The Easiest Way To Get A Myanmar Visa
With considerable political reforms occurring over the last year, Myanmar (Burma), once a pariah state in the world of travel, has become this year’s hottest backpacker destination. Although some significant human rights issues remain, travelers are keen to experience the legendary, relatively “untouched” culture of this unique Southeast Asian country, hot on the heels of several Western world leaders who have recently made the trip.
However, there are several challenges that must be faced before one can pack up and head into the unknown. The first is obtaining a visa, which remains a tiring and time-consuming process, with one exception: the Myanmar Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand. In Bangkok it is possible to get a visa in a matter of days, without the unexplained delays and the need for invitations, itineraries, business contacts, etc . . . , that travellers have reported facing at other embassies.
Although heading to Bangkok may seem a little extreme just to get a visa , keep in mind that since overland travel into the country is still not a viable option, Bangkok is without a doubt the cheapest entry point to Myanmar, with flights to the former capital, Yangon, from as little as $80.
The Embassy in Bangkok is located at 132 Sathorn Nua Rd, Silom. Applications are only accepted in the morning, from 9 a.m. until 12 p.m., Monday to Friday. Of course, the Embassy is closed on both Thailand’s and Myanmar’s public holidays.
By far the easiest option for getting to the Embassy is the BTS Skytrain. The Embassy is located just 200-300 meters from Surasak Station. At Surasak Station, take EXIT 3, turn right at the bottom of the stairs and follow the direction of the traffic down the Sathorn Nua Rd. You will walk past several large schools, and then come to the Embassy’s prison-like walls on your left. While it may be tempting to skip the BTS and take a taxi from your hotel, Bangkok’s notoriously bad traffic makes this a far less desirable option than it initially may seem.
If you are coming from the Khaosan Road area (Banglamphu), there is unfortunately no nearby BTS station. Perhaps the nicest way to get there is via the river from Phra Arthit Pier (N13). From here take the “orange flag” Express Boat to Sathorn Pier (Central Pier). Tickets cost a mere 15B, and the ride takes a pleasant half hour or so. From Sathorn Pier you can transfer to the BTS at Saphan Taksin Station, just one stop from Surasak .
Once you arrive at the Embassy, you will need:
- 2 passport photos
- Visa application form (available at the Embassy)
- A photocopy of the photo page of your passport
- For the express 1-day visa service you will also need your flight tickets/itinerary
- A good book (waiting times can be long!)
Fortunately, for the disorganized traveler, an enterprising Thai couple has established a business just a few minutes walk past the entrance to the Embassy, providing passport photos, photocopies, paperclips and glue, all at a bargain price!
There are three price options available for visas: to pick up the same day costs 1260B, the next working day 1035B, and in two working days it costs 810B. These prices are standard regardless of your nationality. Passports can only be picked up between 3:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. on your selected day.
Once you have picked up your visa, the first of your challenges is over. Now you just need to find enough clean, crisp U.S. dollar bills to fund your entire trip, as there are still not many reliable ATMs in the entire country . . .
(Please note, this information is all accurate as of August 2012. The process, times and prices may change at any point!)
By Evan Ritli
[Border Crossing by Ryan Harvey/Flickr]
About the Author
Evan Ritli is a frequent traveller and occasional writer from Melbourne, Australia. Usually writing on politics and International Relations, Evan was formerly an editor for the Australian Institute of International Affair’s webzine, Monthly Access. More recently he has been working as a policy manager for Left Right Think Tank. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.