Do my visa plans for Asia make sense? Thoughts and advice greatly appreciated.
December 12, 2010 6:13 AM   Subscribe

Do my visa plans for Asia make sense? Thoughts and advice greatly appreciated.

Help me by pointing out the gaps in my knowledge/understanding/plans for getting visas for visiting Asia.

I'm flying to Thailand at the end of February, visiting Cambodia, Laos Vietnam in March-April, China in May, Japan in June, and more China in July. I'm a UK citizen.

Here's the visa situation as I understand it:

Thailand - not needed for up to 30 days, but I'm considering arriving in Thailand, going to Cambodia for a week or two, and then returning to Thailand for Songkran - this means I need a multiple entry tourist visa?

Cambodia - valid for 30 days, can do on arrival but since you can get it in advance I probably will. Valid for 3 months from date of issuance.

Laos - seems impractical to do anything other than apply on arrival in Laos, but this should be relatively simple (?)

Vietnam - get in advance.

China - varying reports on this but most say I can fly to Hong Kong visa-free and then get my China visa there. Is this a safe bet? I can apply in advance but it has a 6 month validity. I wouldn't want to apply later than the start of February, which means I'd have to leave China by the start of August - I have no return ticket yet so I'd rather avoid this restriction by applying in Hong Kong in May, but not if there might be some problem that stops me visiting at all.

Japan - not needed.

This question is already too long, but I'm also considering taking the Transmongolian rail home through Russia and Mongolia (and ideally trains from there back to Britain). I was going to wait to decide whether to do this once I'm actually out there - but is that a bad idea? Seems like the train should be bookable for Berlin, but I haven't looked into visas etc. for the voyage and whether they could be gotten outside of the UK.

Sorry for the massive post everyone - basically, if you could offer your advice and thoughts on the above I would be hugely grateful. Thanks very much.
posted by Kirn to Travel & Transportation (11 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Definitely quick for a UK citizen to get a China visa in Hong Kong (I usually stay in a hostel that will do it for you by next day for small fee) and I would agree a safe bet but recently the maximum length of stay available has only been thirty days. That may relax now the Asian Games are over (one of the touted reasons I've heard though no idea if true) and I would guess that the usual 90-day stay would be available again come next May.
posted by Abiezer at 6:22 AM on December 12, 2010

Laotian visa should be pretty easy to get at the border. The trip is a cinch and not too confusing. (Much easier than Cambodia) I'd guess that the visa will cost around $35 dollars.

Reentering Thailand shouldn't be a problem. Just crossing the border should reset things and give you at least 15 more days.

Thai visas are often free; they've been trying to rebuild their tourism industry with visas promotions. If you needed a 60 day visa, Vien Tiane is an easy town to spend a day waiting around. Just get to the Thai embassy in the morning.

For SE Asian, check out ThaiVisa. It's a forum site with a bunch of crusty old expats, but the information is usually good.
posted by Telf at 7:11 AM on December 12, 2010

In June/July of this year everyone I met with a visa on arrival to Thailand got one for 15 days only (despite all information saying 30 day visas are issued). So called "visa runs" are very popular, but, depending on where you travel, it might be a hassle. It seems better to get the Thai visa in advance (3 month visa) . I got mine in India, where the embassy worked through an agency - despite asking for it, I was unable to get a multiple entry one. I expect it'll be much easier for you from the UK.

Visas to Cambodia and Laos are issued on the border, no problem. Going to Cambodia, aside from the standard visa fee (higher than advertised), you are required to pay baksheesh (1 dollar for "health screening", 5 dollars "stamping fee", etc). I would not be surprised if, when you arrive with the visa, the officials will be so upset at missing the visa fee, that they'll charge you some other "fees" instead.

You probably know this already, but no Thai visas on arrival are given on the Cambodia-Thailand border, in case you change your mind and decide to go the other way.

Have fun! Sounds like a fantastic trip! (btw - Cambodia warrants a longer stay than people usually give it).
posted by Dotty at 7:35 AM on December 12, 2010

Dotty: "Cambodia warrants a longer stay than people usually give it"

Laos does too!

Thailand will be fine as others have said above.

For the Cambodian visa, as other posters suggest, you'll be fine with VOA.

For Laos, you'll be fine by air but not all land crossings - if nobody here can help, ask for recent experiences on the Thorn Tree forums. The Thailand-Laos border crossings should be fine, but there may be problems at the smallest Cambodia-Laos crossing. It is possible to get a visa in advance from any backpacker area travel agent in major Cambodian cities (I assume the same is true in Vietnam and Thailand) but you might have to wait a few days and pay a bit extra.

Vietnam in advance is the way to go.
posted by turkeyphant at 7:46 AM on December 12, 2010

If you can get the Cambodia visa at the border, and you're only going to be in Cambodia for a week, why are you adding to your red tape by getting it in advance?

Friends of mine (Americans, though) took a similar trip to what you're planning and did China visas in Hong Kong just like you're planning. Everything was fine. Don't know how the US vs. UK factor should be taken into account, though.
posted by Sara C. at 9:02 AM on December 12, 2010

Response by poster: Sara C.: Isn't it easier to send off an application from the UK and have a Cambodian visa ready to go rather than having to deal with it there? I was thinking of that as reducing the red tape, not adding to it.
posted by Kirn at 9:07 AM on December 12, 2010

Isn't it easier to send off an application from the UK and have a Cambodian visa ready to go rather than having to deal with it there? I was thinking of that as reducing the red tape, not adding to it

Kind of depends on your preferences and on how busy you're going to be in the run up to the trip. If you are like me and you'd be in a frantic frenzy for weeks in the run-up to this and the last thing you want to do is take on more red-tape trying to remember where you need to send you passport with what supporting documentation several times over, when this is not essential.

If on the other hand you're the sort of person who sleeps more soundly because they have all their ducks in a row and are as prepared as humanly possible you'll possibly find it easier to get every conceivalble visa before you leave. As others have noted, that does not mean you won't have to pay additional 'fees' at some borders etc.
posted by koahiatamadl at 10:43 AM on December 12, 2010

Just get your Cambodian visa on arrival like everyone else. It takes 5 minutes. Don't overcomplicate something that is already simple.
posted by dontjumplarry at 11:05 AM on December 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Re Thailand, I have heard that it's fairly easy for UK citizens to get a multiple entry visa (valid for a year I think) at the Thai Consulate in Hull - apparently they give them out fairly easily there without any questions. Sorry to be so vague but I don't have time to look it up - I found out about it on the forums.

I'm going to Thailand around the same time and planning to stay for six months - I have an Irish passport and can get a triple entry tourist visa (3 x 60 days) via the Thai Consulate in Dublin, but that's as far as it goes. It's also 120 euros for the visa whereas via Hull it's free, so that does look like a good option for UK passport holders.

It's all quite complicated I agree, but I did find pretty useful.
posted by mudkicker at 1:13 PM on December 12, 2010

China - you can apply and get it overnight. For your first visa, you may be limited to dual entry only (which was the case with my folks this month when they came to visit for the first time). UK passport will get you in and out of Hong Kong without any issues.
posted by arcticseal at 6:57 PM on December 12, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks everyone, all useful.
posted by Kirn at 4:11 AM on December 20, 2010

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