Right now, planning a tour of Southeast Asia requires more research and paperwork than a tour of Europe. Each country has its own travel visa requirements for tourists, ranging from relatively permissive (Thailand) to restrictive bureaucratic spiderwebs like those in Vietnam.
In as little as 5 years, though, that may change. As part of its strategic plan to encourage tourism in member countries, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) is trying to introduce one travel visa to rule them all: a Schengen-like visa that would allow tourists to travel effortlessly between countries such as Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines and Brunei.
Stuart McDonald of TravelFish.org told the Inquirer Global Nation that visa regulations in these countries are a source of confusion for many would-be travelers: “One of the most common questions that we see on travelfish.org is people asking visa questions: What kind of visa can I get? How long is it valid for? What does it cost? The rules change all the time and it introduces a level of uncertainty and confusion that the industry can do without.”
A common visa for all of Southeast Asia would undoubtedly be a good thing for tourism, but don’t expect it to happen immediately. In its strategic plan, even Asean itself noted that there are many obstacles to overcome first: “The establishment of such a visa will not likely occur in the next five years due to barriers of technology, political issues, concerns of sovereignty and security and the different visa systems in the member states.” (more…)