Visas can not be arranged too long in advance as they usually have an “expiration date” once delivered by the embassy. We will therefore ask for our visas as we go on our trip, at the embassy of the next country we want to visit.
Most of the paperwork is the same for all countries : you need to show a passport valid for 6 months after you leave the country (original and copy), the correctly filled appropriate visa form, id-format photos, proof you are going to leave the country, proof you have enough money, hotel bookings,…
Here are some of the info we have gathered for french residents.
North America :
Exempted of tourist visa, with the possibility to stay up to 6 months. You just need to ask for an electronic authorisation to be able to enter the country by plane (7CAD$).
No tourist visa needed for a stay up to 90 days. We needed to get an ESTA to enter the country by boat, but if you do it by land you can cross the border directly. If you entered by land, you need to make sure you give back the little piece of paper in your passport upon leaving the country.
South-East Asia :
60 days visa for 30€.
Possibility of one month extension without getting out of the country, for 50€. You can get a visa exemption directly at the border which gives you 30 days to visit the country. You can only get 2 visa exemptions per year if entering by land, but as many as you want entering by plane.
30 days visa for 30€. You can get it directly at the border for 30$ but beware of the many scams at the border (even by Immigration officials)! You can read our article or the many other blog posts online talking about this. There are a lot of scams run by shady individuals and corruption is heavy among officials, so we advise to read up on the topic beforehand to be well prepared.
30 days visa on arrival for 30$, although you might have to pay some bribes on top of that, depending on which border crossing you use. You can extend your visa at the immigration office in Luang Prabang or Vientiane for 20 000 Kip/person/day + 25 000 Kip administration fee. It might be done right away or they might ask you to come back the next day, there is no general rule. If you want to extend it by more than 15 days, it is better to do a Visa run with Thailand: cross the border and immediately cross it back to get a new visa.
You can ask for an e-visa online. Beware, there are many fake websites that don’t actually sell the visa and just try to rip off travellers. Otherwise, you can get a visa exemption on arrival for 15 days.
It is possible to get an e-visa online for 50$. It takes about half an hour to complete (you need to upload an ID-sized photo and have a hotel address for your first night), and the confirmation takes a couple of days. It seems to be cheaper (20$) to ask for it directly at the Myanmar embassy in Thailand.
We asked for the Chinese visa at the embassy in Vientiane, Laos. The required documents were the following:
- Completed application form, which requires the planned itinerary in China (the main cities and at which dates you plan to visit them is enough)
- Proof of sufficient funds to cover travel expenses (we just printed out our last bank statements)
- Return plane tickets to prove entry and exit. (If you plan on entering/exiting the country via land, you can ask a travel agency in Vientiane to make ‘reservations’ for you. It cost us 50 000 Kips/person and was enough for the embassy).
- 1 standard ID photo
- Hotel booking for the first night
- Proof of medical insurance (it wasn’t asked but we brought it anyway)
After examining our documents for about 10 seconds, they gave us a receipt that we needed to bring to the ICBC (International and Commercial Bank of China) to pay the fees. It was 48$/person for a double entry visa (so 2 times 30 days) valid for 6 months. The single entry tourist visa costs 32$. It takes 4 days to get the visa.
Tourist visa valid for 30 days, renewable once in Ulan-bator. Depending on which embassy you go to, an invitation letter or tickets out of the country (train accepted) might be asked. For booking train tickets on the trans-Mongolian going towards Russia, this website is by far the cheapest and is reliable (we used it and the service was exceptional. He scanned the reservations right away so that we could get the visas, and we did not exchanged money until we were there with our tickets in hand). You should know that buying tickets directly at the train station is still far cheaper (if you have that option), as the price tag on our tickets was 137000 Tugriks (~57$) for Ulaanbaatar-Irkutsk.
The Russian visa is a bit peculiar as it is not valid for a certain period of time, like most other visas, but for specific dates only. It is therefore necessary to be really sure about your entrance and exit dates (we can’t stress this enough, you do not want to try to mess with border officials). The tourist visa is maximum 30 days, single entry.
It is also mandatory to get an invitation letter to apply for the visa. This invitation letter can be obtained through travel agencies, like “Russie Autrement” whose services we have been using. It’s an agency based in St-Petersburg that was recommended to us by other travellers, and we have been happy with their services. They can help with quite a few things, from invitation letters to trans-Siberian train tickets. Their website: Voyage en Russie.