General visa information
Almost all visas for Southeast Asia require several passport photos. For a trip including several countries in the region it is advised to bring 6-10 photos with you, and a copy scanned in to submit any online applications. These services are available all around Southeast Asia if necessary, and you can usually pay an extra charge to have them taken at border crossings.
Tip - bring a few photocopies of your passport photo page in case you lose it on your travels. It makes getting an emergency passport easier and sometimes you can use it lieu of handing in your passport at a guesthouse/hotel. Also photocopy any visa pages so that you don't run into problems leaving the country!
Most ASEAN citizens have free movement around South East Asia and do not require visas. For specific information about your nationality and visa requirements, check with your government's foreign travel database/website.
Related article: The best itineraries and routes for Southeast Asia
Tourist Visa Exemption for Thailand
Thailand has the most simple 'visa' in Southeast Asia. If you from one of these 55 nationalities, including the UK, USA, Canada, Australia & Ireland you can obtain a visa (exemption) on arrival granting you 30 days in the country. It is free, but technically they can ask you for proof of onward travel out of Thailand. If you have your return flight home booked or any onward flight/bus details it is useful to keep copies with you.
You may also be asked to prove that you have enough money to support yourself (10,000 Thai Baht/£200/$300). If you have not yet booked your onward travel, be prepared to detail your plans.
Although it is worth noting that none of us at Travel Work & Play have ever been asked this in ten years of travel. You are more likely to be asked this before getting on the plane in your home country, as it is the airline who are responsible for flying you back if you do not meet the specifications.
Update: July 2017 - to crack down on 'begpacking' among other problems, random travellers are being asked to show they have 20,000 baht. The easiest/safest way to do this is bring a traveller's cheque of that amount.
Arriving back into Thailand either by land or by air now grants you another 30 days visa exemption. This can be done (technically) an unlimited number of times by air, or twice by land.
Visas for Cambodia are easy to obtain on arrival for most nationalities (including UK, US, Canada, Australia & Ireland) and cost between $30-$45 depending on the visa and port of entry. You will need two passport photos (these can be paid extra for if you don't have them).
Tourist Visa for Cambodia
Valid for 30 days and can be renewed once for an additional 30 days. Costs around $35, although this can vary. Many border crossings tack on extra 'fees' and a tour operator will charge you more to arrange it for you.
Ordinary Visa/Business Visa for Cambodia
Theses are valid for 30 days and then can be renewed for up to two years from within the country (without having to return to a border). Costs around $40 (see above). They also mean you are permitted to work in the country. Also good for volunteers, retirees and long term visitors.
Cambodian E-visas are also available to purchase online, lasting for 3 months of stay and costing $30 + $7 processing fee. Only accepted at some entry points (including Phnom Penh and Siem Reap international airports).
E-visa for Burma/Myanmar
With a drive to encourage tourism in Burma/Myanmar in recent years, getting a visa has become much less difficult. If you are flying (update: and now some land crossings) into the country, you can get the E-visa for Burma, costing $50 USD and giving you 28 days in the country. Nationalities from over 100 countries can obtain this tourist E-visa (including the UK, US, Australia, Ireland & Canada.) You have between 1-3 months validity from the issue date to enter Burma so you can apply in advance, although not too far! You will need to upload one passport photo to the form and it can take up to three working days (although most are processed on the same day). You will be sent a letter of approval, and then issued the Burmese visa on arrival at the airport or border.
Apply for your E-visa for Burma here:
Tourist visa for Burma/Myanmar
If you are entering at an entry point that doesn't accept the Burmese E-Visa you can pre-arrange your visa with a Burmese embassy or travel agent before arrival. This is relatively simple in Bangkok and Chiang Mai and used to be considerably cheaper than the E-visa. Visas cost 1600 Thai baht (around $50) for completion in two working days; quicker completion will incur extra charges. Same day completion requires you to show plane tickets for a flight to Myanmar within 24 hours. You will need two passport photos and a photocopy of your passport photo/details page. Prices updated August 2017. We now recommend the E- visa for all travellers if your nationality allows.
The visa system for Laos is similar to Cambodia, offering a 30 day visa on arrival to Laos for around $35 (sometimes plus a small admin fee) for most nationalities. These include the UK, US, Australia, Ireland & Canada.
Lao Visas require one passport photo if entering at at any of the international airports, all of the land crossings with Thailand, and some of the land borders with Vietnam.
For a full list of border crossings that accept visas on arrival see:
US Dollars are accepted as well as Thai Baht if you are crossing from Thailand. As the Lao kip cannot be bought or sold outside of Laos, they do not expect you to pay in Lao currency. It is generally cheaper to pay in US dollars so have some on hand!
Tip - Make sure that you exchange all of your Lao currency before leaving the country as no banks in SE Asia will accept or exchange it outside of Laos.
If entering from any of the crossings not listed above, you will need to purchase a pre-arranged tourist visa. This takes around 3-5 working days and costs around the same amount (depending on your nationality). It can be obtained directly from any Lao embassy or consulate, or can be arranged through a travel agent in any city.
As of 2015, visitors from the following countries can travel to Vietnam for 15 days or less (onward travel may need to be proven/explained) without a visa: Germany, France, Spain, Italy, UK, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Norway. The Vietnamese visa rules are notoriously changeable so it is worth checking the Vietnamese government website for the latest changes.
If you want to stay in Vietnam longer than 15 days (this cannot be extended) or are not from one of the above countries then you have three options:
Tourist visa for Vietnam
Available from any major city in Southeast Asia, although you will be without your passport for the duration and must be able to return to pick up the Vietnamese visa or stay until it arrives. A single-entry visa for Vietnam lasting for 30 days costs $20 and a multiple entry, 90 day visa, costs $70 and takes 2-3 working days. These are available from any travel agency for a small fee. Most guesthouses will accept a photocopy of your passport in lieu of your actual physical copy in the interim. Tourist visas for Vietnam can be extended in major cities across the country for a fee, although it can cost up to $30 for 30 more days. If you plan to stay for more than 30 days total it is advised to get the multiple entry 90-day Vietnamese visa.
Visa on arrival for Vietnam (VOA)
These are only available through valid companies, you must arrive via air and it must be pre-arranged. They take around 3-5 working days and cost around $20 + visa fee on arrival. A visa or visa approval letter must be obtained before reaching the border (land or air). If you don't have either, you will be refused entry and sent back the way you came (even if that is a 24 bus journey!) The benefit is it can all be arranged online and you don't have to give someone your passport or wait several days somewhere for it to arrive.
Many companies offer this service and it is best to research any company before handing over your money. Vietnam Visa Choice and Vietnam Visa Center are two reputable companies which offer this service.
E-Visa for Vietnam
An online visa for Vietnam is now available and takes 1-3 working days (weekends and Vietnamese holidays excluded.) This is now the recommended visa method for any visitors eligible.
The E-visa for Vietnam costs $25, lasts for 30 days of travel in the country and is available directly from the Vietnamese government portal here: https://evisa.xuatnhapcanh.gov.vn/
A comprehensive quide to the E-visa is available here.
Related article: What to pack for Southeast Asia
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