This is an advice post, for anyone wanting to visit Myanmar and trying to figure out how to get a visa. If that doesn’t apply to you, don’t blame me if you get to the bottom of the following wall of text wondering why you’re incredibly bored and can you have the last ten minutes or so of your life back, please.
Apparently, most Myanma embassies around the world will take forever to process your visa application. The one in Bangkok will not – they have fixed, reliable schedules (same-day, next-day and day-after, depending on your need and willingness to pay for expedited processing), and as a result, they’re a pretty popular embassy.
Sufficiently popular, in fact, that you will be waiting in a long line to get your visa. The visa section is only open in the mornings for visa applications. It opens at 9, and by then there’ll be a line along the street. We got there around 9.15, and had to wait about 40 minutes in line. Personally I wouldn’t bother getting there earlier – my uneducated guess is that you’ll be waiting in line equally as long, just trading off more time waiting in a shorter line that’s not moving (because the office isn’t open yet) for less time waiting for the people in front of you to pass through once it does open – but obviously plenty of people are more excited about the whole waiting-in-line process than I am, and so want to get started with it as early as possible.
But in any case, before you go jump in that line, you’ll want to go to the little photocopy shop round the corner first. It’s down a little side street off Pan Rd, north of the embassy building. Basically follow the line from the embassy door (which is on Pan Rd) up the road, and turn right where you see all the people with visa applications coming out of the side street. Someone will be able to show you where – everyone goes there.
The reason everyone goes there is that for a run-of-the-mill general photocopy shop, they’re particularly specialised: they basically major in helping people get together whatever they need for the visa application. They can provide you with copies of the application forms for the visa even before you get to the embassy (in fact, well before the embassy even opens), so that you’re not hurriedly filling them out once you get to the front of the line. Plus they can print off your other supporting documentation for you (you’ll want a printed flight confirmation if you’re going for a same-day visa), photocopy your passport’s photo page (yes, you need to hand this copy in with your application, even though you’re also handing them your passport itself – presumably this is to save the embassy staff walking around the corner to the same shop to use their photocopier themselves, or something), take your passport photos (you need two, one glued on the form, one paper-clipped to it), and even look over your filled-out form to make sure you’ve got it all right before you even get in line. They’re exceptionally helpful, and they’re cheap.
Once you’ve done that and lined up, you’ll need to fork over some money to the government of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar itself: you can pay the minimum fee (800-ish baht, I think) and get the visa in three days (so apply Monday morning, get it Wednesday afternoon), or you can pay more and get it the next day, or even more (around 1100 baht, I think) and get it that same afternoon. (Although note that to apply for a same-day visa you’ll need some justification for why you need it the same day – such as a flight confirmation for tomorrow.)
And then you’re done, until whenever you paid for your visa to be ready – at which point you line up all over again and pick it up between 3.30pm and 4.30pm. It’s actually all particularly straightforward.
One final note: on the application form, they ask for a brief employment history. Apparently they have a history of refusing visas for people who’ve worked for NGOs or as journalists. Mightn’t hurt to leave that off if it applies to you, I suppose. They don’t ask for any proof of employment or anything, so you can put whatever you like, really. I always liked the sound of “professional traveller”, myself.