By Farhan Rafi
A country’s entry requirements can be one of the biggest, if not the biggest, issues to face on the traveller’s list of pre-departure concerns. Preparing visa requirements and researching border control measures constitute a major source of stress for between 23 and 27 percent of international travellers. While some passports grant visa-free entry to most countries – a Japanese passport, for instance, allows visa-free entry to 193 out of 227 destinations – a majority of travellers will have far fewer options. Depending on the passport type and nationality, it can take days to weeks to fulfil the destination country’s immigration requirements and avoid chaos at ports of entry.
Travel is easier to Southeast Asia after COVID-19
Pre-departure stress related to travelling significantly worsened during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic from 2020 to 2021, especially for entry to Southeast Asian countries, due to the region’s notoriously stringent entry policies. During peak COVID-19, around two-thirds of global travellers considered travel way more stressful than before, due to health and hygiene measures at ports of entry, mask mandates and onerous pre- and post-arrival testing or quarantine measures.
Fortunately, this seems to not be the case anymore, as most countries in the region have lifted entry bans and restored convenient entry visas or visa-free travel schemes, providing an optimistic outlook for travellers in 2023. Sun-starved holidaymakers are again welcome to visit the pristine beaches and verdant tropical settings that many Southeast Asian destinations have to offer.
Here are Riskline’s picks for popular Southeast Asian destinations and their respective convenient entry schemes:
With more than 40,000 charming temples across the country, a variety of white sand beaches in Chonburi province’s Pattaya and convenient entry schemes for most travellers, these are just a few reasons why Thailand is the most visited country in Southeast Asia. Visa-free entry is possible for nationals of around 65 countries or regions, including most of Europe, with varying permitted stay periods; most eligible travellers may enter visa-free for up to 30 days. Furthermore, tourists from 18 other countries, namely China and India, may apply for a visa upon arrival for a 30-day stay.Those with a valid APEC Business Travel Card (ABTC) may also enter visa-free for up to 90 days. Travellers who are not eligible to enter without a visa may apply for a Tourist visa for a 60-day stay in Thailand; nationals of 23 countries may apply for the visa online via the Thai E-Visa portal.
Indonesia is home to around 17,000 islands, and Bali province alone attracted over two million international tourists in 2022 to its beaches, which are ideal for surfers, divers and yoga retreats. The country’s visa requirements for short-stay visits for leisures are straightforward. Instead of applying for a typical entry visa via the Indonesian Embassy, nationals of 87 countries or regions may apply for a Visa on Arrival (VoA) valid for a 30-day stay at select entry points, including at Bali’s Ngurah Rai Airport (DPS/WADD).For an even faster immigration process, travellers are advised to apply for the VoA online via the Molina portal prior to departure. Alternatively, travellers holding an ABTC may enter the country visa-free for 60 days. Indonesia also exempts visa requirements for nationals of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) for a 30-day stay.
Despite its small size, Singapore is known for its diverse population, melting pot of ethnic cultures and vibrant dining options and nightlife, making it one of the most popular destinations in the region. The country has a relatively simple and easy entry process with visa requirements in place only for nationals of around 37 countries and regions; all other nationals do not need a visa to enter. Most travellers are required to fill in the Singapore Arrival Card within three days prior to arrival. A short-term visit pass (STVP), generally in the form of an electronic visit pass or e-Pass, is issued at the point of entry to visitors who are eligible for entry to Singapore as a tourist. In most cases, travellers with an STVP are permitted to stay for up to 30 days; travellers may extend their stay for an additional 30 to 89 days.
Vietnam’s stunning landscapes, such as the Marble Mountains in Ngũ Hành Sơn and the beaches of Phú Quốc National Park, as well as the fast-paced lifestyle and entertainment options in Ho Chi Minh City, attract large numbers of domestic and foreign tourists alike. The visa requirements for most travellers are already lenient, yet authorities plan to further expand the list of countries for visa exemption and ease visa requirements in the near term. Currently, visa requirements are exempted for nationals of some European and Asian countries, namely France and South Korea, for up to a 15-day stay. Visa-free entries between 14-30 days also apply to nationals of all ASEAN countries.
Foreign nationals from 82 countries or regions are eligible to apply for an e-Visa valid for 30-day entries. Other travellers intending to enter Vietnam for up to 30 days but are not eligible to enter the country visa-free or apply for a visa on the e-Visa portal may apply for a short-term entry visa (SQ) at a Vietnamese Embassy.