Going to China, Bhutan or Nepal? These tips on Asia visa requirements will make getting yours easier…and in time for your travels.
The best time to check out your Asia visa requirements is when you book your trip. Don’t put it on the back burner or the bottom of your to-do list. When you’re going to the airport is not the time to start wondering if you need it! But don’t worry, that’s where Myths and Mountains comes in to help. We assist our travelers through the visa process and keep important due dates and reminders top of mind.
“Visa” is an acronym for Visitor’s Intended Stay Abroad, and it’s issued by the country you plan to visit. Think of it as a kind of permission slip to enter a country, stay for a specific period of time and leave.
About thirty countries require a visa because they want to know, track or control at least three things:
- Who comes and goes across their borders.
- The purpose of the visit—tourist, student, business, work, etc.
- How long the traveler intends to stay.
- Whether the person is coming from a country with security or crime concerns.
Note that no two visas are alike, and each visa process is different. Here are tourist visa how-to’s for three countries that our travelers visit — Nepal, Bhutan, and China. Stay tuned for our upcoming Part II on visa requirements for India, Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar.
Advance Planning: Check your passport expiration date! To enter most countries, your passport must be valid for at least six months from the time of your entry and 12 months for long stays in China. Check that you have blank pages for the visa stamps and that your passport is not frayed or torn.
Visa-wise, touring Bhutan is the easiest country because the work is done for you by the tour operator organizing your trip. In fact, licensed Bhutanese tour operators are the only people who can get tourist visas for their travelers. You cannot visit Bhutan on your own. (The exceptions: people with an India, Bangladesh, or Maldives passport.)
What you need:
- A booked, Bhutan-tour package with your travel agent or tour operator like Myths and Mountains.
- An air ticket on Druk Air or Bhutan Airlines given to you by your tour operator.
- Clear color copy of the detail (photo) page of your passport.
- Depending on your arrangements, two passport photos (taken within six months). Note: Myths and Mountains arranges and clears the visa document in advance, so you will most likely not need the photos, but we always recommend to carry extras just in case.
Bhutan Visa Application: Fairly straightforward and includes your name, birthdate, occupation, mailing address, contact number (preferably a mobile number), a scanned copy of your passport detail page, your port of entry and exit and whether or not this is your first trip to Bhutan.
Length of Stay: Usually this is only as long as your travel agent or tour operator schedules the trip.
Cost: $40, paid in advance to your tour operator and included in trip costs.
Caveat: Myths and Mountains typically receives the Bhutan visa document about two weeks prior to your entry. If you are already traveling before this time, we can easily email or fax it to you wherever you are. You must show your paper visa when you enter the country. We suggest also keeping it with your passport, in case you need to show it again.
You can get a Nepal visa prior to arrival, but often the online application is more of a headache than it’s worth. Therefore, Myths and Mountains strongly suggests just getting your visa on arrival in Nepal.
The visa on arrival at the airport or at one of the land entry points such as Kakarvita, Jamunaha or Birgunj is often easier to obtain than applying at a Nepalese Embassy, by mail or online.
If you are going to Nepal for any purpose other than tourism, such as volunteering, or prefer to get your visa in advance, visit https://us.nepalembassy.gov.np/tourist-visa/ for instructions.
What you need:
- Your physical passport. Be sure to have one blank page for the visa stamp.
- A visa application form that will be given to you on the plane or on your arrival.
- Two passport photos.
Nepal Visa Application: In addition to the usual name, address, birthdate, occupation, you must include your address in Nepal, which is usually your first hotel stay in Nepal; date and place of entry; purpose of your visit and year, month, and duration of your last visit to Nepal.
Length of Stay: Tourist visas are for 15, 30, and 90 days, and allow you to leave and re-enter Nepal numerous times.
If you want to stay longer than your visa allows, you will have to apply for an extension at the Nepal Department of Immigration in Kathmandu or Pokhara. An extension cannot be granted at the airport. Extensions of tourist visas are not open-ended. You cannot stay more than 150 days.
Pay attention to the date of your visa. If you overextend your visa date significantly, you will be fined, possibly arrested, and banned from the country for seven years!
Cost: The cost of a tourist visa varies according to how long you stay in Nepal and is payable in US dollars at the point of entry. Don’t rely on a credit card.
- 15-day stay is $25
- 30 days stay is $40
- 90 days stay is $100
Caveat: Don’t rely on airport photo booths and ATMs at the airport to be functioning properly. Take your passport photos with you and some extra ones if you can—you never know what you might need them for.
Take small bills to pay the fee—10’s and 20’s in US dollars are fine, but don’t expect the immigration person to have change for $100 (especially at land border crossings).
Here is where travel gets complicated, which is why we recommend using a visa service (See box below). The charge will be well worth it to avoid delays. If you plan to get the visa yourself, you must apply for it at a China Embassy or Chinese Consulate in a city near you. You cannot get a visa for China online or by mail.
China has 16 different visa types! Unless you are passing through China and will be there for less than 72 hours, you will apply for a tourist visa. The following information applies if you are a US citizen and visiting China as a tourist only. If you have visited China before or were once a citizen of China, go to the embassy website for instructions.
What you need:
- Original, signed passport.
- Completed visa application form with a photo on glossy photo paper glued onto the form.
- The original and photocopy of a valid visa of the country where you are currently staying (Meaning, if you are a student studying outside the US or are working abroad, you need to submit visas from that country.).
- Letter of guarantee issued by a tour operator or an invitation letter. This may be a fax, photocopy or computer printout. The letter should include the purpose of your visit, arrival and departure dates and where you plan to go. If you have been invited by an institution or a person, you will need to provide information about your relationship to that group or person.
China Visa Application: The 4-page application consists of the usual information: name, address, birthdate, occupation, etc. plus your itinerary, how long you plan to be in the country, how many times you will re-enter and who is paying your expenses in China.
If you have visited China before and your name on your current passport is now different, you will need a legal document of your name change, such as a marriage license.
Length of Stay: US citizens are eligible for 10-year, multiple-entry visa. However, keep in mind that your passport must be valid for more than a year after you enter China.
Cost: Regardless of how many times you enter China, the visa is $140 for six months. For rush or express service add an additional $20. In addition, there will be another charge from the visa service if you use one.
Cash is not accepted at the embassy visa office. You will need a cashier’s check or money order for the exact amount made out to the proper office. Visa or MasterCard credit cards are accepted.
Caveat: The visa offices are sticklers for accuracy and detail. You will not be given a visa and may be refused entry to China altogether if the information on your application is incomplete or misleading.
The nitty gritty of applying for a visa is different if you plan to go to Tibet. More questions are asked, too, if you are visiting relatives in China or you are traveling with a child. For details go to the Consular Services of the China Embassy website.
DO I NEED A VISA SERVICE?
There are at least three good reasons for using a travel service, such as Visa Central:
- You are short on time and need rush service.
- You are uneasy about filling out complicated forms—as for China.
- You want to be sure you won’t be rejected because you failed to provide the right information.
If you are traveling with Myths and Mountains, use our Visa Central account #72314 for discounted service.
If you choose to use another visa service—Google lists dozens—be sure they are a bonafide agency. Also, if you apply directly to a country’s embassy or consulate, be sure that’s who you are linked to and not a bogus company. We’ve seen it happen!
Ready to travel?
Now that you know what you need to get a visa, let Myths and Mountains guide you through the process. Have any other questions? Email us at email@example.com and we would love to help!