A visa is generally required to enter each GMS country with the possibility for all countries –except China PRC- to obtain a visa on arrival, following certain requirements.
Visa fees are in a range of US$ 25 to U$ 40 on average with variations observed for some countries. Different fees apply in case of urgent procedure (one-day delivery) or sometimes for business travel.
Best is to consult websites of each Ministry of Foreign Affairs or the embassy of the country of departure as new regulations and fees can apply under short notice.
The Kingdom of Cambodia provides visa on arrivals to most countries. Only citizens of Afghanistan, Algeria, Arab Saudi, Bangladesh, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Sudan and Nigeria are requested to get a visa in advance. Citizens from Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, and Indonesia can enter Cambodia without a visa.
China requests visa for visitors from foreign countries. Visa exemption is accorded to citizens in transit to a third country for a maximum stay of 72 hours. This exemption is only valid for now for citizens entering through Beijing, Chengdu, Guangzhou and Shanghai international airports. More airports might follow while authorities from both Guangxi and Yunnan look to soften entry conditions for travellers on tours within the GMS. Many countries have now to process their visa through a special agency.
Most foreign countries can enter Laos by simply requesting a visa on arrivals at Lao borders and airports. Countries which need to apply in advance for a visa are the following: Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, Burundi, Cameroon, Congo, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Jordan, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Mozambique, Nauru, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Syria, Swaziland, Tonga, Turkey, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
(Information is available here).
It is possible to extend a stay at the immigration office in Vientiane. It cost US$2 per day if applied before the visa’s expiry date.
Following its political opening, Myanmar offers now the possibility to apply for an e-visa under the government’s official website. Visa-on-arrival facilitation applies to citizens of 48 countries (Permitted list of countries and information about Visa-on-Arrival you can find here) but can only be processed in conjunction with an official invitation.
Tourist visas are valid for 28 days and can be further extended for another 14 days. Generally a confirmed letter of a tour operator, hotel or inviting company (in case of a business trip) is requested to process with the visa. It takes now 24 to 48 hours to receive a visa in an embassy. ASEAN citizens should be exempted from visa formalities from 2014.
The Kingdom of Thailand allows citizens from 48 countries to enter the Kingdom as a tourist under the Tourist Visa Exemption category. The visa validity varies from one country to another but is generally of 14 or 30 days. For entry through land borders, the length of stay is limited to 14 days. For citizens wishing to stay longer in Thailand, there is a possibility to get a two-month visa at Royal Thai embassies abroad. A daily fee is imposed on anyone staying beyond the visa expiration date.
The country is now embarked into a more flexible system to deliver visas to tourists. An official government website issues approval letters. Visitors interested to get a visa on arrival must apply first for an official approved letter to have the visa delivered at Vietnam’s three international airports of Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi and Danang. It is possible also to apply at embassies with visa being normally delivered within five working days. Fees vary according to the type of visa and the number of entries requested.
Common visa Cambodia/Thailand
A new common Cambodia/Thailand visa has been launched in 2012 which allow travellers to get visas for both countries. Citizens from 35 countries can apply for the double-country visa. Entry fees for both countries however apply while a country has also the possibility of rejecting the application.
Travelling within the GMS
With the improvement of transport infrastructure, it is increasingly easy to travel within the region. The GMS is served by four large international airports offering flights overseas: Bangkok, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Yangon while Kunming, Nanning, Phnom Penh, Phuket, Siem Reap and Vientiane are linked to many cities all across Asia.
Within the GMS, an increased number of regional airports are served by regional and domestic flights offered by both full-service and low cost airlines. Airports offering international regional flights with the GMS are Chiang Mai, Krabi, Samui and Surat Thani in Thailand; Mandalay and Nay Pyi Daw in Myanmar; Pakse and Savannakhet in Laos; Dali, Guilin and Jinghong in China PRC; Danang, Nha Trang and Phu Quoc in Vietnam.
Thanks to increased competition, GMS capital cities are linked to each other by a high number of daily flights, especially routes from Bangkok to Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Phnom Penh; Phnom Penh and Siem Reap to Ho Chi Minh City; Kunming to Nanning and Bangkok as well as Yangon to Bangkok.
Airports are generally easily accessible by taxi or public busses. Bangkok Suvarnabhumi International Airport is linked to town by a dedicated rail service. GMS cities are served from two airports in Bangkok: Don Mueang – dedicated to low cost airlines- and Suvarnabhumi International.
Airlines flying within the GMS include the AirAsia Group, Air Bagan, Bangkok Airways, Cambodia Angkor Air, Central Lao Air, Golden Myanmar Air, Lao Airlines, Myanmar Airways International, Nok Air, Thai Airways International, Thai Smile, Vietjet, Vietnam Airlines.
Travel by rail and road
Rail services exist within the GMS but services are generally slow and unpredictable due to crumbling rail infrastructure. They are now many projects to develop rapid and even highspeed train links within the GMS under the auspices of the ADB. Most of these projects will however not be completed before the end of the decade or the next one.
The most popular train link for now is Vietnam North-South Railways which links Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City via Danang and Hue. Thailand Northeast rail linking Bangkok to Udon Thani and Nong Khai was extended two years ago over the border to Laos, a few kilometers away from the Lao capital Vientiane. Other popular rail services in Thailand are trains going from Bangkok to Chiang Mai as well as Bangkok to Hua Hin.
With the opening of terrestrial border crosschecks and the improvement of roads’ infrastructure, it is increasingly easy to cross from one GMS country to another. It is now possible to ride with a car from Singapore up to Kunming in Yunnan via Thailand and Laos while a highway is due to be completed between Myanmar and Vietnam via Thailand and Cambodia.
They are still no land border crossings between Lao PRD and Myanmar.
In general, land border checkpoints are opened from 8 am to 7 pm or 8 pm.