Senior marketing manager, Christiana Zhu shares about her surprisingly straightforward and delightful visa application process at the Myanmar Embassy in Beijing. There is nothing like a friendly visa officer to make you feel welcome and excited to visit a new country.
It was an unassuming Wednesday evening. I sat down to my less-than-exciting dinner and turned on Netflix to find something to brighten up my mid-week lull. Anthony Bourdain’s ‘Parts Unknown’ jumped out in my ‘recommended’ section and I decided to entertain it. After 42 minutes immersing in tantalizing scenes of delicious food, pure culture, and serene landscapes, I was sold. With the crowds of Golden Week (China’s second biggest public holiday) looming around the corner, I couldn’t think of a better place to escape to than Myanmar.
The next morning, I went to the Myanmar Embassy in Beijing to get my visa. Being a New Zealander, I’m not used to having to get a visa, and usually just grab my bags and go whenever I want to travel. Even the thought of having to fill in a form, wait in line, and appeal my decency to the scrutinizing eyes of a visa officer is already an ordeal for me. But what awaited me at the Myanmar Embassy was far outside of my expectations.
When I pulled up outside the embassy, bracing myself for a tedious morning, I was greeted by a smiling guard in uniform. He asked me what my business was. I said I was there to apply for a visa and showed him my passport. Ten seconds, and I was in. No lines, no pat-downs, no stress. I followed the clearly marked sign to the consular section. ‘Waiting room’ it said, but happily for me, there was no waiting to be done.
The ‘room’ was more of a veranda. Set next to their lush green lawn, the reception desk was a table placed neatly outside a door marked ‘Consular Section’. The place had a no-fuss yet welcoming feeling. Perhaps because the man behind the desk wore the sunniest smile I’ve ever seen on a visa officer. His name was Mr. Wu, and he has worked at the Myanmar Embassy for 16 years. He smiled over the shoulder of the applicant in line before me and nodded to signal that he would be with me shortly.
When I handed him my documents, he scanned through the details and patiently pointed out that I hadn’t filled in my phone number. He asked if it was my first time to Myanmar. I responded yes, and told him how excited I was for the adventure. A last once over, a couple of stamps, and all was processed. Mr. Wu informed me that the visa would be ready in four working days. I was out in less than ten minutes.
Four working days later I came to pick up my visa. At 4pm sharp, the guard opened the gates and five of us filed in. Mr. Wu greeted us with a pile of passports in his hands and started sorting through them. Friendly jokes and comments were exchanged between him and his old friends, the visa agents. After all the passports were handed out, mine did not emerge. Mr. Wu asked everyone to wait a moment while he retrieved the next batch.
As I waited, enjoying the garden view, I was suddenly overcome with itching on my bare legs. The bushes that were moist after the Autumn rain were also abuzz with mosquitoes. I stomped around, as discreetly as I could, in a strange dance to ward them off. The Embassy cat came to see what all the fuss was about.
Soon, Mr. Wu emerged with a new pile of passports. To my surprise, he also produced a bottle of mosquito ointment. “This is training for your South East Asian adventure,” he joked as we applied the cooling balm to our burning bites.
“New Zealand,” he said as I stepped up to the counter. He handed me my passport, opened to the page sporting my crisp new visa. As I turned to walk away, Mr. Wu called for me to “wait a moment”. He reached out and gave me a tourist map for Myanmar, and wished me a good journey. I remember Anthony Bourdain talking about the warm and hospitable culture of Myanmar, but did not expect to experience it before my trip even began. Judging by the visa experience, I’m sure an amazing journey in Myanmar awaits.
Myanmar visa information:
All foreigners wanting to visit Myanmar must obtain a visa, unless they hold a passport from Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Philippines, Thailand, or Vietnam. Tourist visas are valid for 28 days.
Getting a visa is easy. All you need is a passport that is valid for at least 6 months, and you can apply via the following ways:
Visa from local embassy
Find your local Myanmar Embassy and visit their official website to see specific requirements. People applying in China need to bring their passport, a passport photo, and 200RMB. A visitor visa takes 4 working days to process.
Visa on arrival
Myanmar Visa on arrival is available for those arriving in Myanmar by flight to Yangon, Mandalay and Nay Pyi Daw international airports. Visa on arrival allows you to apply online and you can expect the visa approval letter to arrive between 3 to 9 days. The cost is 40USD.
For more information, visit www.visasmyanmar.com
Discover Myanmar with us on your next holiday. View the Myanmar itinerary.