The ULTIMATE Backpacker Visa Guide to Southeast Asia


IMPORTANT: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the visa situation across Southeast Asia is very different right now and not all of the regular entry requirements are currently being applied.

Get an up to date overview of the visa and travel situation across Southeast Asia during COVID-19 here.

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. As visa requirements often change, for travellers in Southeast Asia it can be difficult to plan things – like budget and duration of travel. Here, 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. Please be aware that information regarding visas is particularly vulnerable to change. Be sure to get in touch with us if you have new knowledge of a change in border crossing information!

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.

Visa information for Brunei Darussalam:

The government of Brunei allows visa-free entry for 90 days for nationals of the following countries: All EU countries, Iceland, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Norway and the United States.

Nationals of the following countries get 30 days visa-free: Malaysia, New Zealand, Oman, Singapore, South Korea, Turkey, Ukraine, UAE.

Nationals of the following countries get only 14 days visa-free: Cambodia, Laos, Philippines, Canada, Macau, Thailand, Hong Kong, Maldives, Vietnam, Indonesia, Myanmar, Japan, Peru.

Citizens of the above countries will receive an “entry pass” upon entering Brunei, which is stamped in your passport at the Immigration Checkpoint stating how many days you can stay in Brunei.

Nationalities of the following countries can get a visa on arrival at Brunei International Airport: Australia, Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, China, Taiwan, Kuwait. The cost of the visa on arrival is 20 Brunei Dollars (approx. $14.50 USD) for a single entry visa for 30 days or 30 Brunei Dollars (approx $22 USD) for a multiple entry visa for 30 days. 72-hour transit visas are also available for most nationalities provided that the traveller can show a ticket for an onward destination.

Entry and transit is refused to nationals of Israel. Passports must be valid for up to 6 months before entering and the embassy recommends that you travel with at least six unused pages in your passport.

Staying longer in Brunei?

Overstaying your visa: Visa overstaying is a serious crime punishable by jail, fines and even caning – a form of corporal punishment that is still used today in Brunei.

Renewal of your visa: Visas can be renewed at embassies in Bandar Seri Bagawan.

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

Visa information for Cambodia:

See Cambodia’s COVID-19 travel restrictions here.

Most nationalities are eligible for a 30-day tourist visa on arrival which costs $30 USD. (T Visa) Payments must be made in $USD. You must have two completely free pages in your passport, as well as 6-months validity. You must have two recent passport photos of yourself – and take your own pen – it avoids fights!

Passport holders of ASEAN countries do not require a visa on arrival. eVisa: You can also apply for an eVisa before entering Cambodia which takes 1-3 days to process. If you google ‘Cambodia eVisa’, lots of adverts come up first in the search list, however, the official government website is:

You will need to fill out an application form online and upload a digital photo. The eVisa is actually a bit more expensive than a normal visa on arrival at $37 USD ($30 USD for the visa, $7 USD processing fee and $3 USD credit card fee).

Advantages of an eVisa: There are a few reasons why you may want to pay for an eVisa over a normal visa:

1) Frequent travellers who do not want to waste a page in their passports.

2) You avoid the queues at airports or at borders where people are getting their visas on arrival.

3) In the past visa scams were rife. When visa fees were paid at Thai/Cambodia border crossings, officials demanded that fees be paid in THB with a poor exchange rate and/or rounded up considerably. We’re not sure if these scams are currently in operation, but the eVisa avoids this completely.


1) You have to know your point of entry beforehand which can be difficult for free and easy backpackers.

2) You cannot use the eVisa at all border crossings. It is currently only available at Phnom Penh and Siem Reap International Airports, Cham Yeam/Koh Kong, Poipet/Banteay Meanchey and Bavet/Svay Rieng.

Visa extensions: The normal 30-day tourist visa is a single entry, and once it runs out you can extend at an embassy for another 30 days for a fee of $45 USD. After that, you must leave the country and come back to get a new visa.

Staying longer in Cambodia? 

Instead of applying for the regular tourist visa (T-Visa), you should apply for an ‘E-Class’ visa which costs $35 USD and is valid for 30 days. The difference between the E-Visa and the T-Visa is that this the E-Visa can be extended indefinitely!

At the end of your 30-day stint, you can extend this visa and get one of the four visas:

1) EB visa – business visa.

2) EG visa – those in search of employment.

3) ER visa – retirement visa.

4) ES visa – student visa.

For more information on the different types of long-stay visas, Move To Cambodia has a good page that was updated in Aug 2017.

Travelling to Cambodia? See our Cambodia Backpacking Guide here.

Visa information to East Timor (Timor Leste):

In 2015, East Timor signed an agreement with the EU to allow all citizens of countries in the EU, that are contracting parties to the Schengen Agreement, to stay in East Timor without a visa for up to 90 days.

This includes most European countries except Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland, Romania and the UK. (Indonesian and Portuguese citizens also get 90-day free access). Nationals of other countries can apply for a Tourist or Business Visa on arrival at Dili International Airport or Dili Sea Port.  

A single entry visa for 30 days costs $30 US Dollars. Transit visas for less than 72 hours are available for $20 USD. You must have the correct amount in US Dollars upon arrival.

If you are arriving by land, you must apply in advance for a Visa Application Authorization at an East Timor Embassy. There are embassies in Jakarta, Denpasar in Bali and the closest one is in Kupang, which is the capital of the province East Nusa Tenggara (on the same island as Timor Leste). 

The main land border crossing with Indonesia is at Mota’ain, 115km west of Dili. For the application, you will need a copy of your passport, a passport photo and proof of funds in your bank account (rules say $150 / day for however long you want to stay in the country).

Once you have your application form you will present this to the Immigration Official at the border who, if everything is in order, will grant you a 30-day visa for $30 USD. Your passport must be valid for 6 months, accommodation arrangements (at least at the beginning of your trip) and some officials may ask you for an onward ticket out of East Timor.

If you are not able to access an East Timor Embassy, you can apply online via the Immigration Service of Timor Leste. You will need to download the application form here and fill in the form using Adobe Acrobat Reader or by signing, scanning and emailing. The visa process can take up to 10 working days and must be used within 12 months of being granted.

See this page for more info on business and tourist visas.

Staying longer in East Timor?

Visa extensions: You can extend your visa for a total of 90 days by submitting an application to the Department of Immigration. Fees are $35 USD for a 30-day extension and $75 USD for 30-60 day extension. Visit the official Immigration Service of Timor Leste for more info here.

Travelling to East Timor? Read our travel guide to East Timor here.

Visa information for Indonesia:

See Indonesia’s COVID-19 travel restrictions here.

All EU citizens, US citizens and citizens of most nations can visit Indonesia without a visa for 30 days. This 30-day visa waiver entry cannot be extended or converted to any other type of visa.

You can also get a visa on arrival at a cost of $35 USD for 30 days. The benefit of this visa is that you can extend it (once) for a maximum of 30 days by visiting an immigration office within Indonesia. So, if you think you may end up staying longer, this is the best visa to go for.

How to extend your 30-day Tourist Visa in Indonesia:

This can be done through a ‘visa agent’, who will take your passport to the Immigration Office and charge you anything from $50 -70 USD to do the whole process for you (we don’t recommend it). If you want to extend your visa yourself, make sure you give yourself at least 7 days to complete the whole process (and avoid spontaneous public holidays).

To extend your visa you will need to provide 2 copies of your passport, 2 copies of your visa page, your passport itself, 2 copies of your ‘proof of onward journey’ which could be a plane ticket out of Indonesia to show them that you are leaving within 30 days of your extension and the name and address of where you are staying. Oh and take a black pen.

Please note: The old 7-day $10 USD visas were stopped in 2010. You must have 2 blank pages in your passport and 6 months validity.

Staying longer in Indonesia?

The cost to extend your visa 30 days is 355,000 IDR ($25 USD) Alternatively, you can leave the country, return and be granted a further 30 days upon re-entry. With the VOA (visa on arrival), you can also apply for different types of visas, but you will have to have a valid reason for applying. 

  • Social, Tourist or Cultural Visa (B-211) – This type of visa can be extended 3 times for a period of 30 days each time. It should be issued by an Indonesian Embassy outside of the country. For this type of visa you will need a sponsor letter from an Indonesian citizen.
  • Multiple Entry Visa (60 days) – You need to have stayed in Bali already for 90 days and you will need an agent to help you organise this visa as there is a lot of paperwork.

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

Visa information for Laos:

Citizens of the following countries can enter Laos visa-free for a specified number of days: Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mongolia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam (30 days), Japan, Luxembourg, Russia, South Korea, Switzerland (15 days), Brunei, Myanmar (14 days). Almost all other nationalities (apart from Pakistan, Sri Lanka, some African and Middle-Eastern nations) can obtain a visa on arrival for 30 days whether crossing by air or land.

You will need at least 6 months validity left on your passport, at least 2 blank pages, 2 passport photos. The cost ranges from $20 – $42, depending on your nationality.

For example: Australia – $30 USD. Canada – $42 USD. China – $20 USD. India – $40 USD. Sweden – $31 USD. USA – $35 USD. UK – $35 USD. Others – $30 USD. For ‘others’ please contact a Laos Embassy to find out the exact price. You should have the correct amount in $US Dollars.

Paying in Thai Baht or Cambodian Riel at the neighbouring countries borders can be more expensive as prices are often rounded up and poor exchange rates are given. We heard that a flat rate of 1500 THB ($50 USD) was recently given at some Thai/Laos borders.

Staying longer in Laos?

A 60-day tourist visa for Laos can be obtained in advance of your visit at a Laos Embassy.

Visa extension: Visa extensions can be applied for at the Vientiane Immigration Office, which costs US$2 / day for 30 days. If you’re not in Vientiane, extensions can also be obtained from some travel agents for US$3-4 day. Shop around for the best price.

Border runs: If your visa is about to run out, you can also leave the country and re-enter by air or land granting you another 30 days.

Penalties for overstay:  Travellers who overstay their visa in Laos will be fined $10 for each day of overstay before leaving the country. (It’s not a good idea – long overstays can lead to arrest and imprisonment.)

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

Visa information for Malaysia:

For citizens of most nations who visit Malaysia, the country has perhaps the easiest visa process in Southeast Asia. Malaysia has Malaysia grants a 14, 30 or 90-day visa-free entry to nationals of many countries across the world. This is known as a ‘Social Visit Pass’.

For a full list of nationalities and the number of days they are eligible for, see this link via Wikipedia.

Nationals of certain countries (again see Wiki link above) are required to show an international certificate of vaccination against yellow fever.

Staying longer in Malaysia?

Visa extensions: The easiest way to extend your stay in Malaysia is to simply cross the border and come back again. You can do this, in theory, twice per year. If you’re in Peninsular Malaysia, this can be done in neighbouring Thailand and Singapore. If you’re in Malaysian Borneo, crossing the border into Indonesian Kalimantan could be more of a hassle.

Penalties for overstay: The cost for overstay is apparently 50 MYR/day. However long overstays are punishable by fines (no less than 10,000 MYR) and/or imprisonment. If you discover that you have accidentally overstayed your visa, head to the Immigration Office immediately to explain your situation. The official portal for the Immigration Department for Malaysia can be found here.

Travelling to Malaysia? – See our travel guide to Malaysia here.

Visa information for Myanmar:

Getting a visa to Myanmar used to be a lengthy process that could only be done in person at a Myanmar Embassy. Some people got rejected, particularly if they were journalists or writers of some sort. These days, however, it is now really easy for travellers to get a visa online via the official Myanmar eVisa website. 

Costs for the eVisa: Tourist visa for 28 days – $50 USD. Business visa for 70 days – $70 USD. All you have to do is fill out a form online, upload a digital photo and make the payment online by credit card. You can pay by Visa, MasterCard, Amex or JCB and the processing time is three days, although you can pay more if you would like a visa urgently. You will receive an approval letter by email, which you need to print out and bring with your passport to present to the officials upon arrival in Myanmar, who will stamp your letter and passport. The approval letter is valid for 90 days from the date it is issued. (More FAQs answered on the official government page here).

Where can you use the eVisa? Until recently, you could not enter Myanmar overland with this eVisa, it could only be used when flying into Yangon, Mandalay or Naypyidaw Airports. However, since September 2016,  e-visas can be used to enter from the following Thailand/Myanmar land borders: Tachileik (Mae Sai), Myawaddy (Mae Sot) and Kawthaung (Ranong).

Specify “Port of Entry” – When applying for the visa you must state which land border or international airport you will be arriving to. On the official government website it states that ‘during your actual visit, you can enter Myanmar at any of the designated “ports of entry”. However, they strongly recommend that you use the one that you wrote down in your application to avoid longer processing time when arriving.

Staying longer in Myanmar?

Overstay fees and visa extensions: There seems to be no official way of extending your visa once you are in Myanmar and the official overstay rules are a bit up in the air. Forum advice seems to suggest that if you want to stay longer in Myanmar, you can just overstay your visa.

The costs (clearly stated at Yangon Airport) are $3 USD / day up to 90 days and then $5 USD after that. However, what is accepted as a valid number of days overstay will depend on the discretion of the Immigration Official who lets you out of the country. We usually strongly advise against overstaying your visa unofficially in all countries in Southeast Asia. Possible complications are the following:

1) Your passport can be checked at any time by Immigration Officials and if your visa has run out, you could be in trouble (this would be up to the guard and what they want to do). If you’re travelling through areas where military checkpoints are common, this is particularly likely and you could simply be sent back to Yangon to fly out!

2) Guesthouses (who require details from your passport upon check-in) can refuse to let you stay if your visa has run out.

3) If you are getting flights around the country, you can be denied boarding if your visa has expired. 4) There is a chance that you will not be allowed back into Myanmar if you overstay too long. Read this blog from Dec 2016 for a personal experience on this complicated matter and assess the risks yourself! One option to extend your visa would be to leave the country and apply for the eVisa again.

*Visa runs from Thailand: Many people who want to extend their stay in Thailand make visa runs to neighbouring Myanmar. For the visa runs, you do not need to obtain a Myanmar Visa in advance. The cost for the visa to enter Myanmar this way is $10 USD (make sure you have the correct change in USD) and many companies in Thailand will arrange a minivan for tourists to make this trip. Foreigners can stay up to 10 days with this ‘in-out’ visa. Thai nationals can stay 7 days with the same visa which costs 30 Thai Baht.

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

Visa information for The Philippines:

Nationals of Brazil and Israel are granted a visa free entry for 59 days upon arrival in the Philippines. Citizens of Macau and Hong Kong receive 14 days. Citizens of most other nationalities are granted 30 days, which includes all other EU citizens, the USA, Australia, Russia and all other South American countries. For a full list of countries see this Wikipedia page.

Onward ticket: When flying into the Philippines, the airline will ask you for ‘proof of onward journey’ – this could be a return ticket or a ticket out of the Philippines to another country. Not all airlines will ask, but we do recommend that you book an onward ticket in the case that you are asked to avoid having to buy an airline ticket at the airport!

Getting a Tourist Visa before you arrive: All of those citizens who are allowed the 30-day visa-free entry can apply for a Tourist Visa before travelling to the Philippines which is valid for 59 days. You need to go to a Philippine Embassy to apply for the Tourist Visa and the cost is 22 GBP / 27 Euros / $32 USD. There is some information online to suggest that you can also apply for a longer tourist visa (3 months / 6 months / 12 months) but this information has not been officially published so please ask at the embassy when you apply.

Staying longer in the Philippines?

Visa extensions: Once your visa-free period has expired (or your tourist visa has run out) you can extend your stay in the Philippines for another 60 days by visiting a Philippine Embassy.

You can download application forms through the official Bureau of Immigration, Philippines Official Website, but you will need to visit an embassy in person in order to extend the visa.

Here is a map of the locations of the Immigration Offices in the Philippines that can process a visa extension and here is a breakdown of the costs of the extension (last updated February 2015 on the official government website). The cost is between 2,000 and 4,000 PHP ($40-80 USD) depending on your nationality and how many days extra you would like to stay. As long as you keep extending your visa this way at an official embassy, you can extend your stay in the Philippines for up to 36 months!

Overstay penalties: With rules like the above, there really is no need to overstay your visa, however, if you do so by accident you will have to pay a fine at the airport upon leaving the country. The cost is 4,000 PHP from 1-30 days overstay. We strongly advise against overstaying your visa as you can be blacklisted from ever visiting the country again.

Travelling to the Philippines? – See our travel guide the Philippines here.

Visa information for Singapore:

Citizens of most countries in the world can travel to Singapore without a visa, gaining 30-90 days upon entry depending on their nationality. To enter you must have 6 months validity on your passport, proof of onward ticket, sufficient funds to stay in Singapore and yellow fever vaccination if you have recently travelled to a country that has yellow fever. (You may or may not be asked for proof of some or all of the above when entering Singapore, it just depends on the Immigration Official – but it’s best to be prepared!)

The following nationalities receive 90 days: All EU citizens, Australia, Norway, South Korea, Switzerland, USA.

The following nationalities receive 30 days: All ASEAN nations, Canada, New Zealand, all South American nations, most African countries. See this Wikipedia page for the full list and for countries who are required to get a visa in advance.

Staying longer in Singapore?

Visa extension: You can extend your stay in Singapore (up to 89 days from the date of entry to Singapore) online via the Singapore Government Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA). There is a particular section of the website called e-XTEND, for the extension of Short Term Visit Passes.

Overstaying your visa: On the ICA website, it says: ‘Overstaying is an Immigration offence. If you overstay, you may be subjected to a composition fine or prosecution in Court.’ – Just don’t do it!

Travelling to Singapore? Read our Singapore travel guide here.

Visa information for Thailand:

See Thailand’s COVID-19 travel restrictions here.

Most nationalities receive a Free Tourist Entry Pass upon arrival into Thailand by air or land. Citizens of five nations (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Peru, South Korea) receive a 90-day visa-free entry into Thailand. Citizens of 51 nations (including the USA, UK and most EU nations) receive 30-day visa-free entry into Thailand. Citizens of Cambodia and Myanmar receive only 14 days.

Getting a 60-day Tourist Visa before you travel: For those who know that they want to stay longer in Thailand, this is probably your best option. The cost for a 60-day Tourist Visa is $40 USD and you should apply for it, in person, at a Thai Embassy before you travel (at any Thai Embassy in any country that is not Thailand).

As you do not need to apply for the Thai visa in your home country,  if you enter Thailand on a 30-day free pass, you could always leave and travel to a neighbouring Asian country and get yourself a 60-day Tourist Visa to Thailand while you’re there! (You can also extend this visa within Thailand – see below.)

Staying longer in Thailand?

Extending your visa within Thailand: You can extend your visa once at a Thai Immigration Office – one of which can be found in every province in Thailand. (We did this in Mae Hong Son, July 2017 and it took about 10 minutes!) The Immigration Offices in areas where there’s a high concentration of travellers and ex-pats, like Chiang Mai, can have big queues, so go early in the morning to avoid this.

The cost to extend your visa is 1900 Thai Baht and you will need to fill out an application form, take photocopies of your passport and visa page, and provide one passport photo. Whether you have the 30-day stamp that you received upon arrival, or you have the 60-day tourist visa, you can extend for a further 30 days.

Border Runs or ‘Visa Runs’: Many travel agents in Thailand can arrange a ‘visa run’ for you to the neighbouring countries of Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia or Malaysia. The cost depends on your current location in Thailand. Upon re-entering the country, you will be granted a new 14, 30, or 90-day entry pass into Thailand (depending on your nationality above). Read more information on border runs here in our article.

Limits on the number of border-runs/visa extensions: There is a lot of confusion about how many times you can extend your visa or make a border crossing and re-enter Thailand to renew your visa. There are many stories of farang (foreign) ex-pats living in Thailand who have been doing border-runs for years! However, there are also stories of people having too many Thai stamps in their passports and not being allowed to re-enter the country.

The official rules are that you can make a land or sea border crossing only twice in a calendar year – for the purpose of renewing your visa. However, when flying into Thailand by air, there is currently no limit on the number of times you can re-enter.

Different types of visas (12 months): There are a few types of visas that you can apply for that allow you to stay in Thailand for a period of 12 months, for example, the Marriage Visa, Business Visa or Retirement Visa. All of these require proof, i.e. marriage certificate, proof of employment letter, or in the case of retirement – proof of funds! Like the Tourist Visa, they must be obtained outside of Thailand.

The Education (ED) Visa (9 months): One visa, which is popular amongst travellers who decide to stay in Thailand for 6 months or more, is the Education Visa. The ED Visa can be granted for those you want to ‘study, participate in seminars, learn Thai or study as a foreign Buddhist monk’. (This can include Muay Thai training, yoga, Thai language and other cultural activities.)

With the ED Visa, you have to “check-in” every 90 days at an official Immigration Office. At this time (though this could change), the ED visa is the easiest visa to obtain for those who do not have a more serious reason to stay in Thailand – other than they love Pad Thai!

Penalties for overstay: 500 baht/day, paid at the airport upon departure. The maximum fine for overstay that you can pay is 20,000 baht after this you may face deportation at your own cost or imprisonment. We don’t recommend overstaying at all, as at any time whilst you are travelling it is legal for a police officer to ask for your passport and visa and check whether your visa is still valid.

You can get in trouble or be made to pay a fine if this is not the case. Rumours are that Thailand plans to introduce electronic visas in 2019! The official government page for Thailand Visa Information & FAQs can be found here. (And yes, you are an alien!)

Travelling to Thailand? Read:

Visa information for Vietnam:

See Vietnam’s COVID-19 travel restrictions here.

Vietnam grants visa-free entry to a number of nationalities for a certain number of days:

90-Day Visa-Free Entry: Citizens from Chile can enter Vietnam for 90 days without a visa.

30-Day Visa-Free Entry: Citizens of Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Laos and Kyrgyzstan can enter Vietnam for 30 days without a visa.

21-Day Visa-Free Entry: Citizens of the Philippines get 21 days upon arrival in Vietnam.

15-Day Visa-Free Entry: Granted to citizens of the UK, Norway, Russia, Belarus, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Japan, Italy, Germany, France, South Korea, Spain.

The Vietnam E-Visa: 

Should you wish to stay longer than your allocated time, you can apply for an eVisa in advance of your travels on the official Vietnam Portal of Immigration. 

The eVisa is valid for a maximum of 30 days, single entry. The cost is $25 USD. This is highly recommended for travellers as many people enter Vietnam on the 15-day visa-free entry pass and then regret it when they want to stay longer. (The 15-day entry pass can be costly to extend!) You can apply online for the eVisa online here. (This is the official Vietnamese Government Page.)

You will need to upload a copy of your passport and receive a registration code. After that, you pay the $25 USD fee by credit or debit card and wait for 3-days for the visa to be processed. Once you have your eVisa you should print out and bring it with you to show to the Immigration Officials upon entry to Vietnam.

Note: Not all border crossings accept the eVisa, so you will need to check if the border where you plan to enter Vietnam supports the eVisa. You can check by clicking “List of Ports” on this page.

For longer tourist visas (90 days): It is possible to get a three-month single entry visa or multiple-entry visa to Vietnam if you apply at a Vietnamese Embassy in your home country before you travel. Or, if you cannot get to an embassy, there are many online agencies who can arrange this for you without sending your passport anywhere.

  • Try Vietnam Visa Center (as recommended in the LP, Lonely Planet). The price on their website states $35 US for a 3 month single entry visa or $70 US for a 3-month multiple entry visa.
  • We also recently used My Vietnam Visa and found the service efficient and easy. The price for a 3-month single entry is $28 US service fee plus $25 US stamping fee, to be paid at the airport in Vietnam. Or, the price for a 30month multiple entry is $43 US plus $50 US stamping fee.

Staying longer in Vietnam?

Visa extension: Once you are in Vietnam, 30-day (or a maximum of 90-day) extensions can be obtained from travel agents in most major tourist hubs and can take up to 7-10 working days to process. With other Southeast Asian countries, we suggest going to the embassy direct to extend your visa, but with the case of Vietnam, it is probably easier to get a travel agent to sort it out for you. Prices vary dramatically so shop around (we’ve seen $330 USD for three months quoted online!). Alternatively, you can leave Vietnam and re-enter the country with an eVisa to get another 30-days stay.

Penalty for overstaying: We can’t find an official figure, but people have been charged $25 USD for one day, or $100 USD for 3 days. On some forums, people have quoted up to $800 USD for two people for 4 days overstay (Dirty Pierre on Tour seems to be a bit of an expert on these Vietnam Visa Forums!) In conclusion, if you’ve overstayed your visa, you are essentially breaking the law and that leaves your fate in the hands of the Vietnamese Police and Immigration Officials. It seems that the Immigration Officer can ask for whatever price he/she wants! Our advice? You know it by now… DON’T DO IT!

Travelling to Vietnam? See Vietnam Travel Guide 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!

Disclaimer: We researched the following information online (over a gruelling few weeks!) using the most up to date information on Embassy websites that we could find, as well as recent travel forum advice and posts in the South East Asia Backpacker Community. Please remember that visa laws change constantly and also depend on the individual and the individual Immigration Official. For this reason we cannot 100% guarantee that this information will be up to date at the time of reading. We encourage you to do your own research, ask in the South East Asia Backpacker Community and speak to the relevant embassy if in doubt. However, this info is as good as it can be and we hope it helps!

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

45 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!

      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 –

  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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