Getting a Myanmar Visa
Myanmar (formerly Burma) has just recently opened up for tourism. After many years of being closed off, the amount of tourists coming into the country is rising very quickly. They’ve forecasting that the tourism will be increasing 15% annually over the next several years. Because it is still relatively undiscovered (at least compared to Thailand and other Southeast Asia), I have a curiosity of seeing what the country has to offer. I’ve learned that people seem to love the country and many people place it as their favorite country they visited in the region. We’ve cut out 2-3 weeks in our trip to experience Myanmar.
Myanmar is one of the few countries in the region that does not allow one to buy a visa on arrival. Actually, it’s the first country that I have visited that I’ve needed to do anything extra than pay at the border or at the airport. For a tourist to enter Myanmar, they must apply for a visa at a Myanmar embassy. In the United States, one can do so by sending their passport and application to the embassy in Washington DC. The process is said to take 3 weeks, but they’ve had so many applications that they say to allow a few extra weeks. Another option is to head to the Myanmar embassy in another country, like Thailand. Because this can be done same day, we decided to try it out.
We arrived at the Myanmar embassy at about 9:45am. Already, there was a line all the way out the door. Just a half a block down the street was a printing shop where you can make copies of passports and also purchase the actual visa application. After purchasing these, we attached two passport photos (which we had printed in the US) and a copy of the passport to the application. Finally, we jumped in line.
We were surprised when we finally made our way into the embassy building, as the line wrapped around the outer part of the inside, as well. We waited, and waited, and waited. The said closing time was noon, so we became somewhat nervous as noon came closer and we were still in line. We arrived at the counter at about 11:30am and were then given a number to wait even more. It turns out that they close the door to the outside at noon but allow everyone inside the door to finish up the application. At about 12:05pm, our number was called and we gave our applications, passports, the copies of our passports, the two passport photos, and the 1,250 Bahts ($38) for the same-day return. You could also do next day (1,000 Bahts/$30) or two days (800 Bahts/$24). We were told to come back between 3:30pm and 4:30pm that afternoon to get our passports.
We arrived at 3:00pm and got in line, which hadn’t yet extended too terribly far. At 3:30pm, they opened the doors. This was a quicker process. By 4:00pm, we had our passports in hand along with a Myanmar visa stamped in! It was a relief to get out of there after several hours of lines and too many people.
If I were to give any recommendations for anyone trying to get a Myanmar visa in Bangkok, I would say to arrive very early and have everything prepared. Arrive before the doors open, which I believe is at 8am, and you should be out of there very quickly. Standing in line with so many stressed out people was not fun, especially as many people did their best to cut in front of others to shorten their own wait time. Either way, we got out of there alive and with our visa to Myanmar.