The ULTIMATE Backpacker Visa Guide to Southeast Asia

Passport-stamps-visas

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 often which 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 If you believe any of the information on this page to be out of date, please let us know in the comments.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:

Travelling to Brunei?Read our travel guide to Brunei here.

  • Do I need special permission to enter Brunei? The only requirement, besides getting a visa or visa exemption stamp, is to complete the E-Arrival Card. This is mandatory for all foreign nationals entering Brunei.
  • Do I need a visa to enter Brunei? Visa exemption is offered to citizens of certain countries. EU, UK and US citizens are exempt. Find out whether you need a visa here. Nationalities that are not visa-exempt will need to apply for a visa at the nearest Brunei consulate or office. 
  • Do I need proof of onward travel? No, you are unlikely to be asked about proof of onward travel when you enter Brunei.
  • Do I need proof of COVID-19 vaccination? No.
  • Do I need travel insurance? No, visitors are not required to show proof of travel insurance, however, holding a policy can offer peace of mind. See popular insurers here.
  • Read more about visas in Brunei here.


    Visa Information for Cambodia:

    Travelling to Cambodia? See our Cambodia Backpacking Guide here.

  • Do I need special permission to enter Cambodia? Almost everyone is required to apply for an eVisa or Visa on Arrival (VOA). 
  • Do I need a visa to enter Cambodia? Only very few nationalities are visa exempt. The vast majority will need to apply for an eVisa or Visa on Arrival (VOA).
  • 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 Cambodia here.


    Visa Information to East Timor (Timor Leste):

    • Do I need special permission to enter Timor-Leste? No, citizens of most countries do not need special permission to enter Timor-Leste. Only proof of funds is required. ($100USD for each entry & $50USD for each day you remain in the country.)
    • Do I need a visa to enter Timor-Leste? Unless you are a Portuguese passport holder, you will need a visa. The majority of citizens can obtain their tourist visa online (90 days) or upon arrival (30 days). If you are entering by land you must complete the visa form ahead of time. If you are entering by sea or air, you must obtain a visa on arrival. More details can be found here.
    • Do I need proof of onward travel? Yes, you will be asked to show proof of onward travel, or that you have the necessary funds to cover your departure when you enter Timor-Leste. 
    • Do I need proof of COVID-19 vaccination? No.
    • Do I need travel insurance? No, visitors are not required to show proof of a travel insurance policy. If you wanted to take out cover anyway, you can see popular insurers here.

    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:

    Travelling to Myanmar? See our travel guide to Myanmar here.

  • Do I need special permission to enter Myanmar? No, citizens of most countries do not need special permission to enter Myanmar. Countries eligible for an eVisa and/or visa exemption can be found here.
  • Do I need a visa to enter Myanmar? Citizens from eight countries can enter Myanmar on the visa exemption scheme for a period ranging from 15-30 days. A single-entry eVisa (official website here) is now available online for most foreign citizens for a period of 28 days. 
  • Do I need proof of onward travel? Yes, you will be asked to show proof of onward travel when you enter Myanmar – prepare accordingly.
  • Do I need proof of COVID-19 vaccination? No, but a thermal screening device will be used to take your temperature when you arrive. If the result could indicate a COVID-19 case, the authorities will perform an official COVID-19 test. See this update from the official website for more details.
  • Do I need travel insurance? Yes, visitors are required to show proof of travel insurance including cover for COVID-19. See popular insurers here. If the traveller is not able to show proof of insurance they will need to purchase insurance from the recommended domestic insurer through this website.
  • Read more about visas in 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.

  • Do I need special permission to enter Singapore? Yes, all travellers, regardless of their citizenship, are required to complete the SG Arrival Card three days before their intended arrival to receive a STVP (Short-Term-Visit-Pass).
  • Do I need a visa to enter Singapore? The majority of travellers can enter without the need for a visa.
  • Do I need proof of onward travel? No, but you must provide an exit date on the declaration form.
  • 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 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 available online for most foreign citizens for a period of 90 days. This number increased from 30 days on 15th of August 2023
    • 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!

    Nikki Scott - Founder South East Asia Backpacker
    Nikki Scott | Founder & Editor

    Nikki is the founding editor of South East Asia Backpacker and The Backpacker Network. In her early twenties, she left her home in the North of England on a solo backpacking adventure and never returned! After six months on the road, she founded a print magazine that became legendary on the Banana Pancake Trail. The rest is history.

    Find me: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

    48 thoughts on “The ULTIMATE Backpacker Visa Guide to Southeast Asia”

    1. I’m going to be travelling around South East Asia for 6 months (in 1 week) from the UK and flying into Bangkok with Etihad. It’s all very last minute but I have read on a couple of sites that I must have a return flight booked or an outward journey booked from Thailand. Is this true? We currently only have one-way ticket and very little planned after the first couple of days! Any advice would be great 🙂

      1. It’s a tricky question as it just depends if you get asked or not! On several occasions, I have been asked to show an onward ticket (leaving Thailand) by the airline when flying into Thailand from Europe. A few months ago, I got asked to show an onward ticket when flying from the UK to Thailand. However, a few months before that, flying from India to Nepal, and from India to Thailand, I was not asked. So it really just depends on who you get at the desk!

        To avoid any problems we usually just buy the cheapest ticket that we can find on Air Asia or Skyscanner out of the country within 30 days. (Last time we booked a flight to Mandalay that cost about $25 USD.) There are also websites where you can buy a ‘temporary’ ticket for about $10 USD and then have it refunded, but personally, I have never done this so can’t vouch for its validity. You could also turn up at the airport early, see if you get asked and then buy a ticket then and there if you need one. (Although you will likely have to pay expensive fees at the airport to print it out as they often don’t accept the confirmation on your phone/tablet!)

        Once you are travelling by land in Southeast Asia (crossing borders) you should be okay without showing onward tickets. (Even though the majority of Embassy websites say that onward tickets are required to enter a country, we have never been asked – in Laos, Malaysia, Cambodia or crossing back by land into Thailand for example.

        Hope that helps a bit. Enjoy your travels!
        https://southeastasiabackpacker.com/resources/cheap-flights1/

        1. Hi Nikki,
          Thanks for getting back to me so quickly! Yes, everything I have read echoes the same. Do you know if it has to be a flight or could it be a bus/ train?

          1. I’m not totally sure, but I think that it can be a booked bus or train ticket. You will need it printed out from a well-known company I should imagine, so they know it’s the real thing!

    2. Cheryl Nolan

      im hoping to travel round cambodia, kuala lumpar, thailand , vietnam, laos, maybe china and sri lanka over the course of a year and im wondering if there is such thing as a multi entry allowing me to move around these places or if im better just getting visas on arrival apart from china obviously? Also this page is brill very informative

      1. Hey Cheryl,
        I think you would be better to just get visas on arrival to all of the countries that you plan to visit so that you can be more flexible with your travel plans. In Malaysia, you’ll get a 90-day visa on arrival. In Thailand and Laos, you’ll get 30 days and can extend another 30 days. For Vietnam, you’ll need to arrange a 30-day visa in advance online or you’ll only get 15 days. For Sri Lanka, you’ll also have to arrange a 30-day visa in advance. If you decide to go back to any country, then you will just get a new visa upon arrival. Hope that helps!

    3. There is some misunderstanding in your post about Indonesian visa 🙂 First of all it’s very easy to extend visa by yourself and you can save half of the price that agents ask (of course, you need to have a bit more free time to come to imigration 3 times). Tourist visa, social cultural visa should be done before entering Indonesia, you can’t make them in Indonesia. As well you can’t change/extend visa on arrival to social or tourist visa. What you can – from tourist visa to change to social visa 🙂

    4. So I’ve noticed a few countries require one or more passport photos to get a visa. Are these photos different then the one on my passport and drivers licence? Do I have to carry a couple separate wallet sized pictures of myself?

      1. Often you’ll be able to send photos electronically when applying for an e-visa, but sometimes you will be required to carry them physically. If it sounds in any way like you’re being asked to do the latter, do it!
        It’s a pretty good idea to carry a pack with you just in case anyway, as they can very often come in handy for other things (you need to provide a couple in order to get a sim card in some countries, for example).
        It’s very unlikely that anyone would insist that it be the exact same photo as your passport or drivers licence, which might well be 10 years old, or more.
        Most important of all, check the dimension requirements (which could very easily be different to those of passport photos in your own country), and any other instructions they give you (colour of the background, no hats/glasses etc.).
        Hope this helps, and sorry for the delay in our response.

        1. Zach Pirolli

          I am confused. Do you go somewhere to have these photos taken? Why do you need two of the same photo? First time traveler to SE Asia. never had to get a visa before.

          1. You need normal passport photos that can be taken at a booth or a photo centre in your home country before you travel. Or, there are many small shops that will take your photo and make it into a passport photo when you are in SE Asia. We always travel with some extras as you never know when you will need them for visas. No idea why they require two… Maybe they are needed for two different forms? Either way, just make copies of the same photo that you get done and you’ll be fine. No worries, organising visas is not that difficult. Many people will help you alonhg the way 🙂 Where are you going first?

            1. I am going to Thailand first, then my loose plan is to cross through Laos to Vietnam. then from Vietnam into Cambodia, and then Cambodia back to Thailand. trying to figure out all this visa stuff is confusing. Can I just buy 30 day visas to all these places for the month of December and just go to them whenever I want? and not have to cross at a certain spot?

              1. Hi Zach, it can be confusing!
                For Thailand – you do not need to arrange a visa in advance, you get a 30-day visa-free entry upon arrival at the airport. If you cross into Laos next, you also do not need to arrange a visa in advance, you just get 30 days free-visa entry upon arrival at the airport.For Vietnam, it’s a little more difficult, but not too difficult… It depends on where you’re from. Most nationalities have to apply for an e-visa online which costs $25 USD and is valid for 30 days…. Apply here – https://evisa.xuatnhapcanh.gov.vn/

    5. Thanks for the concise, useful and up to date info. Just wanted to check what are the visa requirements when entering Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam by land? As in, can we apply on arrival at each border with enough money and passport photos? Thanks again. Andrew

      1. Hey Andrew, sorry that we’re so late in replying to this message – let us know if you’re still a backpacker in Southeast Asia and if you need any visa help, we’ve got loads of up to date info for you!

    6. Vietnam visa online

      Amazing topic! There are so much useful information for readers! Thank you and I will share your site to other travelers.

    7. I see this hasn’t been updated in a few years. Anyone know of any changes? Is there anything new I should be aware of?

      1. Hi Tristan, sorry that we didn’t reply back in 2014! We’ve revamped the website and we’re pretty sure that this is THE MOST UP TO DATE VISA GUIDE to South East Asia on the Internet! Any questions let us know…

    8. Hi , thanks for the info . I will be travelling to Thailand later this month but i dont have any fully blank pages on my passport , will it be an issue to get a visa on arrival .

      1. Hey Rajnesh, unfortunately, yes it might do, you will need full blank pages in your passport in order to get your visa to Thailand. It’s best to travel to Southeast Asia with at least 6 blank pages just incase!

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