Being from the UK has countless benefits in terms of travel visas. Being, for now, a member of the European Union and the Commonwealth means access to countries across the globe is both easy and often free for us. Our government has a comprehensive A-Z list of every country in the world in the visas and immigration section of their website alongside all the travel advice you could really need in terms of political and legal requirements for visiting whichever one you choose. For other information on East Asian travel such as currencies, what to pack and how to get around, click here.
Planning visas for East and South East Asia requires prior planning because there are a variety of different bureaucratic routes you may have to go through in order to acquire a travel visa for the countries there.
- Visa on arrival: Visas on arrival refers to those that are purchased either at an airport when landing or at a land border crossing. Two times in our trip we drove across land borders, once from Thailand to Cambodia and the other from Vietnam to Laos. Although the Cambodian border crossing itself was hectic and unorganised, the actual purchasing and issuing of the visas was seamless. The visas cost us $30 each and were valid for 30 days. The Lao border crossing was more complex, with the visa requiring a passport photo and costing $35 for 30 days. The Vietnamese border control officers charged every passenger $1 to stamp their passports to leave the country and once in Laos some were charged $37. Sri Lankan 30 day visas cost $40 on arrival either by boat or air but can be purchased at a reduced price of $35 online and in advance. Make sure you research which currency you will be required to pay in and make sure you have enough cash in case you’re charged a little more than the official rate.
- No charge visas: Fortunately, there are a lot of countries in the area we travelled that do not charge British, and many other, tourists for entering the country. Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong and Indonesia were all free for us for a maximum period of 30 days. It is possible to cross the border and return into one of these countries to receive a renewed visa stamp for another 30 days, but some are stricter than others so refer to online forums and the UK gov website cited above to find out more. The Vietnamese and Indonesian visa fees were temporarily waived just a few weeks before we left on our travels which ended up saving us almost $100 each, so be sure to check continuously online to see which countries have and have not waived fees for your country.
- Online visas: We were required to apply for two visas online and in advance for China and Myanmar. Our applications for Chinese visas required us sending our passports to the Chinese Embassy and an extensive form to fill out. There are several tiers and terms for Chinese visas both relative to how many times you will enter and reenter the country as well as how long you wish to stay in the country. For a single entry lasting 30 days we were charged £85 plus posting our passports Special Delivery so altogether it came close to £100. For Myanmar, there was a flat charge of $50 for a 30 day tourist visa and we were sent an acceptance letter in the post that we were required to present on arrival at the airport in Yangon. When booking visas online be sure you’re using the authentic and intended website because copycat websites have been set up for almost every country and charge absurd amounts for the same service and sometimes even for a false one. If you’re unsure about the authenticity of a website then just use the UK gov website to navigate you and you can’t go wrong.