Three months ago, I had no idea that Mandalay was anything but a Bay in Las Vegas. Today, I am the proud holder of a Myanmar eVisa, permitting me to fly from Bangkok into the actual city of Mandalay, and then to spend thirty days exploring Myanmar (formerly known as Burma).
The eVisa process for Myanmar is relatively new, and the reports I read online made it seem like it was a bit of a crapshoot… Maybe I’d get the visa, maybe I’d waste fifty dollars only to get a big SERVER ERROR message. I was hoping it would go more smoothly than my Russian visa application last year.
The official Myanmar eVisa site is located at http://evisa.moip.gov.mm/. Here, you’ll find some slightly-broken English explanations of the process to obtain a business or tourism eVisa online. I had a question that wasn’t answered on the site, so I contacted the Myanmar Embassy in my home country and they responded to me within twenty-four hours (a month later and I’m still waiting to hear back from the Thai Embassy!). Their answer confirmed that the trip I wanted to do would be allowable with a regular tourist eVisa, so I began the application process.
The first step to obtaining a Myanmar eVisa is to disable your pop-up blockers. If you don’t, you will not be able to progress past the first page of the application process. Ultimately, I had to change browsers because it seemed like no matter how I adjusted the settings in my usual browser, it just wouldn’t allow the pop-ups to… pop up.
At the moment, eVisas are only offered to passengers arriving by air at the nation’s major airports: Yangon, Mandalay or Naypyidaw. If you’re going to arrive by land, you’ll need to apply for a regular visa through an embassy or consulate.
Next, you’ll get another pop-up blocker warning, followed the terms and conditions. In general, applying for a Myanmar eVisa is much friendlier than applying for a Russian visa. Note how they describe the rejection of your application as being “unfortunate”.
On the next screen you will be asked to enter your personal information and upload a passport style photo. I had an extra one kicking around from my Russian visa application last year, so I snapped a picture of it on my phone and then sent it over to my computer. I didn’t worry too much about the particular dimensions of the photograph (or how recent it was) as long as my face was clear and in proportion. I did have to play with the image a bit in Photoshop to keep it under the 2 MB limit. I also had to identify where I was staying, so I chose one of the hotels that I would likely stay at if my visa application were approved.
The next step was to process the $50 USD payment through a slightly retro-feeling payment processor, after which the infamous pop-up appeared and I received my receipt. I did this on a Sunday afternoon in North America, and I woke up on Monday morning to find a request from the ministry to send a scanned copy of my passport. Again, I already had one in my mailbox, so I quickly forwarded it back to them. As promised, on Wednesday I received an email telling me that my application was approved, and providing me with a link to the PDF copy of my eVisa.
To use your eVisa, you must have a printed copy (showing it on your phone or tablet is not sufficient). It is valid for ninety days from the date you receive it, and permits you to stay in Myanmar for up to thirty days. Once you arrive via air, you are also permitted to exit by land at certain approved border crossings.
Overall, I found the Myanmar eVisa process to be relatively painless and very efficient. While I would prefer to see more visa-free travel, if countries are going to require travelers to obtain visas, then this is a decent system for them to use.
Photo of Mandalay by Andres and used under a Creative Commons license.