Many travellers start their trip in Southeast Asia because of how affordable it is. But many of them forget to check the visa requirements and policies in these countries resulting in losing time, wasting money, and a handful of things to worry about in the last minute.
What many people don’t know is that visas in Southeast Asia are actually one of the easiest to get. They can be a little pricey sometimes or some accurate information is hard to find, but when you get used to the routine of what to prepare for your next trip, visas can just be a piece of cake.
IMPORTANT THINGS TO REMEMBER
There are a few things that you need to know about visas in Southeast Asia. There are a lot of travellers who thought visas are easy and free and get surprised about the costs and worse, how long and expensive it can be sometimes especially when trying to extend a visa.
Here is some important information you should keep in mind.
NOTE: All prices are in US Dollars
Not because you carry a pretty strong passport doesn’t mean visas will come easy. Nowadays, the government of each Southeast Asia countries prefer to charge for a visa fee instead of giving it for free.
There are still visa-free possibilities but they are often limited (only a few days or with only single entry) which will require you to extend your stay – this one costs between $30-$80 or more.
Some visa extensions are not even possible at all, meaning you have to leave the country and enter with a new visa.
Getting a visa takes some time unless you are eligible for visa on arrival which should only take no longer than 15 minutes unless you run into problems or have missing documents.
Normally, going through the embassies or consulates are the cheapest and most secure way to get a visa, however, they are also known as the slowest way to do it.
Online sites are hard to predict, they often disclose or give you a time frame. Sometimes between 15-minutes to 7 working days are the standard processing time. You can also obtain a “rush service” for a fee.
Either you are getting for a visa for the first time or extending your stay, these are the usual requirements:
- your passport must be valid for at least six (6) months upon arrival
- your passport must have at least one blank page
- a passport photo (white background)
- an address of your hotel or a friend (if you are staying with them)
- number of days you will be staying
- arrival and departure dates
- return or exit flight tickets, often, explaining that you will be taking the bus or train to the border of the next country is good enough
- some immigration will ask you to show the accommodation booking, exit flight ticket, bank statement, and even cash
Your Passport Validity and Empty Pages
As mentioned before, your passport must be valid for the next six (6) months upon arriving. However, when trying to extend a visa, this rule is strictly required too.
If you are running out of pages, it’s best either renew your passport before leaving your home country or to contact the nearest embassy (if you already left) and get extra pages or renew your passport.
A lot of travellers get in trouble because they often overlook the validity of their passport or remaining empty pages and are forced to fly home right away.
Best Way To Get The Visa For Southeast Asia
Personally, I like those visas or evisas that you can get online, they can be pricey sometimes but they are often the fastest and less hassle. There are also websites that process evisas which are operated by the official government, like Vietnam.
It’s best to check if this is possible for a safer and cheaper way to obtain a visa. If online is not something you prefer to do, the other option is travel agencies which also the same price as online websites but they often take your passport – which many people find really dodgy.
Remember to only go to respectable agencies to avoid losing your passport or get scammed.
The other and oldest way is to go to the embassy or consulate. They are safe and affordable amongst the other options but they are also known for being slow and a lot stricter than the other. You will also have to spend at least a full day and probably have to go back a few days later.
Check If You Need A Visa
VISAS FOR SOUTHEAST ASIA
Travel visa is a document that gives you the right to enter and stay in a country legally. You will be allowed to travel, visit friends and family, and take a holiday without hassle as long as you stay within the validity or your visa.
Visa For Brunei
Brunei government offers pretty decent visa deals, however, there are still a handful of nations who need to get a visa on Bruneian Embassy or Consulate.
- Who is free: passport holders of Southeast Asia, East Asia, Europe, North America, Oceania, and some Middle East while others can receive a visa on arrival
- Who must apply: Africa, South and Central Asia, and Latin America
- Cost: $14 and up
- Requirements: a passport valid for six months, return ticket, and sometimes, accommodation booking
- Length of stay: between 14 and 90 days
- How long is the process of the application: depending on how busy the embassy or consulate
- How to apply: visit the immigration office
- Entry refusal: Israel passport holders
Visa for Cambodia
A Cambodian tourist visa is a straightforward one. All you need to remember is only ASEAN (Southeast Asian apart from Myanmar and Timor Leste) and Seychelles passport holders are free of visa to enter and travel Cambodia.
The rest of the world are required to apply for a visa in advance or when you arrive at the airport or when you cross the border. You can read my Cambodia visa guide for more information.
- Who is free: nationals of Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Seychelles, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam
- Who must apply: the rest of the world who are not on the list above
- Cost: $30-35
- Requirements: your passport details, passport photo, your fly out ticket (sometimes)
- Length of stay: 30 days, single entry
- How to apply: you can either apply online, get a visa on arrival, or from a Cambodian embassy or consulate
- How long is the process of the application:
- Can you extend: yes, all you need to do is go to the immigration office or you can also exit the country and enter again with a new visa
Visa for Indonesia
Indonesia is popular not only because of the beautiful beaches, rice paddies, and mountains. It is also because their visa policy is very easy while extending your visa is straightforward as well. You can also read this Indonesia tourist visa article.
- Who is free: everyone apart from a few countries in Africa, South Asia, and the Middle East
- Who must apply: the countries listed above, some countries also need to get a clearance from the government
- Cost: $30 and up
- Requirements: depends on each nationality and the Embassy
- Length of stay: 30 days
- How to apply: through the Indonesian Embassy or Consulate
- How long is the process of the application: depending on the Embassy
- Can you extend: Yes, for $61.50 via the immigration office or travel agency
Visa for Laos
Laos only let Southeast Asian, East Asia, two European countries visa-free, the rest can obtain a visa on arrival or evisa for $40, which lets you stay for 30 days, it is a single entry visa. Read Laos visa guide.
- Who is free: Southeast Asia, Mongolia, Russia, Japan, South Korea, Switzerland, and Luxembourg
- Who must apply: the rest of the world except some countries in Africa, Middle East, South Asia
- Cost: $40-$55
- Requirements: travel dates, passport
- Length of stay: 14-30 days
- How to apply: online for evisa or visa on arrival
- How long is the process of the application: right away to 3-5 business days
- Can you extend: yes, can be extended twice, not more than 90 days at the immigration office
Visa for Malaysia
Malaysia offers visa-free access however, they offer different days in various countries. It is important to know how many days you can only stay depending on the passport you hold.
Read Also: Malaysia visa guide.
- Who is free: almost all countries in the world
- Who must apply: South Asian, China, some countries in Africa, South America, and Israel
- Cost: depending on your nationality / around $100
- Requirements: travel dates, possible interview, valid passport
- Length of stay: 7-30 days
- How to apply: contact the Malaysian Embassy or consulate
- How long is the process of the application: 1-3 working days
- Can you extend: depending on your nationality
Visa for Myanmar
Visa for Myanmar is pretty easy to understand. If you are not from any Southeast Asian country, it will only mean that you need will need a visa to enter and travel Myanmar.
Read Also: Myanmar visa guide.
- Who is free: Southeast Asia apart from Timor Leste and Malaysia
- Visa on arrival: Australia, Austria, China, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, India, Italy, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Russia, Spain, Switzerland for 30 days, $50 fee
- Who must apply: the rest of the world, apart from some African and Central Asian countries also visa-free countries who need more days compared to their visa-free access – apply here
- Cost: $50 for tourist and $70 or business
- Requirements: passport (must be valid for at least six months from the day you enter Myanmar, travel dates, address for your first accommodation in Myanmar, a port of entry payment)
- Length of stay: maximum of 28 days, single entry
- How to apply: online or through the Embassy or consulate
- How long is the process of the application: 3 working days
- Can you extend: you have to leave the country and re-enter, apply for a new evisa if needed, overstay fee is $3 per day, overstaying for longer than a few days will be too risky
Visa for the Philippines
The Philippines is generous in granting visa-free to most countries in the world. Not to mention that the extension of visa is easy as well, it will cost a little but shouldn’t be a hassle to do. Visa on arrival is also possible for a fee.
Read Also: Philippines visa guide.
- Who is free: most nationalities
- Who must apply: north and east African countries, some central and south Asia, and China
- Cost: depending on your nationality
- Requirements: often, the immigration ask for an exit flight ticket
- Length of stay: 59, 30, 14 days
- How to apply: through the Philippines Embassy or consulate
- How long is the process of the application:
- Can you extend: yes, need to wait for a week or two before you can apply for your first extension (extra 29 days), you can extend for up to six months after the first extension (must have ARC card)
Visa for Singapore
Singapore is pretty easy when it comes to visa but perhaps this is because their immigration officers are pretty strict, sometimes intimidating, and very good with their jobs. Read Singapore visa guide.
- Who is free: most nationalities from the Americas, Europe, Central and South Africa, Southeast Asia, and some Oceania
- Who must apply: North Africa, South Asia, Central Asia, and China
- Cost: $50-$90
- Requirements: passport must be valid for 6 months, nationalities from Africa must show a Yellow Fever Vaccination certificate
- Length of stay: 30 days
- How to apply: must contact Singapore embassy or consulate
- How long is the process of the application: 1-3 working days
- Can you extend: yes – more info here
Visa for Thailand
Thailand has turned into a gateway hub between Europe, the Americas, Africa and Asia. There are a lot of flights coming and leaving Thailand to anywhere in the world.
The past decade this country has been one of the top destinations in Southeast Asia resulting in millions of travellers coming every month. While this has been a great ride in their tourism economy, it also has taken a toll in knowing travellers between illegal workers who set foot in Thailand and never left without a valid visa to stay.
Today, Thailand is known as one of the countries in Southeast Asia with strict entry and visa extension policy. Read Thailand visa guide.
- Who is free: most EU citizens, Southeast Asians, Middle Easterns, East Asians, and a limited number of North and South Americans
- Who must apply: those who are not on the list can get a visa on arrival
- Cost: $29 or depending on your nationality
- Requirements: valid passport, passport photo, bank statement, cash amounts between $800 and $1500 (in Thai Baht or major currencies), exit ticket must be shown at the immigration, travel dates
- Length of stay: 14, 30, 90 days depending on your nationality
- How to apply: visa on arrival, embassy or consulate, and online
- How long is the process of the application: 30 minutes via online, at least 3 working days or more if via the embassy
- Can you extend: Yes, one time
Visa for Timor Lester (East Timor)
Timor Leste is one of the best places in Southeast Asia when it comes to visas regardless of what passport you carry. The only catch is most nationalities must enter through Dili Airport or Seaport through visa on arrival and must prove your financial capacity. While a big portion of European citizens can enter without a visa at any border points.
- Who is free: Europeans and Cape Verde citizens
- Who must apply: the rest of the world are eligible for a visa on arrival
- Cost: $30
- Requirements: must get visa application authorisation the moment you land, passport (6 months validity), return ticket, accommodation booking, can financially prove to stay ($150/day)
- Length of stay: 30 days for air arrival and90 days for land
- How to apply: at the immigration the time you land or arrive Dili
- How long is the process of the application: in minutes
- Can you extend: Yes, must go to the immigration office in Thailand, the fees are $35 for 30-days and $75 for 30-60 days
Visa for Vietnam
Vietnam has a very specific visa policy. It’s one of the countries that you really have to check if you need a visa or not. The government granted a free-visa to a very limited number of countries with very different number of days.
For example, not because one EU country doesn’t need a visa to enter Vietnam meaning all EU members are exempted. You should read this Vietnam visa guide.
- Who is free: all ASEAN countries except Timor Leste, Belarus, Chile, Denmark, Kyrgyzstan, Finland, Franc,e Germany, Italy, Japan, Norway, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, UK – check this detailed how to apply for a Vietnam visa article to find out how long you can stay for free
- Who must apply: those who are not on the list – you can apply here
- Cost: between $25-$95 (depending on the type, length of stay, and number of entries, the invitation letter fee is different from visa stamp fee
- Requirements: a passport valid for the next six months upon entry, passport photo, arriving and departure date
- Length of stay: between 7 days to 1 year (depending on nationality)
- How to apply: through the embassy or consulate, travel agency in neighbouring countries and online
- How long is the process of the application: 3 days to 4 weeks or even more
- Can you extend:
MORE TIPS WHEN ACQUIRING VISA FOR SOUTHEAST ASIA
As a traveller who’s been exploring Southeast Asia for five years now, there are a lot of things I’ve learnt about visas around this region. I have a weak passport, hence, when I decide to go somewhere, this is the first thing I also look into.
When To Apply
As soon as you have decided to go to Southeast Asia, check the visa right away and apply if you need one. If you are a backpacker who probably doesn’t plan a lot, apply a week to 10-days before you arrive is a good amount of time.
If you are going through Embassy, always call them and ask how long it will take or read reviews online. While through online sites, they always tell you upfront how long it will take.
I’ve been to situations where I sit in the border of in the airport while anxiously waiting for the email confirmation of my visa – I would never wish that to happen to anyone!
Where To Apply
Depending on your budget and how much time you have will be the two factors to consider which option is best for you.
If doing an online service is something you will go for, always check reviews online – Google Maps, TripAdvisor, Facebook Page.
How Long Is It Valid
If you already know that you want to stay longer than your free visa, it’s best to know if you need to do an extension or if you have to cut down on your travel days. Knowing the validity will help you plan around better.
Can You Extend
In case the visa can’t be extended, you have to know that right away so you can plan your itinerary very well. While if the extension is possible, find out what is the best way to do it and the cheapest.
Visa runs are pretty easy in Southeast Asia way to extend your stay. It’s when you exit the border (either via air, land or sea), and entering again with a new visa.
However, you should do the math and calculate if it’s cheaper to extend the visa without leaving the country or if it’s best to take the bus to the border or fly out to avoid any hassles in dealing with visa extension shenanigans.
How Long Are You Going to Be Travelling
Last but not the least, it will really be helpful to know how long you will be travelling in each Southeast Asian country. Do your research and find out a decent amount of time to travel around each place. Because to be honest, visa extension is often a pain in the butt and expensive.
BACKPACKING IN SOUTHEAST ASIA TRAVEL TIPS
Here are some travelling around Southeast Asia tips that you might find useful:
- Backpacking in Southeast Asia: Literally everything you need to know
- Southeast Asia travel route and itineraries: Where to start your trip and how to make a good travel itinerary
- Travel budget guide for Southeast Asia: Here’s a detailed article on the cost of travelling in Southeast Asia
- When is the best time to travel to Southeast Asia: Which months to go, festivals, peak season
- Affordable destinations in Southeast Asia: Where can you go without breaking the bank
- Vaccinations for Southeast Asia: What shots you need depending on where you’re going
- Asia bucket list: fun and adventurous trips to add
I hope this post helps you sort out visas for Southeast Asia. If you have any questions, let me know in the comment section below.