A Guide to Visas in Asia

Are you planning a trip to Asia?

Here is some useful information in regards to the visas you might need.

First and foremost most of the countries in Asia ask for visas, of course this varies depending on your nationality. You must always check very carefully and anticipate which countries will ask for your visa upon arrival (VOA) and which nationalities are permitted entrance, which countries do not require visas if you are going to stay for a specific amount of days and which demand a visa prior to leaving your country of origin (this requires a trip to a especific embassy). 

JAPAN

Costa Rican passport holders can be in Japan for up to 90 days without a visa. If you require a different visa please visit the website of the embassy of Japan in Costa Rica and  for more information regarding other countries visit here.

MALAYSIA

Costa Rican passport holders can be in Malaysia for up to 30 days without a visa. For more information regarding other countries visit here

SINGAPORE

Costa Rican passport holders can be in Singapore for up to 30 days without a visa. For more information regarding other countries visit here.

 

THAILAND

Costa Rica does require a visa in advance for visiting Thailand. An honorary consulate generally has the visa ready in 3 working days and only work in the afternoons. Depending on the type of visa, the amount of requirements vary as well as the time frame. All payments must be done in dollars and with exact change. Please visit here to download the consulates form and view all other additional information. 

Most nationalities will fall into the category of the Tourist Visa Exemption Scheme and will not need a visa for stays up to 30 days, if arriving by air. If you’re arriving via land borders, you’re generally only given a 15 day period of stay. However, you can apply for a 60 day tourist visa ahead of time through an application at your local Thai consulate.

Here is the list of countries and territories entitled for Visa Exemption and Visa on Arrival to Thailand.

For more information regarding other countries visit here.

CHINA

China requires all visitors to apply for visa ahead of time. China has embassys in nearly every country worldwide so check to see where is yours. Most foreign travelers need a visa to visit China, unless you’re heading to Hong Kong, Macau, or spending under 72 hours in Beijing, Guangzhou, Xi’an, Guilin, Chengdu, Chongqing, Dalian, or Shenyang (more information). Otherwise, citizens from Japan, Singapore, Brunei, San Mauritius, the Seychelles, and the Bahamas, are the only people who don’t need a visa. Here  is the government website which supplies more information. (It should be noted that there are still a few restricted areas of China that need a separate permit, such as Tibet.)

In Costa Rica the Chinese embassy is located in Rohrmoser and is open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9:30 am to 12:30 pm. Here is the Embassy website.

The prices, requirements and allowed time frame of visit will depend on the type of visa you will be requesting. I would recommend visiting the previous link for more detailed specifics and read it with great care. It usually takes 1 week for the embassy to give you the visa but if you need one urgently you can have it expedited in 2 days for $50.

The Chinese are very strict with the schedule and appointments so be punctual. All your documents will have to be shown to whoever is at the entrance to the embassy. Once they have been checked you will be given a voucher which must be paid at the Banco de Costa Rica (BCR). In order to receive your visa you must bring along the same paid voucher from the BCR so don’t forget it! Your name alone is not enough.

The process is fairly quick and the requested form can be downloaded from the embassys website. Remember that the photograph you supply them must have a white background. It is very important to bring along the confirmation tickets of both the hotels you are staying at during your stay in China and your airplane tickets. 

HONG KONG

If you’re only visiting Hong Kong and/or Macau and not mainland China, visas are not required for most nationalities.

Costa Rica passport holders can be in Hong Kong for up to 30 days without a visa. The following link explains which nationalities require a visa or not as well as the allowed visiting time.  

VIETNAM

Almost all nationalities will need a visa to get into Vietnam and must be arranged ahead of time. If you’re arriving by air, it’s best to apply for a visa through online visa agents, if you’re arriving by land, you’ll need to arrange getting a valid Vietnam visa through your local Vietnamese embassy ahead of time and/or getting an approval letter from them. If you’re already in Asia, the best place to pick up a Vietnamese visa is in Cambodia or Bangkok. For more information visit here.

As for residents of Costa Rica, you may apply for a visa on arrival (VOA) always when you are flying into the following airports: Noi Bai International Airport (Hanoi), Tan Son Nhat International Airport (Ho Chi Minh City), Cam Ranh International Airport (Nha Trang) and Danang Airport (Da Nang).

For a VOA a pre-approval visa letter is required. They are many online agencies that offer the service but in my case I didn’t find any of them very reliable so I opted to email the hotel I was going to be staying at in Vietnam already when I was in Asia. The hotel kindly supplied me with a letter which was emailed to me (I paid $15 USD for it once I arrived at the hotel). I printed this out and once I arrived in Vietnam, and before passing through migration, I headed towards the assigned VOA office along with nearly everyone else on the plane. Afterwards I had to pay $25 USD and a few minutes later my name appeared on a TV screen telling me to get my passport. It was a quick and orderly process so you don’t have to worry as much as I did. I noticed afterwards that on the letter was my date of arrival and the airport I flew into, so you should be careful because if you change plans you will have to pay for another letter. I suggest requesting the letter 10 days in advance. Make sure to bring one-passport sized photo with you.

CAMBODIA

VOA (Visa on Arrival)

Most travelers can get a tourist visa upon arrival, those from ASEAN member countries (other Southeast Asian countries) don’t typically need a visa. For more information visit here.

Make sure to bring one-passport sized photo with you. It’s easier to secure a visa at major airports, Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, as opposed to land borders. Crossing at land borders, you may be hit up for more money to secure a visa.

The Cambodian government is now offering an E-visa that you can apply for before arrival.

Costa Rican residents can apply for VOA. In my case I passed to Cambodia from Vietnam and luckily enough the bus service does everything for you. They will pick up your passport, charge you $35 USD and fill out all the necessary documents and processes.

INDONESIA

Most nationalities can obtain a 30-day visa on arrival. If you want to stay for 60 days, apply in advance at your local consulate or embassy. Indonesia visa regulations are known to change often, so check on the government website ahead of time.

As for citizens of Costa Rica, the process is slightly more difficult – and in my case a complete headache. So please check everything carefully, with patience and within the sufficient time frame. First of all, Costa Rican citizens cannot apply for VOA’s so you have to follow the process you're about to read carefully. The tourism visa is generally granted for 30 days and is only valid during the 3 month time period from when you initially applied for the visa itself (confusing, I know).

So lets say if you applied for the visa in February, received your 30 day tourism visa in April but didn’t visit Indonesia until June; the 3 month time period is up and the visa you were granted is now void. So be sure to handle your time correctly! The visa must be sent to the Indonesian embassy in Mexico, so don’t send it to early or too late like in my case. I mailed my passport to Mexico 3 weeks before I left and didn’t get it back until 3 days before I left. This process took nearly a month for me to finish. For all the requirements visit this page

You must also make a $50 USD deposit into a bank account that you will be supplied with. But to my luck all electronic bank transactions in Costa Rica charge you for making international deposits so in the end I had to pay an extra $50 USD as well. Another issue is that they also will ask for your light/electricity bills of which has to have your name on it. If you live with your parents or someone else for example and your name isn’t on the electricity bill, you must send a letter with the signature and a copy of the identification of the person who owns the house you live in verifying that you do indeed live with them. It’s also very important that prior to sending this letter you need to scan every document you have and check with the embassy that everything is in order and finally verify that your bank account has a minimum balance of $1000 (if not they will reject everything).

A quick tip, if you are travelling with someone you can call the embassy in Mexico and ask for permission to send all the passports together in the same envelope; that way you can save some money. I was allowed to do this and I chose to send everything via UPS of which they charged me $65 USD.

If you are running short on time I would suggest to  constantly call them and verify that everything is being sent quickly and correctly. They will tell you that the entire shipping process will only take a week but its better to be safe.

 

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I hope this guide can at least give you an idea of what to expect.

If you have any doubts leave a comment, we are more than happy to help.

Happy travels!