Visa questions? READ ME FIRST!

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Visa questions? READ ME FIRST!

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Visa information - Central Asia through to New Zealand:

By Macca Sherifi

What visa do I need? When will my visa run out? Where can I cross the border? Why do I need a visa? How much is it going to cost?

What, when, where, why, how.

These are all questions we’ve heard before. There is so much information about visas that it can be pretty confusing at times. Hopefully this READ ME FIRST post will clear a little of that confusion up.

If you’re planning a trip through central Asia to New Zealand then you’re going to want to know about certain visas. Let’s look at a specific trip:

India - Nepal - Sri Lanka - Thailand - Cambodia - Vietnam - China - Laos -Malaysia - Singapore - Indonesia - Philippines -Australia - Fiji - New Zealand

Now that’s some trip!!! To avoid complication I’m just going to be dealing with tourist visas. There are going to be no working holiday visas here!!! Just good times travelling around…

India beckons, so I’ll start my trip there.

India:

You’ll need a visa before travelling to India; without one you’ll be refused entry. You can obtain an Indian visa from a number of online companies, but by far the best is VFS Global. They have the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office stamp of approval - they’re also the cheapest too…

As a foreign national you are entitled to two tourist visas:
* Up to six months (US$68 - including administration fee)
* Up to one year (US$100 - including administration fee)

They can either be single-entry or multiple-entry. If you’re thinking of popping over to border into Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan or Sri Lanka then you are going to want a multiple-entry visa.

Most visas will take up anywhere between 10-14 working days to process. You may be asked to attend an interview at the Indian High Commission, but it’s unlikely.

You can apply online, fill out the relevant forms, and then send your passport with your application form via Royal Mail.  A recorded delivery costs approximately £8, so add that onto the above fee. Make sure you send via recorder delivery - you don’t want your passport getting lost in the post!

You can apply for a visa in person by going to the India High Commission, but there isn’t much point. It is rarely quick, costs the same amount and you can spend all day queuing. The only benefit is that it is a fun day out.

An important note to remember is that the validity of a visa starts from the date of issue and not from the date of arrival. Because of this it’s a wise idea to get your visa a few days before you leave - there’s nothing worse than having a ticket book and no visa…

Tourists leaving India will receive a stamp in their passport indicating that they may not re-enter India for two months, regardless of their length of stay. I have no idea why and it’s lucky that not many other countries do this, but dem’s the rules.

Nepal:

A lot of travellers congregate in Varanasi (north India) and decide to cross the border into Nepal. There are tourist buses from Varanasi to Sunauli (the border crossing), or alternatively you can catch a train from Varanasi to Gorakhpur, and then catch a bus to Sunauli.

From Sunauli you can catch a bus either to Kathmandu or Pokhara. Pokhara is nearer…

Another route into Nepal is by crossing from Darjeeling (a north-east India) into Siliguri.

You can get a visa at the border, or if you’re flying into Nepal, at the airport. You don’t need to apply for a visa before you arrive!

As a foreign national you are entitled to three tourist visas:
* Up to 15 days (US$25)
* Up to 30 days (US$40)
* Up to three months (US$90)

All visas are multiple-entry. You can apply for a visa extension for US$30 for 30 days.

Sri Lanka:

As a tourist you are entitled to a free 30 day visa in Sri Lanka.

Visas are issued on arrival.

Tourists wishing to stay for over 30 days should apply at their nearest embassy for a 90 day visa. A single-entry visa up to three months costs approximately US$62 and can be applied for online or at the nearest Sri Lankan Embassy.

Thailand:

Thailand is a travellers dream in more ways than one, and it certainly is when it comes to visas.

If you fly into Thailand you are entitled to a free 30 day visa. No charge, no hassle - just rock up, get stamped and you’re good to go.

If you enter Thailand overland land then you are entitled to a free 15 day visa.

The old system used to entitle you at a free 30 days via land crossings, but the Thai government felt tourists were abusing the system too much, which of course is true. There have been cries for the old system to return…

Bangkok is one of the biggest tourist hubs in the world. If you’re passing through Asia then in all likelihood you’ll pass through Bangkok. Air Asia fly to most places in SE Asia from Bangkok, but if you’re an overland traveller, then you can easily get into Burma, Cambodia, Laos, and Malaysia.

If you overstay you visa you will be charged 500 baht (US$16) a day. Don’t overstay your visa…

Cambodia:

The border crossing into Cambodia is the first time you can encounter some aggravation. You’ll often hear Thai’s telling you that you’ll need a visa before you arrive. You don’t… You can get a visa quite easily on the border.

For example - I caught the bus from Bangkok (Thailand) to Poi Pet (Cambodia). There were approximately 30 people on the bus. We pulled into a little restaurant for a ‘rest’ a few miles short of the Cambodian border. All of a sudden a couple of Thai’s told everyone to fill out a Cambodian visa application and to pay US$25. Because people didn’t know what they were doing they filled out the form and paid up. Out of those 30 people, 28 paid. Me and a friend stood firm, abstinent that we could get a visa on the border. We did and it cost us US$20. You maybe be thinking “big whoop. You saved five bucks.” Yes, I saved five bucks, and that bought me five beers. It’s all relative…

A 30 day tourist visa costs US$20 and you can extend your visa for another month, again at US$20.

Vietnam:

The Vietnamese visa can be a little tricky, certainly one of the trickiest in SE Asia. To enter Vietnam you’ll need a visa before you arrive. Now, you can get this in one of three places, either in Cambodia, Laos or Thailand.

It all depends on the route you do, but getting the visa in Cambodia is by far and away the easiest of the three. You can apply for a visa at the Vietnamese Embassy in Phnom Penh. A one month visa costs US$35 and it takes a day to process the application.

In Bangkok it can take up to eight days to process and in Laos it can take up to four days.

You can also apply for a visa online at the <a href= “[url=http://www.vietnamembassy.org.uk/index.html rel=” target=“_blank” target=“_blank”>Vietnam Embassy</a>, fill out the relevant forms, and then send your passport with your application form via Royal Mail.  A recorded delivery costs approximately £8, so add that onto the above fee. Make sure you send via recorder delivery - you don’t want your passport getting lost in the post!

Your visa will take up to seven days to process.

As a foreign national you are entitled to:
* Up to 30 days (US$36 including administration fee)
* Up to three months (US$65 including administration fee)

They can either be single-entry or multiple-entry, though multiple-entry is more expensive.

You can now get a visa on arrival. This is the quickest and easiest way of getting a visa. You just need to fill in an online application form, pay the service fee, get your visa approval letter, and pick up your visa at the airport you fly into.

China:

If you’re travelling to mainland China then you need a visa, but not if you’re visiting Hong Kong or Macao.

The tourist and family visit visa is known as an L-visa.

If you’re crossing overland into China you can pick up a visa in either Laos or Vietnam. This can vary in cost as you’ll inevitably have to go through a visa application service.

For example - I tried to pick up a visa in Hanoi (Vietnam) at the Chinese Embassy. They wouldn’t issue you me a visa directly. The only way I could get a visa was to go through a visa application service. A one month visa cost US$48, including fee, and took eight days to process.

If you’re flying direct then you can apply for a visa online at the <a href= “[url=http://www.visaforchina.org.uk/visaen/visaView.html?method=index rel=” target=“_blank” target=“_blank”>Visa for China</a>, or visit your nearest Chinese Embassy.

As a foreign national you are entitled to:
* Up to 30 days - single-entry (US$50)
* Up to 30 days - double-entry (US$74)
* Up to six months - multiple-entry (US$147)
* Up to one year - multiple-entry (US$295)

You can apply for a visa at the Chinese Embassy in person or through a travel agent. You have to fill out all of the relevant paper work, drop it off with your visa, and pick it up either three days later (+ a US$78 administration fee) or four days later (+ a US$59 administration fee). The administration fees are on top of the visa costs, so if you are applying for a 30 day, single-entry visa, it is going to cost US$109 - not exactly cheap.

If you’re lazy then you can apply by post, but it costs a further US$88 administration fee and can take anywhere between 5-14 days to process.

If you visit Hong Kong from the mainland of China and wish to return to the mainland, you will need a valid visa for the return journey, i.e. you will need to ensure your visa application shows that you will make two entries to the mainland.

Laos:

Travelling to Laos isn’t a problem when it comes to visas. You can either pick up a visa at the border or at the airport.

There are a number of border crossings:
* At Thailand the most popular overland border crossings to/from Thailand are at Nong Khai/Vientiane and Chiang Khong/Huay Xai.
* At Vietnam the most popular crossing is at Nam Phao/Cau Treo.
* At China the most popular crossing is at Boten/Mengla

A Laos visa on arrival is available at all these crossings.

A 30 day tourist visa costs US$35 and you can extend your visa for another month, again at US$35 (it is worth noting that different nationalities are charged different rates, for example, a Canadian national will be charged US$42 whereas a US national will be charged US$35).

There have been reports of a visa scam where travel agents are supplying 5-day or 15-day visas to customers who pay for 30-day permits. Check the visa validity and conditions carefully.

When you enter Laos, make sure you get an entry stamp in your passport. Fines for not having a legitimate stamp can be high.

Malaysia:

Another cake walk. As a tourist you are entitled to a free three month visa in Malaysia.

You can either pick up a visa at the border or at the airport.

Kuala Lumpur is one of the biggest tourist hubs in the world. If you’re passing through Asia then in all likelihood you’ll pass through Kuala Lumpur. Air Asia fly to most places in SE Asia from Kuala Lumpur, but if you’re an overland traveller, then you can easily get Thailand and Singapore.

Singapore:

As a tourist you’re entitled to a free 30 day visa in Singapore.

You can either pick up a visa at the border or at the airport.

Indonesia:

You can apply for a visa on arrival at all major international airports in Indonesia. The two main airports that you will probably fly into is either Jakarta International Airport (Soekarno-Hatta) or Bali Ngurah Rai International Airport (also known as Denpasar International Airport).

A 30 day tourist visa costs US$25 and you can extend your visa for another month, again at US$25.

You don’t need separate visas for visiting other islands in Indonesia.

Seven day visas are no longer available.

Israeli passports are not recognised by the Indonesian Government and Israeli nationals must obtain a travel affidavit issued by an Indonesian representation abroad.

Philippines:

As a tourist you’re entitled to a free 21 day visa on arrival to the Philippines.

You can apply for a free 59 day tourist visa from the nearest Philippine Embassy, either in your own country or in the Philippines.

Australia:

Visas are required for all travel to Australia.

If you’re visiting purely as a tourist for three months or less, you’ll need to apply for a visitor visa (subclass 651) which won’t exactly break the bank as it’s free. You can apply online at the <a href= “[url=http://www.immi.gov.au/visitors/tourist/evisitor/ rel=” target=“_blank” target=“_blank”>Australian Government website</a>.

If you apply through a travel agent or airline then it is known as an Electronic Travel Authority or ETA and a AU$20 administration fee is charged. Save the money and do it yourself

If you decide once you’re there that you want to stay a bit longer, you should be able to extend your ETA to last you an extra three months. To do this, go to an immigration office in Australia.

If you want to visit Australia for three to six months, you’ll need to apply for a long-term tourist visa (subclass 676). To do this, you’ll have to the <a href= “[url=http://www.immi.gov.au/visitors/tourist/676/ rel=” target=“_blank” target=“_blank”>download</a> and fill in a form, and send it to your nearest Australian High Commission. You’ll also need to pay AU$50, and send various documents, including proof that you can support yourself in Oz (for example, a bank statement, letters from a bank concerning your financial position, air tickets that have been purchased).

You may be asked to undergo a health examination before you arrive, for example, if you have travelled in a country with a high level of TB then you may require a chest x-ray.

Fiji:

Fiji wins the award for granting the ‘longest free visa’. As a tourist you’re entitled to a free four month visa.

You can get a visa extension on the condition that you hold an outward ticket and sufficient funds to support yourself while in Fiji.

A visa is required for visits of longer than four months. Applications for visas can be made at the <a href= “[url=http://www.fijihighcommission.org.uk/ rel=” target=“_blank” target=“_blank”>Fiji High Commission in London</a>.

As a visitor you must have an onward or return ticket and a valid visa for the next country of disembarkation.

Those entering Fiji by boat are subject to the same visa requirements as those travelling to Fiji by plane.  Yachts can only enter through Suva, Lautoka, Savusavu and Levuka.

New Zealand:

As a tourist you’re entitled to a free three month visa, and if you’re a British national, then you’re entitled to a free six month visa.

A visitor visa for New Zealand is pleasantly easy to sort out if you’re a permanent UK resident. Just turn up at the airport in Christchurch, Auckland or Wellington and hand over your passport, and you’ll get a six-month visitor visa absolutely free! No forms, no hassle, no worries.

It’s also possible to extend the length of your stay in New Zealand to up to nine months by contacting the New Zealand Immigration services. This can also be done online, although you will need a valid VISA or Mastercard to pay the NZ$80 fee for the extension. They will also require proof of onward travel at the end of your ninth months.


Further information:

* Most countries you visit will require you have a passport that is valid for a minimum of six months from the date you enter the country.

* Most visas require you to have at least two blank pages in your passport.

* You should always have at least two passport photos on you for border crossing and visa applications.

* For border crossings, make sure you have plenty of US$ - it is easier and cheaper to pay in US$ than local currency (hence why all prices are quoted in US$).

* A lot of countries will not allow entry if you don’t have a yellow fever vaccination certificate - check first.

* A lot of countries will not allow entry if you don’t have an onward or return air ticket.

* Most of the visas listed apply to the following countries:
Europe, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.

If you’re not a British citizen then visas may vary, but as a rule, the above information is a good guide.

* US$1 = £0.61

Websites:

<a href= “[url=http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/ rel=” target=“_blank” target=“_blank”>British Foreign and Commonwealth Office</a>

     
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Awesome post! Thank you!

Just to add to that, consulate affairs change on a regular basis and this post may become out of date very soon. Therefore it is so important to remember to check with the embassy of the relevant country before you depart to make sure you’ve got the most up to date information.

The way to do this is go to http://www.google.co.uk and type in ‘China Embassy London’ or ‘Vietnam Embassy London’ and you should be able to find the appropriate embassy for each.

To make life easier for you here are the official embassy websites of the countries mentioned above:

http://in.vfsglobal.co.uk/ - India
http://www.nepembassy.org.uk/ - Nepal
http://www.slhclondon.org/ - Sri Lanka
http://www.thaiembassyuk.org.uk/ - Thailand (and note that what you get on the border isn’t a visa, but a visa EXEMPTION stamp. I.e an entry stamp. It is not a visa.
http://www.cambodianembassy.org.uk/ - Cambodia - turn your speakers on! wink
http://www.vietnamembassy.org.uk/ - Vietnam
http://www.chinese-embassy.org.uk/eng/ - China
http://www.laoparis.com/index_en.php - Laos (no embassy or consulate in UK)
http://www.jimlondon.net/ - Malaysia
http://www.mfa.gov.sg/london/ - Singapore
http://www.indonesianembassy.org.uk/ - Indonesia
http://www.philembassy-uk.org/ - Phillipines
http://www.nzembassy.com/united-kingdom - New Zealand
http://www.fijihighcommission.org.uk/ - Fiji
http://www.uk.embassy.gov.au/lhlh/home.html - Australia

Look for the ‘Visa’ or ‘Consulate’ sections of each website. If you can’t find the answer you need on the website, find the ‘Contact Us’ page of the website and get on the phone to them.

     
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Good info but would put a warning that these may differ for non British citizens

     
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Just what I was looking for! tag

     
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Dude, you don’t need to “tag”.... It’s a “sticky” topic, meaning it will always be at the top of the “general” messageboards page.

:twisted:

     
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Bit of a specific question here but I fly into Thailand on the 7th of June and only stay in Bangkok for two nights before going on a tour of Cambodia and Vietnam for 3 weeks.  I’m then flying back into Bangkok from Hanoi then travelling down to the East coast for 3 weeks.


Will I only need to apply for one visa, to cover me from when we arrive the 2nd time?  I was going to apply for two but I’m not over the moon about having to pay £56 for two seperate visa’s, especially as 1 will only be for two days 8O

     
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Bit of a specific question here but I fly into Thailand on the 7th of June and only stay in Bangkok for two nights before going on a tour of Cambodia and Vietnam for 3 weeks.  I’m then flying back into Bangkok from Hanoi then travelling down to the East coast for 3 weeks.

Will I only need to apply for one visa, to cover me from when we arrive the 2nd time?  I was going to apply for two but I’m not over the moon about having to pay £56 for two seperate visa’s, especially as 1 will only be for two days 8O

As written above “If you fly into Thailand you are entitled to a free 30 day visa. No charge, no hassle - just rock up, get stamped and you’re good to go. “

 

     
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Ah, I did read that but for some reason my brain decided to completely ignore it :oops:

I think the reason I wanted reassurance was because it says on the Thai visa application that a 30-day visa exemption will be issued as long as you have proof of a flight out of Thailand.  Seeing as we’re not flying out but getting the train to Kuala Lumpur this had me worried a bit, I’ve applied for the visa for the second part of our trip now though so there’s no point in worrying about it now 8)

     
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I think I have read so much info about visas I think I have confused myself! I have just read the application form and it says:

“With effect from December 2008 any person eligible to enter Thailand under the Visa Exemption rule will be granted a stay of maximum 30 days is entering via an international airport or a maximum of 15 days if entering through a land border checkpoint from a neighbouring country”

So I am guessing from reading back through this that if I flew back from Udon Thani which has been confirmed as an international airport that I will get the 30 days! I have been confusing myself so much about all of this! And now it makes perfect sense!!  :D

     
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Thanks - a lot of help!!

Only other question I have - how far in advance can i apply?

I will be in Egypt, Beijing, Aus and America starting Feb ‘12, but I’ve already book flights/insurance etc. I like to pre-plan!

Would like to get the visas sorted as well - but not sure if I apply now, if visas will start now and so will run out before I go?

From what I can gather online, ESTAs last for like 2 years, so shouldn’t be a problem. And Egypt ones can be bought at the border? But I’m not sure about China/Oz. Something I read online said that you can only apply for a Chinese visa 2 months in advance? At which point I’ll be somewhere in Central Europe…not ideal!

Any help would be much appreciated?!

     
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From what I can gather online, ESTAs last for like 2 years, so shouldn’t be a problem.

That’s right.

And Egypt ones can be bought at the border?

Nationals from UK travelling to Sharm El Sheikh, Dahab, Nuweiba and Taba resorts ONLY, for a maximum of 14 DAYS, do not require a visa prior to travelling as a free entry permission stamp will be granted upon arrival. If they intend to travel outside of the above mentioned areas they MUST obtain a Visa.
http://www.egyptianconsulate.co.uk/Visas.php

But I’m not sure about China/Oz. Something I read online said that you can only apply for a Chinese visa 2 months in advance? At which point I’ll be somewhere in Central Europe…not ideal!

Yes, no earlier than 3 months in advance for Chinese visa: http://www.visaforchina.org/LON_EN/faq/250075.shtml

Lexi

     
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Just had the pleasure of getting a Russian visa - it took me a while to work out how the whole process worked - thought I would share as advice seems to be thin on the ground. I read all sorts of stuff like ‘80% of visa applications are rejected when applied for independently’ etc etc. But judging by my experience, its pretty straight forward, but very easy to get sucked into paying a premium for companies to apply on your behalf.

First off - The Russian Consulate has outsourced all of its visa applications in the UK to VFS Global. There’s an online application which can be found here http://ru.vfsglobal.co.uk

You need to apply for/buy an ‘Invitation Letter/Tourist Voucher’  - Real Russia, Russian Trains or any other Russian travel agent worth their salt can provide this for 15/30 quid - which once bought will get emailed instantly to you.
Please note - you don’t need to book any accommodation in advance. Its simply an exercise in bureaucracy to name a place on your application - just make sure it corresponds to what you put in the visa application. If you are doing the Transiberian - you’ll need to name accommodation in Moscow and then ‘TransSib’ as a second location with the accommodation ‘various’.

You’ll need all the pedigree information, passport numbers etc when you start filling in the application online- but also you need dates for every country you’ve visited in the last ten years(its a pain) - you can log in and save the application if you can’t fill it all in on one sitting.

Also, should be noted the ‘Invitation Letter/Tourist Voucher’ has organisation addresses, reference numbers etc that you will need to complete the application. However, the voucher will be in Cyrillic - but Real Russia who i bought mine with - have the info you can copy and paste into the application in English, in the email they send when you buy it. It will make sense once you have the Tourist Voucher in hand.

A 30 day tourist visa is going to cost 90 quid or thereabouts
Don’t pay for someone to check your application or to fill it in - you’ll get charged an added 50 quid for nothing - with promises that it will not get rejected etc - its nonsense. You still have to go to one of the two VFS offices(Edinburgh/London) in person to submit your fingerprints - why pay someone to hand over a form for you.

 

 

     
Avatar for Joy-08
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Hello. Brilliant post! Not sure if you can answer this. But anyway, Im heading to New Zealand in October with one way ticket and a holiday working visa.I will buy my return ticket when I’m out there. I’m aware you need a certain amount of money in your account in order for then to accept you into the country, but do i also need to prove i have enough funds to buy a return ticket on top of the money i need for the year? If so, would a credit card with sufficient funds to buy a return ticket be okay?? x