemption category (this includes Irish / British / American / Australian citizens) may only do so for 30 days at one time with a maximum of 3 times in a 6 month period by flight and 2 times a year for overland crossing.

Vietnam

The visa requirements for Vietnam have always been a little complicated, but the good news is that Vietnam now offers eVisas to 46 eligible countries (including Ireland, yay!). An eVisa costs 25USD and is eligible for 30 days.

Check out the following visa policy map to see which visa you are eligible for. If your country’s policy shows 90 / 30 / 21 / 15 / 14 days you will be allowed into Vietnam for that number of days visa-free. So if you are a British Citizen you can enter the country for up to 15 days without a visa.

Validity: from 14 – 30 days

How to apply: Apply for an eVisa online via the official portal here.

Fees: 25USD for an eVisa

Limitations: To stay in the country for longer than 30 days you need to apply via your nearest Vietnamese Embassy where you can extend your visa. The 30 day eVisa is a single-entry visa, if you leave the country you will need to apply for a new one. Multi entry visas are also available on the above site for up to 3 months,

That’s everything you should need to travel to any of these countries. If you have any other advice to add from your own personal experience then leave a comment below or sent me a mail and let me know!

 

Thanks for reading!
Steph
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4 comments

Pauline March 11, 2023 - 9:45 am

Thank you – so helpful!!

Reply
Valeria March 15, 2023 - 12:46 pm

Thank you for providing such recent updated information, the only place on the internet I could find anything recent or clear! However I’m now a little confused about Thailand 🤔 I can apply for a 60-day tourist e-visa (Irish citizen) but can only stay for 30 days max on that? Would I need to leave and come back in? Or would that mean applying again for a new visa? Also, if I buy a return flight from Dublin to Bangkok, with the intention of travelling around SE Asia for 2-3 months do I need to show some other proof that I won’t stay in Thailand the whole 3 months? (I’ll probably get Air Asia flights to another SE Asian country or travel overland but unplanned yet) Thanks in advance! 🙏🏻

Reply
Georgina Mudie January 2, 2024 - 8:45 pm

I’m going in Feb to Asia for 40 days from the UK.
From the 15 Feb to 25 March 2024.
First I’m arriving in Phuket for approx 2 weeks and then fly to Vietnam for about 2 more weeks, then to Malaysia for a week, back to Bangkok for a few days and back to the UK.
Do I require a visa for all these countries ?

Please advise.
Many thanks,
Georgina Mudie

Reply
Alex Country Man January 24, 2024 - 5:11 pm

Nice compilation! Sucks that Thailand makes it hard for US citizens to stay longer than 2 months — why? They don’t trust us or don’t want our money? Ridiculous policies, requiring visa runs and $$$. Asia should universally allow up to 180-day stays with no issues.

Reply

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