Backpacker Visa Guide to Southeast Asia

Backpacker Visa Guide to Southeast Asia

As a backpacker in Southeast Asia crossing borders becomes a regular undertaking. Each country has a different rule of entry and some countries will require you to apply for a visa before you travel. As visa requirements often change, for travellers in South East Asia it can be difficult to plan things like budget and duration of travel. Here, we’ve done our best to compile the latest visa information in South East Asia to make it easier for you to plan your trip! Please be aware that information regarding visas is particularly vulnerable to change and be sure to get in touch with us if you have new knowledge of a change in border crossing information!

(Prices quoted in US Dollars throughout)

Passport Control Suvarnabhumi Airport BangkokThe first glimpse of Southeast Asia for many backpackers: Passport Control at Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok

Brunei Darussalam:

  • Nationals of most European countries (this includes 25 countries in the European Union), Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea and New Zealand do not need to apply for a Tourist Visa for visits of up to 30 days.
  • USA citizens can stay for up to 90 days.
  • Citizens of Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Canada, Japan, Switzerland and Norway will receive a 14 day entry.
  • Other nationalities need to apply for a visa in advance which takes 1-3 days to process. For single entry, the visa costs B$20 or multiple entry B$30. If you require a multiple entry visa for a period longer than three days the cost will be B$50.
  • 72 hour transit visas are also available for most nationalities provided that the traveller can show a ticket for an onward destination.
  • Passports must be valid for up to 6 months before entering and the embassy recommends that you travel with at least two unused pages in your passport.
  • Visa Renewal: Visas can be renewed at embassies in Bandar Seri Bagawan.

See  Brunei Darussalam offical government website for further information and contact details.

Cambodia:

  • Most nationalities can obtain a one month tourist Visa upon arrival which costs around $20.
  • At land border crossings, notably the Thai/Cambodian border, the fee can be more expensive as the cost is paid in Thai baht and is sometimes rounded up considerably (currently 1200 baht).
  • You will need two passport photos to apply, or you will be charged extra (usually only $1-2).
  • Passports must be valid for up to 6 months before entering.
  • You can also now apply for an E-visa online at the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs & International Cooperation.
  • Here, you can pre-order your visa for a set price of $25 set price ($20 visa and $5 processing charge). You will need a digital photo of yourself to upload. Processing takes three days and you will get the visa straight to your mailbox.
  • See official website for up to date info on which borders support the E-visa as not all of the crossings take it yet.
  • Visa extension: Visa extensions can be obtained at Phnom Penh immigration office – opposite the International Airport. Tourist visas can be extended one month (around US$35). Some guest houses and travel agencies will also offer the service for a fee. For longer extensions ask for details at the Immigration Office.

See Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs & International Cooperation for further information and contact details.

East Timor:

  • Nationals from most European countries, Australia, Canada and the USA do not need to arrange a visa in advance.
  • Visas must be applied for in advance, as they are no longer granted on the land border.
  • Passports must be valid for up to 6 months before entering.
  • It is important to note that there are no currency exchange facilities at the airport or other border posts, so you will need to take cash before you travel.
  • Visa extension: Visas can be extended for 30 days, costing up to $45. You must have a valid reason for staying.
  • Penalty for late departure: Penalties range from $70 – $150 US Dollars if the period does not exceed 30 days.

Indonesia:

  • Nationals of Australia, Canada, USA, UK and most European countries are eligible for a 30 day visa upon entry, which costs around $25 USD (cost varies depending on point of entry). Payments can be made in US Dollars only.
  • Please note – the previous $10, 7-day visa is no longer available.
  • You will need 2 passport photographs and your passport must be valid for up to 6 months before entering.
  • Penalty for late departure: Up to $20 / day. For more than 60 days overstay travellers risk deportation or imprisonment.

Laos:

  • Most nationalities can obtain a 30 day visa for Laos at international airports and land border crossings.
  • The cost ranges from $20 – $42, depending on your nationality.
  • At the Thailand/Laos border (Nong Khai – Vientiane) if you pay in Thai baht fees can be more expensive.
  • You will need 2 passport photos and your passport must be valid for at least 6 months upon entering.
  • Visa extension: Visa extensions can be applied for at the Vientiane Immigration Office, which costs US$2 / day for 30 days. Extensions can also be obtained from some travel agents for around US$3. 90 day extensions are available, ask at the embassy for details.
  • Penalty for late departure: Up to US$10/day. Long overstays can lead to arrest and imprisonment.

Malaysia:

  • Most nationalities are granted a free 30-90 day Visa upon arrival at international airports and border crossings.
  • The cost ranges from $20-42, depending on your nationality.
  • Passports must be valid for at least 6 months upon entering.
  • Please note that Sarawak is a semi-autonomous state and upon entry your passport will be stamped and a new pass issued.
  • Visa extension: Visas can be extended at Immigration offices in Malaysia. Fees depend on intended duration of stay.

Myanmar:

  • Visa free entry is available at some border crossings for a short period. If you are going for the day to renew your Thailand Visa for example, you must enter and exit on the same day. Fees are around US$10 (depending on security situation, overland border crossings are frequently closed. Be sure to check the security situation before you travel).
  • Longer visas should be arranged in advance at a travel agency or Myanmar Embassy. In Bangkok, at the Myanmar Embassy the cost is 810 Thai baht for a 28 day visa, taking three days to process.  It is possible to pay extra (around 300 baht) to fast track the process to one day.
  • Like the Vietnam visa, the cost depends on where you are and how long you mind waiting. It can range from $20 – $50. Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months and you will need two passport photos.
  • Visa extension: It is possible to extend your visa for up to 14 days in Yangon. Ask at embassy for details of costs.

The Philippines:

  • Tourist visas are granted free of charge upon entry for most nationalities for a stay up to 21 days. However, you may be required to show valid tickets for an onward destination.
  • For longer stays you should apply for a tourist visa before arrival at a Philippine Embassy.
  • The cost for a three month single entry visa is usually $30, but ask at the embassy for up to date information. Longer visas for up to 12 months are available. You can download application forms at the Bureau of Immigration, Philippines Official Website.
  • Visas take two to three working days to process and passports must be valid for at least 6 months upon entering.
  • Visa extension: When in the Philippines, you are able extend your 21 day visa for up to 59 days at immigration offices. Costs apply.

See the Bureau of Immigration, Philippines Official Website for further information and contact details.

Singapore:

  • Citizens of Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa, the UK and most other European countries are granted either a 14 or 30-day tourist pass upon entry to Singapore.
  • Duration of pass depends on nationality and point of entry. USA citizens receive 90 days. Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months upon entering and you may need an onward ticket.
  • Visa extension: Extensions of up to 90 days can be applied for at the consulate in Singapore.

Thailand:

  • Most nationalities, including Americans, Australians and most Europeans receive a free 30 day tourist visa upon arrival into Thailand by air. However, if arriving by land you will only receive 15 days.
  • Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months upon entering.
  • Penalty for late departure: 500 baht/day. The maximum fine for overstay that you can pay is 20,000 baht after this you may face deportation at your own cost or imprisonment.
  • Visa extension: Visas can be renewed for a fee at immigration points. The cost is 1900 baht for 7 days extra and it can be extended only once. If you leave the country and return, your visa will be renewed for free. You can exit and re-enter the country as many times as you like this way and most travel agents can arrange border runs to neighbouring countries.

Vietnam:

  • Visas for entering Vietnam must be arranged in advance. You can do this at the Vietnamese embassies in whichever country you are in and some travel agencies also offer the service. Visas can also be obtained in advance via Vietnam Airlines online via www.vietnamvisaconsultant.com
  • The service will email you a letter of approval before you travel which you must show to the airline before you board the plane. When you arrive at the airport then you must show the letter, pay a fee of $10 USD and receive your visa. You will not be allowed to board the flight if you do not show either a visa approval letter / or a valid visa.

Vietnam visa letter copy

  • Depending on where you apply for it and how long you mind waiting, (on average from 1 day to 4 days), the Vietnam visa can cost anywhere between $35 and $65 for a 30 day visa. You will need one passport sized photograph and your passport must be valid for at least 6 months upon entering.
  • You can also apply for 90 day visas, which have been issued for more than a year, costing US $100.00.
  • If you apply via Vietnam Airlines, the initial application for a single entry visa will cost $18, then a further $25 “stamping fee” will be charged on arrival in the airport, when you collect the visa. The $18 gets you a letter of approval, which must be printed out and taken to show the Airlines when boarding the plane. The letter, along with two passport photos and $25 in cash, must then be given to the Immigration Office upon arrival in return for your visa.
  • In a bid to encourage tourism – at certain times there are visa fee exemptions. See the Vietnam Tourism website for further information.
  • Visa extension: 30 day extensions can be obtained from travel agents in Hanoi, HCMC or Danang. The process can take up to 5 days and the fee is usually US$30. 

Disclaimer: The information given above is to the best of our knowledge at the time written. It is intended as a guideline only. We cannot be certain that it is entirely correct. Always check with the appropriate embassy before you travel to be sure of the visa situation that is relevant to your nationality (all information updated as of 08.03.13).

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23 Comments For This Post We’d Love to Hear Yours!

  1. Javi says:

    Dear,

    How can you live for a long time in Bangkok for example if only have a 30 days visa?

    Thank you!

    • Dylan says:

      Apply for a single, double or triple entry tourist visa in your home country and that will give you 60 days on your first entry which you can extend to 90 days in Thailand at the Thai immigration office, then when the 1st 90 days is almost up head to one of the surrounding countries and cross the border, if you have multiple entry visa simply re enter Thailand and extend visa again to 90 days, if you didn’t get multiple entry visa in your home country than just apply for a tourist visa in one of the bordering countries on you visa run.

  2. eka says:

    i only get 14 days in Brunei????? :(

  3. David H says:

    In applying for a Cambodia Visa online, I noticed the following language in their Q&A document:

    “If my children are under 12 years old, do they need a Visa?

    No, as long as they don’t have they own passport and are traveling with parent’s passport.”

    What does it mean for a child to be “traveling with a parent’s passport?” Our 7-year old child does have a passport. The question is to buy a Visa or not to buy?

    Same question for Vietnam…pay the extra for a child’s Visa or travel without? Thanks for the tips!

  4. cerviajantes says:

    Don’t forget to make sure you will have enough pages on your passport for all the visas! It sounds stupid, but sometimes you decide to keep on traveling or extend a visa and your pages won’t be enough. Also note that most countries take up a whole page and if you don’t pay attention when you go through immigration, some agents may stamp a blank one and that one will not serve as a visa page anymore. That happened to my husband when we went to Cambodia. He only had one page left. We went to the US embassy and he added 48 pages for $100 (usd) and got them the same day. If you are American and is going to get a first/new passport, you can request extra pages at no additional cost (recommended!).
    Thailand: Brazil and Thailand have a visa agreement so I got a 3 month no fee visa. My husband is American, so he got a visa through a travel agent in Phnom Penh for USD 60 and it was valid for 90 days. By the way, be very careful with that. It was hard to contact the embassy and the guard wanted my husband to give him his passport and charge $70 for it!
    We also extended our visa in Vietnam hassle free :) If you go to Phu Quoc you will want to stay longer!

  5. Tim says:

    So if I understood – We can stay in Thailand for 60 days, go to a neighbouring country and upon return to Thailand they will grant us another 60 day VISA?

  6. Anna says:

    My understanding that some countries require you to have proof of a flight/transport out of the country when you apply for the visa when entering the country.

    Which countries require you do so? I don’t want to be at the airport and not be let in because I don’t have a flight/train out of the country booked yet.

    Any help would be appreciated, I am embarking on a 3month trip through SE Asia mid March.

  7. very helpful guide! thank you for sharing, will come in handy when I get to visit SE Asia.

  8. Shannon says:

    Are the passport photos required to obtain visas the standard passport size or does each one differ in size country to country? If I bring along a bunch of Canadian standard passport photos will those work?

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  10. Dean says:

    Can I buy all my visas for South East Asia in my home country?
    Or do I just get them on arrival?
    Thanks

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  13. Lara says:

    If you’re travelling overland from Cambodia to Vietnam where is the best place to obtain a visa? Can it be done in person or must be applied for online before travel?

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  15. komal says:

    Hi im a citizen of fiji how can I apply for backpackers job.

    thanks

  16. Pin says:

    We wish to share the website ‘Evisa Asia’ which has a large, comprehensive and up-to-date visa requirement information for more countries in Asia. The website also assist traveler to apply for their website without value added services. You can check it out at http://www.evisaasia.com

  17. Rajnesh says:

    Hi , thanks for the info . I will be travelling to Thailand later this month but i dont have any fully blank pages on my passport , will it be an issue to get a visa on arrival .

  18. Tristan says:

    I see this hasn’t been updated in a few years. Anyone know of any changes? Is there anything new I should be aware of?

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