A Complete Guide to Visas in Southeast Asia

One of the most stressful things for many people when planning a big trip is working out which countries require a visa, which don’t, how much they cost, where to apply, when to apply and a million other visa related questions. I will try, as best I can, to answer these questions in this blog post but as visa requirements differ depending on what nationality you are and regulations change all the time, I HIGHLY recommend you check each country’s embassy site before embarking on your trip.

My friend (I better not name her as she might kill me!) actually got DEPORTED from Vietnam because she didn’t have her visa on arrival thanks to a mess up by a Travel Agent. She got sent to Thailand, and then as she had no visa for Thailand they tried to deport her from there too. It really was the stuff of nightmares.

Thankfully due to some quick thinking, advice from fellow travelers and the ability to apply for visas online (while stuck in limbo!) she got sorted and was back on Vietnamese soil within 24 hours. It was a lesson for her, and a lesson for me. ALWAYS do your own research!!


Tourist and Transit Visas on Arrival are available for nationals of these 52 countries and territories. A tourist visa for up to 30 days costs US $35.00. (This seems to increase every few years!) Visa Free Entry on arrival for 30 days free of charge is available for nationals of the following 11 countries and territories: Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Hong Kong, Macau, Malaysia, Morocco, Peru, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.


Overstay visitors incur a penalty of US$20 per day for under 60 days over-stay. Stay any longer and you could end up in an Indonesian prison!! These penalties can add up quickly so it might be better option to fly out on a cheap AirAsia flight then re-enter the country for another month.

**Personal experience** I did not have US dollars on arrival in Bali and this caused A LOT of hassle as there is no ATM inside the customs area. I had to beg them to let me outside to get the money, then come back inside to pay for the visa then exit again. My advice for the broke backpacker, I highly recommend preparing yourself with at least 100 dollars of your country’s currency to prevent such mishaps. I am now always sure to travel with at least 100 US dollars in my wallet for times like this!


Most nationalities (North Americans, South Americans, most of Southern Africa, Europeans, and Australians) do not need a visa for Singapore for the first 30 days and in some cases 90 days. (You would want to have A LOT of money to be a tourist in Singapore for longer than that!)

You simply need proof of onward travel, proof that you have sufficient funds (print out a bank statement before you travel), and a passport valid for at least 6 months. If you are from North Africa, the Middles East and few other destinations you will probably need a visa and can find more information HERE.


Similar to Singapore, many nationalities (most European countries, North Americans, South Africans, Australians etc) do not require a visa for Malaysia. You are permitted to stay within Malaysia for 90 days (although this differs depending on nationality.)



As one of the most popular tourist destinations in South East Asia, you will be happy to know that things *should* be pretty hassle free for you here when it comes to visas. Most of the Western world can enter without a visa for a stay of up to 30 days.

If you wish to stay in Thailand for MORE than 30 days, you can apply for a 60 day visa in a Thai embassy before you arrive. If you are already in Thailand and need an extension, you can go to the nearest immigration office, pay the 1,900 baht fee and have your visa extended by 30 days in a few short hours.

**Personal experience** I arrived in Thailand overland by bus from Cambodia and they only gave me a 15 day visa. I am unsure if this is still the case but it was as of August 2014 (15 day visas if you arrive overland, 30 if you arrive by air). This meant I had to go to the immigration office in Koh Samui (I was in Koh Tao when I decided to stay longer) and it cost me quite a lot extra to get this sorted out.



I went to Cambodia twice last year and both were relatively hassle-free. Relatively!! Nearly all visitors to Cambodia require a visa. Unless you are from South East Asia, you will probably need one. I found the e-visa process pretty straight forward. You just apply online, pay the 30 dollar fee, and your visa is emailed to you. You then print this out and give it to immigration on arrival.  In Phnom Penh, tourist visas can be extended (only once), giving you an additional 30 days at a cost of around 30 dollars.

**Personal experience** Whatever you do, make sure you print TWO COPIES of your e-visa and keep them in a very safe place where they won’t get damp or torn (yes, this is exactly what happened to me – and could happen to you if travelling during the monsoon season!!) When you exit the country, they won’t let you leave until you hand then the second copy of your e-visa. I literally nearly got stranded at a dodgy border post thanks to this slip up.I eventually handed them a ball of wet paper that they could (just about) verify was a copy of my e-visa!! Lesson learned!!



Pretty much EVERYONE needs a visa for Vietnam unless you are lucky enough to be from one of its neighboring countries…or Russia. Pretty random, I know. Vietnam is definitely the country that causes the most hassle when it comes to getting the visa. The first thing you should know is that they DO NOT issue a visa on arrival unless you have an invitation letter from a travel agency.

It is very important to decide what type of visa you need as this also happens to be the most expensive visa in South East Asia. The stamping fee for a visa on arrival at the airport is fixed: US$45 per person for single entry and US$ 65-95 per person for multiple entry visa. This fee is paid in cash, USD or VND, at the visa-on-arrival counter. You can only get this Visa-On-Arrival stamp if you already have your visa invitation letter which you get from a travel agency online for about 20 dollars before arrival. So you are talking about 65 dollars minimum if you do it yourself, more if you do it all through a  travel agency and get your visa stamp before arrival.



A 30 day visa-on-arrival is available in Laos, whether you arrive by air or overland. There are some land border crossings, however, where they do not issue a visa on arrival so if you plan on crossing at an obscure point, it’s best to get your visa in advance.The price you pay depends on what nationality you are, with some nationalities paying way more than others (the average cost is about $35). If you hold a passport from Japan or one of the ASEAN member states, won’t need a visa to enter Laos. As usual, you’ll need your passport to have at least 6 months validity, 2 passport photos and the visa fee in cash (preferably US dollars).

Visa extensions are fairly easy to obtain, but you’ll need to plan ahead and visit the immigration office in Vientiane if you want to avoid overstaying your visa (there’s currently a $10 penalty for each extra day you spend in the country)


As Myanmar has only recently opened it’s doors to the backpackers of the world, it is still a little tricky when it come sot getting a visa. You will really need to plan ahead as all visas must be applied for online in advance (they take about 5 days to process) and as you cannot enter Myanmar overland, you will have to fly into the country. The good news is that eVisas are valid for up to 3 months (before September 2014, they were only valid for 28 days) and the list of nationalities eligible to apply for them is increasing all the time. While it is sometimes possible to get a visa on arrival at Yangon International Aiport, it is not guaranteed and thus is really not recommended!



A free visa on arrival is available if arriving into the Philippines by air. It is valid for up to 30 days and most nationalities (bar a small few) are eligible to apply. Essentially, the citizens of any country that has good diplomatic relations with the Philippines is welcomed to the country without a visa! Tourists were previously only given a 21 day visa, but this was extended to 30 days in 2013.

Janet Newenham

This is a guest post written by Janet Newenham of ‘Journalist On the Run’. Janet is a travel blogger from Dublin, Ireland who is trying to make her way to 50 countries before she turns 30. Follow her adventures here.



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  1. Fantabulous post!
    thanks for sharing with us this important information about many countries, especially I like to visit Singapore and the information provided by you very helpful us at that time.

  2. Hi Kelly! I’m Thien from Vietnam. Thanks greatly for your tips! They’re very useful, I must say.

    Would you like to try out some wonderful places in Vietnam? Check out this Things to do in Vietnam for various useful suggestions.

    Do hope that you can visit and explore our country one day.

  3. Hi! I’m Thien from Vietnam. Thanks greatly for your sharing! As I see you had a great time in Sapa, Vietnam. And in such hot days, Sapa remains as one of the most outstanding destinations to avoid the heat. You can head to Sapa again to enjoy fresh air, cool weather and spectacular natural scenery.

    Hope to see you again in Vietnam!

  4. great article, we are planning a group trip and were not sure where to go your post solved our problem.
    thank you for sharing.

  5. I can’t get enough of this post! It’s well-written, well-researched, and delivers valuable insights.
    Kudos to the author!

  6. Wonderful Post. Good you explained everything in detail it has been a great help. Thanks for sharing the Useful and Informative Blog. Thanks a lot for sharing so much. I would love to visit this amazing place.

  7. Great blog post! Thank you so much for sharing it. Good you explained everything in detail it has been a great help. Wonderful travel blog.

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