Visas and Entry Processes

My Visa information below is based on being a citizen of the United States.  I have duel Canadian citizenship as well and often travel with Australian friends, so I will comment if I did visa with either citizenship/friends.

 

2017 – Traveling to Iceland and Germany and neither require Visa’s for US Citizen

I’m heading to Asia for a two week holiday in December 2016 and looked into Visa’s again:

1. Myanmar (previously known as Burma): Total visa cost $50 for an American

At the present time, you can apply for an E-Visa if you fly into one of the major international airports (Yangon and Mandalay are two of the most common).  This was a super quick process.

  • You need to have a clear photo to upload to the application.
  • The company says it takes 3 business days (mine was less than 24 hours) to get the approval letter which we take with us and get stamped on arrival.  I did something similar in Vietnam and quite easy…but you need to bring the approval letter.
  • Some sites charge $50 plus $20 service and taxes (for $90).  I found this site for $50 (all fees included).  I used it and it was quick and painless.  The website is www.evisa.moip.gov.mm
  • Took me about 5 minutes to complete, upload photo and just submit.

2. Malaysia – For an American citizen, no visa is required.  More information can be found at: https://malaysia.visahq.com

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Here are all the Visa’s and the Entry Processes I went through for my 2014 Asian Trip:

1. LaosTotal cost (I decided to enter as a US citizen as it was $35.  If I entered as a Canadian citizen it was going to cost $42.  My Australian friend Vanessa only had to pay $30)

  • Laos has a visa on arrival which is fairly easy.  When you land at the airport, you can get in the worlds slowest visa line (well….the visa line in Kenya still ranks as the slowest, but this may be the second slowest.  After filling out the application on the plane, you visit three windows where locals help you by hand.  They review your applications at window one.  Then the person at window 2 reviews what the first guy did and asks you for one photo.  He then starts to fill out some of the visa by hand.  Then the guy at window three collects your money, looks at the photo, then at the passport, then reviews the work of the others and then may give it back to you.  You would think this would mean they would get it right?  Mine was correct, but Vanessa found after all this they still spelled her name incorrectly on her visa.  Oh well…it was a slow and manual process.  I was about the 10th person in line and it still took about 30 minutes.

2. ChinaTotal cost (as a Canadian was $52 when obtained in Laos).  If I would have gotten this as a US citizen from the US, it would have cost me $160.  If I would have gotten this as a Canadian citizen and waited the 4 working days, it would have been $30-$40.  So the little bit extra for the rush, was well worth it.

  • After reading about the visa process, I found out I needed to bring my passport, photo, proof of my flight in and out of China, proof of my hotels in China, a copy of my bank statement showing I could pay for my trip, proof of employment (something creative like emails, maybe a business card…this requirement was a little vague) and essentially your first born child. Since I don’t know what day I’m actually going to arrive in China, I knew I had to book a “fake plane ticket” to China, print the confirmation and then cancel the “fake plane ticket”. So I did this from the US and found Cathy Pacific had a ticket that was fully refundable without a fee (as most airlines will charge a fee to do this for flights to China). I also had to do this for my hotel. So I brought my “fake” flights and hotels with me. Funny how I have to play the game to get my visa.
  • On Sunday, June 15th, I went to a few of the travel agents in Vientiane, Laos that handle visa’s as some will do it for you for a service fee. The funny part is all of them advertise they do China visa’s and have service prices listed, but when I asked them to do it, they said, “oh no…don’t do China visa…you must go to embassy and do yourself”. That’s fine, but I wanted to tell them all to stop advertising they do it. I also tried to find out what time the embassy opened and I was told 8:00, 8:30, 9:00 and 10:00 and also got different closing hours. So I knew it was going to be a crapshoot…but better to be early and be the first one in line (as in the US, the lines are really long to get a visa). Lucky me…after I got a tuk tuk out there, I arrived at 8:15am and found out it opened at 9:00am. So good news, I would be first in line, but had to wait 45 minutes.
  • When it finally opened, only five more people arrived and I had made friends with a Spaniard guy that was on his second visit (as the first time he didn’t have a flight or hotel booked). When all was said and done, the Spanish guy was trying to get a rush visa. When he went through the line and was done, he told me they wouldn’t do it for him and said they could only do four days. This worried me as I didn’t have four days. I figured I would ask nicely and see if they would rush mine since I was leaving in three days. When I got to the counter and presented my documents (I only needed the flight and hotel bookings and 1 photo – no bank statement or employment verification needed). The visa guy told me it would be four days until the visa would be ready. I smiled and asked nicely if it could be rushed as I was leaving Vientiane on Wednesday. He said, “ok…it will be ready tomorrow”. I’m not sure if it was since I was a girl or wearing a dress (same little sundress I wore when I had car issues a week earlier in California driving from Los Angeles to San Francisco) or if he just wanted me to get the visa in Laos and pay the fees there, but I didn’t care as I was going to get my visa in one day for less than I would in the US and it was a MUCH easier process. The Spanish guy asked as well and was told no, but somehow I got the yes. I was in and out of the embassy in 15 minutes. Only thing I had to do was find the Bank of China in town and go there to pay the $52 fee. I figured I could get some exercise and find that before Vanessa arrived at lunch which was what I did. I was back at the hotel and laying out by the pool when she arrived at noon. So all in all, a productive morning and my China visa was in process.
  • I was able to go back the next morning, Tuesday, to pick up my visa at 9:00am.  This has to be the easiest process once I learned all the rules.  It also was much cheaper than getting this at home (as long as you have time and energy to deal with in another country.

3. BhutanTotal cost (as a Canadian) was $40.  It was the same price for US citizen.

The visa for Bhutan has to be obtained in advance through an approved Bhutan travel agency.  So once you select the travel agency, they should be able to take care of this for you.  All we had to do was send over a COLOR scan of our passport and the $40 for the visa.  Within a few days of this, the travel agent told us the visa was approved and sent a copy of it via email.  Easy!

As many people were asking me about how to get to Bhutan as they heard it was a different process, I wanted to put down the process we had to go through as it was the only country I’ve been to that had such a formal process to enter.

If you want to travel to Bhutan, you have to:

  1. Book travel with an official Bhutan travel guide.  Now you could find a domestic travel agent to do this, but they will serve as your middle man and book directly with an official Bhutan travel agent.  There is no way around this.  So you can’t just book a ticket, find a hotel and wing it as many travelers do in other countries.
  2. Research the tour companies to find which will serve your needs and communicate well while you are planning.  This was key for me.  I personally did a lot of reading on Trip Advisor, Lonely planet, Frommers and other travel chat rooms to see what other travelers had liked and not and even sent some emails to people I found in these travel chat rooms to ask more questions.
    In the end, I loved the travel agent I selected and would highly recommend his company.  He can accommodate the 3 star accommodations where we stayed or can do the 4 or 5 star accommodations if you prefer that.  I asked about those and the prices, so everything is customized to what you want to do (and spend).

    • Please contact Pema as he is the owner of Bhutan Stunning Tours and he was the guide that took us out on our 8 days.  He has been leading tours for 10 years and is a Sr. Cultural and Trekking Guide for Bhutan.   You can email Pema at: pematangbi@gmail.com or visit the website at www.bhutanstunningtours.com
  3. Bhutan Daily Tariff Fee for all Visitors.  There is a daily tariff fee of $250 per person per day and this includes your hotel (3 star accommodations), meals, guide and driver and all entrance fees.  If you want to stay in a 4 or 5 star resort, they are available, but the prices I was quoted in low season started at $300 and went up to $1,800 per night (plus 10% taxes and 10% service fee).  I was told by most tour agents I spoke to that the majority of people that travel stay in the 3 star accommodations which is what we did and they were fine, but not fancy.  So depends on your budget, needs and such.  We didn’t spend much time at our resort or room.  I’m happy to discuss further as we saw some of the nicer resorts and also stayed in 3 different cities and experienced the 3 star accommodations.
  4. Payment – We had to wire money to Bhutan to start the process and this can take about 5-10 days with 3rd party wire transfer and the slow Bhutan banking process.  The tour agents need to get the money before they can apply for our visa to enter the country.
  5. Flights – There are currently two airlines that fly to Bhutan and you can only fly from a few hub cities (Bangkok, Katmandu and New Delhi).  There should be service from Singapore soon.  I heard that Katmandu was the cheapest once we arrived and also the shortest flight.  Flying from Bangkok, we had to connect in Kolcuta, India and the total flight time was 4 hours and 40 minutes.  The two airlines are Druk Airlines (which you can book yourself online) or Bhutan Airlines (which the tour agents can book for you).  Be careful booking Druk airlines online as if you book the cheapest ticket, there are many restritions.  Our tour agent looked into the different classes of tickets and told some of the cheapest fares are only for locals and we would have been charged more at the airport if we would have booked these (and I read something about this in the online reviews/chats).  So we decided to have the travel agent book our flights for our and included this amount in our wire for everything.  Made it all easier.
  6. Tipping – If you thought your guide and driver took care of you and provided good service, it is very customary to provide a cash tip at the end of your trip.  Generally the guide and driver will join you at the last night dinner so this is a good time to provide this.
    Additional spending  – As all the accommodations, meals, transport and entrance fees were covered, the only additional spending we had were beverages, gifts, and offerings at all the temples.  We also opted for a hot stone bath after our hike to Tigers Nest (which really was wonderful).  I brought many crisp US $1 bills that could be used for offerings and also tried to have small local money for offerings.

4. Thailand – No visa needed – yea!

5. Indonesia – I was able to get a Visa on Arrival at the airport here which was fairly easy.  As soon as you get off the airport, you stop at the VOA booth, present your passport and pay the fee.   You should be ready to pay in cash as the two times I’ve arrived here in the last 9 months, the credit card machines have not worked…so be prepared with US cash.  This visa is valid for 30 days.  If you need anything longer, you need to arrange prior to arrival.  No passport photos are needed.  Total cost for the Visa is $35 US (which recently increased from $25)

6. Vietnam – You are required to have a visa prior to boarding a flight to Vietnam so this takes some prep work.  You can either get a visa at an embassy (and must do at an embassy if you arrive via land transport).  If you arrive via airport (at the airports: SGN, DAD or HAN only) you can apply for a Visa on Arrival now.  With this, you must submit for an approval letter in advance, which takes 2-4 business days and can cost $10-$40 for the approval letter.  Then you print this approval letter and bring it as proof to board the plane.  When you land at one of these international airports, you finish the Visa on Approval process.  You will need 2 passport photos and $45 US in cash to pay for the visa stamp.  So at least this saves a trip to the embassy, but there still is work to be done in advance.  It’s also much cheaper for US Citizens as a US Citizen will have to pay $160 if you get the visa in the USA at the Embassy and if you do it this way.

Total cost for the Visa on Arrival including the approval letter and Visa stamp is $55 ($10 approval letter and $45 visa stamp).   The three Visa on Arrival companies I looked into after my research was:

 

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Here is the Visa info and research I did for my 2008-2009 Round the World Trip.  I’m sure prices will be off over time.  I’m referring to US citizens unless referenced.

Visas I actually got on my trip:

1. Russia – Difficult process as I had to get official invitation from Russia (which I purchased from a company online).  This was $30.  Then the actual Visa was $151 back in New York.  So total Visa cost was $181 (and two trips to Embassy to drop off as my invitation didn`t have a signature the first time).

2. Indian Visa – Easy process.  Took one day in New York and was $90 for a year visa – multiple entry.

3. Turkey – Easy to get at airport.  Just needed $20 US cash (or Euros).  Colin didn`t have either, so I was his sugar mama and paid for his Visa. Canadian visa was more at $40.

More visa info: http://travel.state.gov/visa/visa_1750.html

London – No Visa needed

Scotland – No Visa needed

Norway – No Visa needed

Sweden – No Visa needed

Finland – No Visa needed

Estonia – No Visa needed

Latvia – No Visa needed

Russia – Yes. Difficult to get.  Can get in US, but can onlly obtain it up to three months in advance.   Need to get an “official invitation” first.  This can be done online for $30.  Then need an application, money order for $131-$300 depending on processing speed, 2 photos and praying you did it right.  NY Consulate at: 9 East 91 Street ( tel: 212 348-0926)  www.visatorussia.com/.  All in all, my visa & invitation costs me $181.

Ukraine – no visa needed (not considered part of Russia)

Bosnia & Herzegovina – No visa

Montenegro – No visa

Serbia – No visa

Slovenia – No visa

Croatia – No visa

Greece- No visa

Lebanon – Yes.  Can get a free two month visa at the airport. Didn`t really know how – they`re supposed to be about $20 for 15 days. But the guy just told her to `go ahead`

Syria – Yes.  Jen got it back in the U.S. by sending passport to the Syrian consulate in Washington, D.C. It was $100 and took one week to get back.

Jordan – Yes.  can get visa at the border for 10 JD (~$15 U.S.) — extremely easy process.

Egypt – Yes.  can get visa at the border in Nuweiba for $15 US (they did not accept Jordanian dinars). – Also can get at airport upon arrival for $15

Morocco – No Visa

Uganda

Tanzania – Yes – About $100 at border.

Madagascar

India – Yes – Got in New York.  Costs $98 for 1 year visa.  Visa starts from date of issue – so one year made more sense so I could get done in NY.
Nepal – Yes.  Can get visa upon arrival at the airport for $30 US.
China – Yes, need a visa before you land.  Must go to China Embassy before you leave US.  It was going to be $150 for US Citizens (and painful process of dropping off with 2 passport photos, then coming back in a week to pick up).  The lines at the Los Angeles Embassy were so long and crazy.  In 2008 I got this visa while in Hong Kong for about $20.  In 2014 I didn’t want to deal with the crazy lines or prices and decided to get my visa under my Canadian Passport (while I was traveling in Laos) as it would be much easier and cheaper.  See details above.
Hong Kong
Cambodia – Yes. You can get visa upon arrival at the airport. It is $20 US and also requires one picture.

Laos – Yes. Visa obtained at the border crossing for $31 US.  Canadian citizens were about $10 more than US.
Thailand – NO
Vietnam – Yes. It is necessary to get visa before arriving. But make sure it`s multiple-entry if you even have an idea of crossing into another country in between visiting north and south Vietnam.  As of 2014, there is now a Visa on Arrival.  Check out steps listed above as fairly easy..but allow a week to get through the process with the external companies.

Malaysia – No visa
Indonesia (Bali & Java) – Yes. Can get visa on arrival. It is $25 for up to 30 days.  (Price increased to $35 in 2014)
Singapore – No visa in advance.  They provided a 30 visa free on arrival at the airport.
Australia – Yes – Must apply online prior to arriving at airport.  Was $20 and took 24 hours.
Fiji – No visa
New Zealand – No visa

Tahiti

Antarctica – No visa
Chile – No visa for Americans if you travel overland.  I believe there is a visa if you fly into country (was $100 in 2009)
Brazil – Yes – Visa is more expensive for Americans ($100 US), but I already have Canadian visa ($30 US)
Argentina – No visa
Uruguay – No visa

Bolivia – US Citizens had $100 visa.  Canadians had no visa.  Since I entered Chile as an American, then tried to change to my Canadian passport at the land border, they were going to charge me the $100 US Visa.  Once I got to main city, I was able to prove I was a Canaidan and US Citizen and how I entered the country (and I did this all in Spanish).  So the border control only charged me $20 (passport swap fee) but much better than the $100 US fee.

Costa Rica – No Visa needed

Honduras – No Visa needed

Cuba – Entered under my Canadian passport.  They didn’t stamp my passport, but a separate piece of paper you keep with your visa.  So many Americans were able to enter with no problem.

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