As a backpacker in Southeast Asia, crossing borders becomes a regular undertaking! Each country has a different rule of entry and some countries will require you to apply for a visa before you travel. Visa requirements change very often, more than ever since the arrival of Covid-19. This makes it difficult for travellers in Southeast Asia to plan things like budget and duration of travel. We’ve done our very best to compile the latest visa information in Southeast Asia to make it easier for you to plan your trip.
This guide contains a short overview of the current rules and entry requirements for each country in Southeast Asia. After each of these overviews, there is a link to a more detailed guide to the rules for that specific country. Follow the links and read the in-depth guide for any country you plan to visit.
Visa Guide to Southeast Asian Countries A-Z
Disclaimer: The following information reflects South East Asia Backpacker’s understanding of the visa rules. While this article has been extensively researched and is updated regularly to ensure the information is as current as it can be, we cannot be held responsible for any errors or omissions. If you believe any of the information on this page to be out of date, please let us know in the comments.
Visa Information for Brunei Darussalam:
Hold on a Minute… ⏰
Travelling to Brunei? – Read our travel guide to Brunei here.
Visa Information for Cambodia:
Travelling to Cambodia? – See our Cambodia Backpacking Guide here.
Read more about visas in Cambodia here.
Visa Information to East Timor (Timor Leste):
Hold on a Minute… ⏰
Travelling to East Timor? – Read our travel guide to East Timor here.
Visa Information for Indonesia:
Travelling to Indonesia? – See our travel guide to Indonesia here.
- Do I need special permission to enter Indonesia? Yes, only passport holders from the majority of Southeast Asian countries are visa exempt. All other countries require a visa to enter Indonesia.
- Do I need a visa to enter Indonesia? Citizens from 87 countries can enter Indonesia via the Visa on Arrival scheme (VOA) for a period of 30 days (plus 30 days extension). It is available online here and upon arrival. A single-entry Visitor Visa (official website here) is available online for most foreign citizens for a period of 60-180 days. The previous multi-entry visa has not been reinstated since it was postponed because of COVID-19.
- Do I need proof of onward travel? Yes, you are required to provide an onward ticket out of Indonesia.
- Do I need proof of COVID-19 vaccination? No, proof of vaccination status is not needed.
- Do I need travel insurance? No, but visitors who have it can cover unexpected in-country medical treatment costs. Read about popular travel insurers here.
Read more about visas in Indonesia here.
Visa Information for Laos:
Travelling to Laos? – Read our travel guide to Laos here.
- Do I need special permission to enter Laos? Almost everyone is required to apply for an eVisa or Visa on Arrival (VOA).
- Do I need a visa to enter Laos? The majority of nationalities need to obtain an eVisa or Visa on Arrival. This list specifies the countries that can enter under visa exemption. If you see ‘not available’ written in the ‘Ordinary Passport’ section for your country, you need to get a visa.
- Do I need proof of onward travel? No.
- Do I need proof of COVID-19 vaccination? No.
- Do I need travel insurance? No, but having a policy is strongly advised. Read about some of the most popular travel insurers here.
Read more about visas in Laos here.
Visa Information for Malaysia:
Travelling to Malaysia? – See our travel guide to Malaysia here.
- Do I need special permission to enter Malaysia? Only if you hold a passport that is included in this list. If you are a citizen of the countries listed at the bottom of this page, you are required to present a yellow fever certificate as well.
- Do I need a visa to enter Malaysia? Apart from the 38 countries listed above, all other travellers are visa-exempt.
- Do I need proof of onward travel? While this is not a legal requirement, the immigration officer reserves the right to check. Read more about onward travel out of Malaysia here.
- Do I need proof of COVID-19 vaccination? No, travellers do not need to present proof of COVID-19 vaccination.
- Do I need travel insurance? No, but visitors are strongly advised to have it. Read about popular travel insurers here.
Read more about visas in Malaysia here.
Visa Information for Myanmar:
Hold on a Minute… ⏰
Travelling to Myanmar? – See our travel guide to Myanmar here.
Visa Information for The Philippines:
Travelling to the Philippines? – See our travel guide to the Philippines here.
- Do I need special permission to enter the Philippines? Everyone is required to complete an electronic travel declaration online no earlier than 72 hours before arrival and upon exiting the country from April 15th 2023.
- Do I need a visa to enter the Philippines? The majority of nationalities are visa exempt for 30 days. If you are a citizen of any of the countries NOT listed here, you require a visa.
- Do I need proof of onward travel? Yes, the Filipino authorities reserve the right to request proof of exiting the country. For more information, read about onward travel out of the Philippines here.
- Do I need proof of COVID-19 vaccination? You either need proof of vaccination or a laboratory antigen test.
- Do I need travel insurance? No. Read about some of the most popular travel insurers here.
Read more about visas in The Philippines here.
Visa Information for Singapore:
Travelling to Singapore? – Read our Singapore travel guide here.
Read more about visas in Singapore here.
Visa Information for Thailand:
Travelling to Thailand? Read our Thailand backpacking guide.
- Do I need special permission to enter Thailand? Since 1st July 2022, travellers do not need to apply for special permission (e.g. the Thai Pass) to enter Thailand.
- Do I need a visa to enter Thailand? Citizens of most countries do not need to arrange a visa in advance for Thailand as they will receive a 30-day VOA upon arrival in Thailand by air, sea, or land.
- Do I need proof of onward travel? Proof of onward travel is recommended because it is sometimes checked at various border crossings.
- Do I need proof of COVID-19 vaccination? No. There was news about reinstating the requirement after China opened its borders but it was withdrawn a few days later.
- Do I need travel insurance? The $10,000USD travel insurance requirement for travel to Thailand was dropped by authorities in July 2022. See popular travel insurers here.
Read more about Thailand visas here.
Visa Information for Vietnam:
Travelling to Vietnam? – Read our Vietnam travel guide here.
- Do I need special permission to enter Vietnam? No, citizens of most countries do not need special permission to enter Vietnam. Countries eligible for eVisa can be found here and Visa exempt here.
- Do I need a visa to enter Vietnam? Citizens from 25 countries can enter Vietnam via the visa exemption scheme for a period ranging from 15-90 days. A single-entry eVisa (official website here) is now available online for most foreign citizens for a period of 30 days. The previous Visa On Arrival (VOA) has not been available since early 2022.
- Do I need proof of onward travel? You could be asked to show proof of onward travel when you enter Vietnam, especially if you are entering on a visa exemption. If you have an eVisa, it’s unlikely you will be asked, however, there is always a chance.
- Do I need proof of COVID-19 vaccination? No, Vietnam no longer requires foreign travellers to show proof of COVID-19 vaccinations to enter the country. Entry requirements are the same regardless of vaccination status.
- Do I need travel insurance? No, but visitors may want travel insurance to cover unexpected in-country medical treatment costs. See popular insurers here.
Read more about visas in Vietnam here.
If you are considering volunteering in Southeast Asia, read our visa guide for volunteers, WWOOFERs and HelpStayers.
P.S. If you have ANY updates or personal experiences of border crossings, please comment below so that other travellers can take advantage of your advice. Thanks a lot, and HAPPY BORDER CROSSINGS!
Join Over 25,000 Happy Backpackers in Our Facebook Group!
Find travel buddies. Get advice. Have all your questions answered by travellers on the ground in Southeast Asia right now.
45 thoughts on “The ULTIMATE Backpacker Visa Guide to Southeast Asia”
Firstly thank you very much for putting together all of that very useful information. For a first-time traveler, it was so handy to have all of the facts in one place! I’ve taken notes as much as possible.
Secondly, I am going traveling for the first time starting in October. I will be meeting a friend first in Hong Kong and from there I am hoping to do SE Asia, down to Indonesia in about 2 months. I have no rigid plan but what ‘order’ of countries would you suggest, in terms of ease of travel, event/festival timings?
Thank you very much, Ellie x
I’m glad that the guide has been helpful to you!
Regarding your itinerary, do you plan to travel entirely overland or will you take budget airlines?
To avoid having to get a visa to China, I would maybe consider taking a flight to Hanoi and then travelling down Vietnam following this itinerary – https://southeastasiabackpacker.com/vietnam-itinerary/. You can then travel through Cambodia and then into Thailand. You can explore Central Thailand, then South Thailand then make your way South to Malaysia and then Indonesia! We have lots of itineraries on our website if you search in the top bar you can get some ideas. Also, our festival guide month by month will help you to pick out some events not to miss – https://southeastasiabackpacker.com/festivals-events-southeast-asia/
Best of luck! My one tip would be: try not to do too much in too short a time period. Slow travel is the best!
Ok thank you very much for your tips and advice. Yes mostly overland I think but I don’t really know to be honest! So can I fly to Hong Kong without a visa? I am definitely going there first for a few days to see my sister and then moving on.
Most nationalities do not need a visa for Hong Kong (I am from the UK so I know that I can fly to HK without a visa, but check as it depends on your nationality). Any more tips needed, just let me know! 🙂
Hopefully you can help me.
We will be entering Thailand on the 22nd September 2018 for 2 days before flying straight out to Vietnam, then onto Camboida and Laos. We will then be coming back to Thailand via a land border for around 30 days.
How would this work with regards to visas as we will be in the country for two days and then 30 days after nearly 2 months out of the country.
You shouldn’t have any problems with this. You’ll get 30 days on your way in (for free), the fact that you’ll only use two of them doesn’t matter. When you come back via land, you’ll be given another 30 days for free (starting the day you enter). If on this second entry you want anything more than 30 days, you’ll have to visit an immigration office and pay for an extension, which will be for another 30 days. This extension, though, you will have to pay for (1900 baht if nothing’s changed by then. 60 USD more or less).
Hope this helps!