This list is for people traveling independently, without a tour group**, as a tour group will file this paperwork on your behalf. In all cases, assume that passports must be valid at least 6 months after your intended stay.
China (Mainland, excluding Hong Kong and Macau): Visa required. Visa must be presented upon arrival in China. You must specify your exact entry date and exit date, and do not deviate from this at all. The penalties for overstaying are harsh and you do not want to test them. If you are staying at a hostel / hotel / AirBnb, please ensure you are registered with the police within 24 hours to avoid trouble.
Chinese Visa Application Form and the steps for processing are available here. Apply no earlier than 2 months before your departure. The absolute latest you can apply for a visa is 3 weeks. We recommend you go for the 10 year multi-entry visa, as it makes subsequent visits to China much easier.
India: Visa required. Application must be sent and visa received before you enter India.
Exception: 30 day stay or less, an electronic visa (e-TV visa) can be issued no earlier than 4 days before entry.
Japan: No visa for less than 90 days.
- Be prepared to show an onward / return ticket or proof of funds. If you have neither, Japanese immigration may deny you entry.
Mongolia: No visa for less than 90 days.
Republic of Korea (South Korea): No visa for less than 90 days.
- If you are planning to teach in Korea, you will need an E2 visa. Send it to the consulate in the US, and you will receive your visa in 3-5 business days
Taiwan: No visa for less than 90 days.
Nepal: Visa Required. Visa on arrival available at Kathmandu International Airport. Three available visa options: 15 day, 1 month multi-entry, 3 month multi-entry. Maximum stay of 150 days per calendar year.
**Bhutan: Visa Required. You can only travel to Bhutan with a tour operator who applies for tourist clearance on your behalf. Here is the directory of Bhutan tour operators.
- There is also a Minimum Daily Package, which covers many things but at a rate of $200-$250 per night. Please review the details carefully. This is a small country with a very, very strict set of laws.
Bangladesh: Visa Required. Visa on Arrival available for stays less than 30 days. If you think you may stay longer, fill out the official visa application and get approved before you arrive in Bangladesh.
Myanmar: Visa Required. Myanmar participates in eVisa. When your visa is granted, you will receive an approval letter, which you must have with you when you arrive in Myanmar.
Thailand: No visa for less than 30 days (for air arrival) or 15 days (for land arrival). You MUST make sure your passport is stamped before you leave the passport control, or you will have a hell of a time when you go to leave. If you do not get your passport stamped, there will be no proof of your entry into the country, and you will be subject to fines and arrest.
Laos: Visa Required. Visa on Arrival offered at many points of entry for a 30 day stay. Visa can be extended for up to another 60 days for $2 / day. After that, you have to move to a different country.
Vietnam: Visa Required. Many countries (UK, Germany, Israel, India, Brazil, et al) are exempt from this requirement (full list available here) but US citizens must have a visa. For instructions regarding the information required on the visa, click here.
Philippines: No visa for less than 30 days. If you are already in the Philippines and decide you want to stay longer, you can request a 29 day extension from the Philippine Bureau of Immigration and Deportation’s (BI) main office at Magallanes Drive, Intramuros, Manila.
Malaysia: No visa for less than 90 days. Check your stamp before you leave passport control, as some people have been granted less time. Visas can be extended for two months.
Indonesia: No visa for less than 30 days. Requirements for an extended tourist visa are available here.
Singapore: No visa for less than 90 days.
Timor-Leste: Visa Required. Visa on Arrival for 30 days is available for $30. Visa can be extended for 30 days for an additional $30, up to 90 days.
We are not posting visa requirements for North Korea considering US citizens have been detained and worse even with proper documents. Americans are unwelcome in bits and pieces of the world, but traveling to North Korea is signing your own death certificate.
If you’re having trouble navigating the world of visas and forms, send us a shout! We are more than happy to help out a fellow traveler.
Salut and cheers.
Mark and Melody