I haven’t written a lot here lately, for the simple reason that I’m spending an unusually lengthy amount of time researching my upcoming cruise with Viking River Cruises that will take me through the heart of Myanmar, formerly known as Burma.
Unlike a lot of countries I’ve travelled to, I’m starting with a completely blank slate as far as Myanmar goes. When I booked this trip this summer, I did so without knowing the basic entry and exit requirements. I didn’t research the vaccinations I may or may not need. And I certainly couldn’t make logical sense of our cruise tour stops and ports of call.
To aid me in that respect, I went out and purchased two guide books on Myanmar, and one guide to local customs and culture (under the Culture Smart! Moniker; check them out – they’re tremendously helpful).
There was only one thing that stood between me and the bliss of exotic Myanmar: I needed a Tourist Visa for my passport. And getting one wasn’t quite as easy as I’d hoped.
If you’re curious as to whether you need a visa for a particular country or not, visit your local government website; they’ll typically have travel information published there.
Up until about a year ago, the only way to get a tourist visa for Myanmar was to mail your passport in to your nearest Myanmar embassy, or to use the (expensive) services of a visa procurer, which still requires sending your passport in.
Now, the Government of Myanmar has set up an e-Visa service for tourists, eliminating the need to send your passport anywhere. For $50 USD, you’re issued with a document to print out and bring with you to present to customs and immigration upon arrival in one of three Burmese gateways: Yangon International Airport, Mandalay International Airport, or Nay Pyi Taw International Airport.
Here’s the truth: I hate handing my passport over for the purposes of a visa. Because of my packed travel schedule, sometimes it’s just not possible – but I was really running the clock out on my visa. I have, after all, just 22 days before I fly to Thailand to start my Viking cruise tour.
In the end, I received my e-visa by email this morning. But it got me thinking: which countries, commonly visited by river cruises, offer an e-Visa service?
Here’s what I discovered. Please note this chart is only applicable for Canadians and permanent residents of the United States. Citizens of other countries should check with their local consulate.
|COUNTRY||TOURIST VISA REQUIRED FOR US / CANADIAN CITIZENS?||E-VISA OPTION?||CONDITIONS|
|AFRICA (including South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe)||Single-entry tourist visa required for Zimbabwe (Victoria Falls) only. Can be purchased in advance or upon entry.||YES||Min. 6 month passport validity; two blank facing passport pages free.|
Can be purchased in advance, upon arrival (Siem Reap and Phnom Penh Airports only), or online.
|YES||Tourist visa on arrival must be paid in USD cash only. $30.|
|CHINA||Yes||No.||Visa not required for passengers on connecting flights through China.|
|EGYPT||Yes||No.||Visa-on-arrival exists for many airports, but consulates advise getting the visa before leaving home to avoid issues.|
|MYANMAR||Yes||YES||Min. 6 month passport validity.|
|RUSSIA||Yes - and it gets complicated very quickly. |
For Canadians, click here.
For Americans, click here.
|No. ||There are over 80 different kinds of Russian visas available for US citizens alone; you may wish to use a visa service for this one!|
|VIETNAM||Yes||Maybe? Some services purport to offer this, but we'd recommend getting a physical one before leaving home.||Both Canadian and U.S. Consulates warn of the proliferation of fake e-visa and visa services for Vietnam; use only official embassy services.|
So learn from my adventure: when you’re booking a river cruise, make sure you research the entry and exit requirements thoroughly. Check it against your schedule, and determine if you can afford to be without your passport for two to three weeks sometime between your booking date and your departure date.
Then, of course, sail on – and have fun!
Our Voyage Report from Myanmar aboard Viking River Cruises’ Viking Mandalay begins in November – stay tuned!