Visas – Philippines vs Thailand vs Cambodia
Continuing the series on comparing the Philippines, Cambodia and Thailand, let’s talk visas.
While Thailand stood out for infrastructure and internet, it lags behind Cambodia and the Philippines on the visa front, which are about the same.
In the Philippines you only need to leave the country once every 3 years (recently that was increased from 18 months).
Overall it costs me a little over $40/month on average on visas to stay in the Philippines.
There are some minor annoyances like having to go into immigration – and deal with random requirements – every once in awhile to pay your fees and renew your visa, but recently they started allowing you to only go in once every 6 months.
You also need to go to get exit clearance to leave, fill in a bunch of forms come back a few days later to find out you can leave. Then on top of that pay an airport tax as you leave before the departure gate, which doesn’t happen in the other two countries.
Still, once every three years is tolerable.
Another minor annoyance is needing a flight booked out of the country to enter, but that can be on any date and you could find a refundable ticket.
You can then extend that within the country and keep extending for 3 years before you have to leave, fly back in and repeat the process.
You can get a retirement visa in the Philippines at 35 but most expats over that age still just stick to the leaving every three years option, as it’s easier (no forms to fill in or having to show $10k in savings).
- Philippines Visa Rating: 8/10
Easy visas are one of the main selling points for living in Cambodia. They really could not be any easier, if you just want to be left alone and smoke bananas all day Cambodia is the best country in Asia to live.
When you arrive in the country just be sure to pay the extra $5 or whatever it is now to get the ‘business visa’ or ‘ordinary visa‘ it’s being called now apparently. Costs $35.
That’s instead of the 30 day only ‘tourist visa’.
You can extend the business / ordinary visa for 1, 3, 6 or 12 months. I was extending 3 months at a time and at the time it was $80 for a three month extension. If I’d been staying for a year, the 12 month extension would’ve been $300.
You never have to go to immigration yourself to renew your Cambodia visa either. Pretty much any hotel or travel agent can renew it for you for a tiny fee. Just give them your passport and they do all the work for you.
So a rough estimate is say $30/month on visas for Cambodia.
Would be a perfect rating if you could get 30 days free on arrival like the Philippines and Thailand. At least there’s the option to get an eVisa online to avoid the scamminess at land borders like Poipet, and it also stops you losing an entire passport page to the physical visa.
- Cambodia Visa Rating: 9.5/10
Thailand is easy to enter, with 30 days free on arrival, but it gets difficult after that. You can extend that now for another 30 days for 1900 Baht (~$60), a recent positive change from the 7 days it used to be.
Or if you enter on a tourist visa, for each entry (they have single, double, and triple entry tourist visas) you get 60 days extendable to 90. So a triple (get that from the consulate in your home country, or Bali does them) gives you 90 x 3 = 270 days stay.
A single entry costs ~$30, a double $60 and so on, and each extension to 90 days costs ~$60.
Red stamp from Vientiane consulate and note to bring proof of residence and income next time
You can do four or so back to back double entry visas from Vientiane consulate, Laos, before they approve you that time but ask you for proof of income (from outside Thailand, to show you’re not a tourist) and proof of residency in Thailand (this part makes no sense, but they want you to show a rental contract to prove you’re a tourist – uwotm8?)
Other consulates like Penang limit you to three back to back visas, period. Singapore are moody too. Just stick to Laos, or Bali for a triple entry (Laos doesn’t issue these).
Perpetual tourism is doable – the big ‘crackdown’ of 2014 on tourism just turned out to be about back to back visa-free travel, you can’t do that anymore – via Laos but expensive and a hassle having to leave every 90 days.
A separate crackdown on Education visas did actually happen though, they doubled the prices of ‘student visas’ in most places and started enforcing attendance.
It used to be around $1000 for a year of language classes, extensions and the visa, and you didn’t have to attend. So under $100/month with no flight costs. That’s harder to find now.
You can retire in Thailand at over 50 then it’s much easier visa wise, you just have to show 800k Baht ($23k USD) in a bank account. No need to leave the country.
There’s also a new program called Thai Elite in which if you pay $15,000 you get a 5 year visa, no questions asked, no need to ever leave. If you’re committing to a long stay that’s an option, you’d probably save a lot as Thailand accommodation is cheaper.
Visas in Thailand cost $50-$250/month depending on the cost of flights, buses, Laos hotels, and whether or not you go for Thai Elite.
That’s still good though for a much more developed country. A lot more expats choose Thailand than the other two countries, so there must be a reason for that. I just really like Filipina girls.
Update – double / triple entry tourist visas have been replaced by the multiple entry tourist visa (METV). For 2015 info see this post on TheTravellingPhase.
For the METV you have to fly back home to apply, but there’s still no set limit on getting single entry tourist visas (SETVs), those are still available from Laos, Malaysia, Cambodia etc.
- Thailand Visa Rating: 6.5/10
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