If you’re thinking about getting a visa for Myanmar in Bangkok, there are some things you need to know. Our experience wasn’t the greatest, and while these kind of days are all part of long-term travel, there’s no need for you to make the same mistakes we did!
After reading the many blog and forum posts about getting a visa for Burma, we were certain that it would be an easy experience, and we’d be in and out in less than an hour.
Izy and I chose to go on Thursday, since we fly on Sunday and we wanted to have 1 day free just in case there were any problems. We also decided to go with the one-day option, since we figured it was better to just get it out of the way.
The embassy opens at 9am, and after reading about the many people who had done the same thing, waited for half an hour and then strolled out again, we figured we were good-after all, the embassy was open until 12pm.
We arrived and both had an “oh shit” moment, as we realized the line was massive, we slunk to the back, and a Thai woman handed us application forms and let us use her printer for 7baht.
We filled in our application forms and prepared to wait. And wait we did. We waited outside for an hour before we even got close to the embassy doors. It was hot and humid, and somehow we had forgotten all of the things that would have made the wait more bearable, like headphones, our kindles, drinks, and actually charging our phones all the way (yup we’re awesome travelers who are always prepared for whatever comes).
Finally I thought I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. We were inside the building! Unfortunately the system is one of the most ridiculous I’ve seen in Asia (and that’s saying something). We all lined up for another two hours to go to counter 4, where we were given a number so that we could then go back to the counter and pay our visa fee.
Basically all the paper work was done at the time, so I don’t quite understand why you can’t simply pay for your visa while you’re standing at the counter. Thankfully we were able to sit down while we waited for the last half an hour.
Finally at around 1.30 our number was called, we went straight to the counter and paid for the visa, and left. While they had closed the main doors at 12.30, anyone inside was still able to continue waiting in line which was good.
The depressing part was that we knew we had to come back in just a couple of hours to pick up our passports when the office opened at 3.30.
Being the smart cookies that we are, we got to the embassy at 3pm-figuring that we would be at the front of the line. Unfortunately we took almost the exact same spot in the line that we had been in when we first arrived at 10am. We then sat in the gutter in the sun for an hour and a half, until the embassy finally reopened at 4.30-the time that it was supposed to close.
All of the people who had been hanging out on the shady side of the road ran across and cut in line, and by that point I was not a happy camper. We lined up inside for another half an hour, and finally collected our visas just after 5pm.
I honestly don’t know why the whole process was such a shitshow. There aren’t any Myanmar holidays coming up next week that would encourage people to get their visas early, and although it’s going into high season in Myanmar, I hadn’t heard any horror stories like ours.
Bear in mind that we had to go this route, since we were unable to do the eVisa, since you need to have five days before you’ll be traveling. If you’re planning your trip in advance (and most people have decided they’re going to Myanmar at least five days before), then the process is quick and easy. Simply go to this website and in four steps you’ll have filled out the form, taken a photo, and you’ll receive your approval letter within five days.
The good news is that we have our visas. But if you’re thinking about doing the same thing, and you absolutely have to get the visa in Bangkok, make sure you get to the embassy well before it opens in the morning and take some snacks and entertainment. In the afternoon I wouldn’t worry about turning up too early, since if they get stuck processing tons of visas they simply won’t open until they’re all done.