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Important passport information for Southeast Asia travel

A couple of essential points to check before embarking on a Southeast Asia tour

In the light of a few recent incidents we’ve encountered, we’d like to reiterate some essential passport requirements to check prior to any travel in Southeast Asia. They may seem minor and are easily overlooked but aren’t necessarily so in the eyes of immigration officials or airline staff. We do already mention such requirements on our site but it is obviously easy to lose information when scrolling through the small print. (Fortunately said incidents didn’t occur during one of our tours but were nonetheless extremely inconvenient for those concerned.)

A well-used passport so make sure 2 blank pages remain
A well-used passport so make sure 2 blank pages remain

Firstly, your passport needs to have at least 6 months of validity remaining before the date of expiry. We reckon this requirement is effective for pretty much travel anywhere these days and not just Southeast Asia, but again it is one that people seem to easily overlook.

Secondly – and not so well known – you should have at least 2 blank pages remaining in your passport when turning up at immigration for an entry stamp.

If we understand correctly neither of these requirements conform to any set international regulations as such and therefore – particularly in the case of the latter – vary from country to country. We’ve heard of some countries insisting on 4 pages and others only 1 while certain require such pages to be consecutive in your passport. If you are running out of space and have any doubts then please check. Furthermore, bear in mind any accumulated stamps for travel to multiple destinations.

The latter is increasingly complicated to work out in advance now that many countries offer a range of visa options; tourist visa in advance, visa on arrival or e-visa. (We will attempt to itemise these in a follow-up post.)

Standard sized passport stamps but they're not all like that
Standard sized passport stamps but they’re not all like that

Now before you start to point out travel experiences to the contrary bear in mind that a harrassed immigration office faced with a long queue isn’t always going to either check expiry date or flick through to count pages so we’ve seen numerous cases of travellers getting away without either requirement but conversely, at the end of the day, if the official concerned says no there’s not a lot you can do about. (Also, before you ask, the days of slipping a $20 bill under the counter are long gone at most border crossings!)

You can land but will you get an entry stamp?
You can land but will you get an entry stamp?

Such details are also generally verified by airline staff on checking in anyway and they won’t issue a boarding pass if they can foresee any problems involved with obtaining an entry stamp at the other end. Indeed they’re often stricter than respective immigrations and we’ve been asked several times to show a Cambodian visa when boarding in Thailand even though they are easily obtained upon arrival and we’ve been refused boarding to Burma due to not having a return flight booking even though these days Yangon or Mandalay airport police won’t bother. As with immigration police, they have their rules to follow.

Yes then, you may get away with it but please check your passport expiry date and number of blank pages before any travel to or within Southeast Asia.