Sunday, March 13, 2011

Birds eye view of visa rules for SE Asia

Are you a Indian citizen planning to visit Asia? Well, you’re in luck! The following guide covers the latest visa requirements for popular travel destinations in Asia. It has all the basic information you need to plan your trip and attain your visa quickly and easily. The guide is applicable to Indian citizens, holders of passports issued in India and those born in India, and it’s for Tourist Visas only, not Business or Diplomatic Visas.

We’ve sorted the guide based on the suggested time required to apply for your tourist visa in certain countries, they are – No advanced planning, Three-day preparation, and Two-week preparation:

No Advance Planning

Some Asian countries will grant you a tourist visa automatically upon your arrival, and there’s no need for pre-arrangements or payments. The immigration officer will simply stamp your passport with a date showing either the number of days you can stay, or a date indicating when you must leave the country.

The stamp on your passport will technically serve as a ‘visa,’ which allows you to enter the country multiple times within a specific number of days. The countdown begins on the first day you enter the country. Sometimes, this is also known as ‘a multiple-entry visa.’

Three-day Preparation

Some Asian countries require you to submit your visa application in advance, that is before you arrive at the entry point. Usually, you’ll be given a reference number or an approval letter to indicate that your visa has already been approved.

While some countries will grant you the visa without payment, others will require you to pay for a stamping fee at the visa-on-arrival counter. These days, you can submit a visa application online, without the need to hand over your original passport.

Certain nations will grant you a Visa by email, soon after you’ve submitted your online application. Since you get the visa in advance, this is by far the most convenient way. All you need to do is print out your visa and carry it with your passport. Once your visa application has been approved, however, you must usually enter the country within a specific number of days.

Two-week Preparation

Some Asian countries expect you to get a visa ready well before you make the trip to their country. This usually means you’ll have to apply for the visa at the embassy of the country you wish to visit, and they’ll issue the visa to you. For obvious reasons, visa applications at embassies are usually much easier to do when you’re in your home country, before you travel.

In some cases, you can also apply for a visa through travel agents; they have ‘runners’ who’ll go to the embassy for you. Some embassies will even let you mail in your passport and visa application. Depending on the country you visit, the start date of your visa may begin once it has been issued to you, instead of counting down from the day you first entered the country.

Indian citizens tend to find traveling a bit of a hassle, as they are required to get a visa prior traveling, or are not eligible for visa on arrival. But do not fret. Information from multiple sources in the same thread at Thorntree will surely help if you are an Indian citizen planning to travel/backpack around South East Asia.

Can get a Visa on Arrival. 30 days from date of issue. Immigration officers did not ask for an outbound ticket, but advisable to have a flight out of Indonesia within 30 days.


Need to get a visa from India, Chennai Consulate. No hassles there. 1 year, multiple entry with 30 days for each duration. barkingcrab crossed into Malaysia (Peninsula, Sabah and Sulawesi) multiple times and generally faced no hassles but was asked for an outbound ticket at a couple of border points (Thai/Malaysia) even though he had a valid visa for Malaysia. Fortunately, he had a “ticket-out” and it was within the 30 days duration.


15 days Visa on Arrival available at restricted port-of-entries, with flight-out tickets. This was enforced at Bangkok and Phuket airports. The Thai border agent demanded $10 “bribe” from barkingcrab (despite the papers being perfect). jayanraj got VOA for 15 days without fee, onward / return ticket required, other documents like hotel booking, sufficient funds, insurance not needed. Please note that Indian residents CAN NOT get a Thai visa at any Embassy outside of India.

30 days Visa on Arrival available. Simply arranged for a Lao visa at their embassy in Bangkok. Straightforward. Can cross into Laos at Ching Khong/Huey Xai with no issues. Please note that VOA is not available for Laos from Cambodia.

30 days Visa on Arrival available. Cambodian visa can be arranged at Vientiane. Straightforward. Can cross into Cambodia from Don Det with no issues. Please note that there is no VOA border crossing into Thailand from Cambodia for Indians. jayanraj reports that for the visa on arrival stamp for 30 days at USD25, he had to get a prior e-visa before that but didn’t inform airline until he reach Phnom Penh, nice experience.

30 days Visa, apply at Embassy/Consulate. Straightforward. barkingcrab got his at Sihanoukville. jayanraj reports that it was very simple but as he was a new traveler, he had to get a pre-visa approval letter from his tour operator from Hanoi after sending him passport & flight details prior to that. Visa sticker is from Mumbai consulate, dates as mentioned in letter, btw there are some websites too who provide such letter, this system is applicable only while entering by air, but still very straightforward, got 30 days stay single entry, Validity starts as per your arrival flight’s date.

Requires a visa from Embassy/Counsulate in India (except for transit with valid onward ticket). Apply through travel agents in India, furnish complete itinarary with outbound ticket to get a visa. Straightforward at border crossings. No outbound ticket is required if you have a valid visa.

Sri Lanka
Free Visa on arrival stamp at Colombo Airport, smiling immigration staff, asked how many days wanted and gave 30 days.

Hong Kong
14 days Visa on Arrival available.

Philippines issued barkingcrab a single entry, 59 day stay (valid 3 months from date of issue) at the Philippines Consulate in Chennai. A lot of mistrust and initial acrimony. He was told at the Chennai consulate that he can only apply in New Delhi, as the case of a tourist visa on a well travelled passport was apparently too complicated for the Chennai consulate to handle. He did not want to travel to New Delhi and the travel agents were too dogmatic. But barkingcrab persisted and finally, was issued visa within 24 hrs of submission of docs after a week long drama, multiple calls to the Embassy in N Delhi etc. $50 was the visa charge.

barkingcrab also managed to get a single entry tourist visa to Japan at the Consulate in Chennai. When things were going no where, he asked to speak to the Vice Consul but was refused. After writing a worded complaint, he received a call later in the evening that the Vice Consul wanted to chat. Arrived the next day and was met with a smiling and pleasant Japanese guy who asked about travels, why Japan etc for 15 minutes. He was issued a single entry visa, 30 days stay, valid for 3 months from date of issue within 24 hours. INR 420.00, did not have hotel confirmations for every day of stay, but did have air ticket in and out, bank statements and 3 years tax returns.


RK Dubey said...

Very well written article. It was an awesome article to read. Complete rich content and fully informative. Totally Loved it
R K Dubey

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John William said...
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