On procuring visas

On our trip to Southeast Asia in January ’05, we will be visiting Thailand, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia and Hong Kong. While we are independent travelers, we purchased package deals for Thailand, Cambodia and Hong Kong with Pleasant Holidays (e-mail generalreservations@pleasant.net or visit www.pleasantholidays.com).

The package for Burma is being provided by Golden Rock Tours & Travel (grtt@goldenrock.com.mm or www.visitmyanmar.com).

Both Burma and Cambodia require visas to enter their countries. Pleasant Holidays has a service that provides visa applications using a fax machine. The applications are from a visa service company with a fee of $60 plus $14 shipping each for both Burma and Cambodia. (We made an inquiry to another visa service we used in the past and found it would have cost $180.)

We called Golden Rock’s local representative in Nevada City, California (888/733-2876), and were told that we could get the Burma visa on a webpage, www.visa.gov.mm.

The application form that comes up requires the submission of an online passport-size photo along with a fee of $30, which can be charged to a credit card. This all was done in about a half an hour, the completed form (which was approved) to be shown at our port of entry.

The big advantage, beside a cost savings, was that we did not have to mail our passports to anyone and worry about getting them back in time.

We also learned that the requirement that one has to change hundreds of dollars into local currency upon arrival in Burma is no longer in effect.

For Cambodia, a visa can be obtained at your arrival city in that country, although it might be well to obtain one in advance to keep from standing in a line.

By the way, Kinko’s Copies will shoot your passport photos, and they told me they received an advisory saying that you should not smile in the photo! (Costco charges $4.95 and Walgreens, $7.95, with some other services charging $10-$15 for passport photos.)

Portola, CA