How to apply for a Myanmar visa in Singapore

I just came back from a trip to Myanmar. I was on a tour group so I didn’t get to do a lot of things on my own. That’s why I’ll definitely go back. Before I drown you with posts about Myanmar, here’s a guide to applying for a Myanmar visa in Singapore.

When I was told that I could go to Myanmar, I only had less than 2 weeks before departure so I had to be quick about my visa application.

I was debating whether I should

In the end, my curiosity made me choose going to the embassy to apply for a visa. After my journey to the embassy, I’ve concluded that it’s really easier and cheaper to get a travel agency to do it for you.

The tourist visa fee is S$35 but there is a hidden administration fee of S$10 that they don’t tell you. Since the embassy is not in the most convenient location and the visa application hours are crazy, you should just save your taxi money and get the visa done at a travel agent.

Getting a Myanmar visa in Singapore personally

If you still want to DIY the visa application, here are the details. The Myanmar Embassy website is quite straight forward and will send you an e-mail telling you everything you need to do.

Step 1: Book an appointment online

Applying to a Myanmar visa online

The embassy now has an online appointment system where you need to book a date that you’re heading down to the embassy. I recommend giving yourself an extra day to fill up the form because there might be things that you need to prepare but do not have at hand.

Apart from having all the details about you, you’ll need a digital photo to upload to the system so please have that on your computer.

Applying to a Myanmar visa online

I chose to take a photo of the physical passport photo for the physical form and upload it to the system. I didn’t want to risk them rejecting my visa application because my hair was swept at a different direction.

Step 2: Receive forms to fill up

After your appointment, the embassy will send an e-mail with some documents that you need to print out. It’s best to print out all three of them.

Myanmar visa application

The form is pretty straight forward but there are parts that made me go, “Huh?” This part about my complexion made me pause a while.

What to write in Complexion entry for Myanmar visa

In the end, I wasn’t funny and wrote “Fair” for my complexion and “Dark brown” for my hair color even though my dye job looked more like, “Streaky.”

Step 3: Prepare everything you need to bring

This step takes a bit of time to get done because there’s a lot of things you need to bring.

Tourist visa application for Myanmar

Please bring an extra S$10 to the embassy on top of the S$35 visa fees because you’ll need to pay the admin fee.

Step 4: Arrive at the embassy early

Myanmar embassy in Singapore

There are two contradicting opening time in the documents that I’ve received. One told me to be at the embassy before 8am while the other said to reach before 9am.

Even though there is a queue number in your appointment letter, I don’t think there is an actual queue system.

I arrived at the embassy around 8:15am and queued at the “Foreigner” building–the yellow one. There were about eight people in front of me. Then around 8:30am, the counters started operating, even though the forms say the opening time is 9am. Well, anything quick suits me well.

The actual handing over of forms and other documents took about five minutes. I received a collection note. The man at the counter told me I could collect my visa in the evening. He also said that a representative can help with the pick up as long as they have the collection slip.

That was fast.

Visa collection slip for Myanmar Embassy

Step 5: Collect your visa

The visa should be available on the same day, unless your application looks suspicious.

My sister helped me collect my visa so I didn’t have to take time off work and take a cab to the embassy. Thanks sis!

Myanmar visa

After all the trouble, I recommend applying the visa using a travel agent. You won’t need to take time off work to apply and it might be just S$20 extra (which is less than most taxi money to and from the embassy twice).

Things to take note of when applying for a Myanmar visa

While my visa application and trip has been a success, I’ve heard stories about people not being able to get a visa to Myanmar. To summarize, here are the things to take note of:

  • Do not work for any newspaper
  • Do not say that you are a journalist or writer

Hope you have a smooth journey with your visa application.

Curious about Myanmar? Here are some posts about the country:

Where to buy discounted entrance tickets for S.E.A. Aquarium

south east asia aquarium cheap ticket

[Update Jul 2, 2015 Check out RWS’s promos for S.E.A. Aquarium.]

Even though I’ve stayed in Singapore for almost nine years, I didn’t know that it was possible to buy cheap tickets to various attractions. I always thought that I needed to pay full price, and thinking about it makes my miserly heart cold.

Luckily, my friend Lilian showed me where I could get discounted entrance tickets. Lilian who is now back in China (and whose wedding I attended) wanted to visit the South East Asia Aquarium (SEA Aquarium) before leaving.

Continue reading “Where to buy discounted entrance tickets for S.E.A. Aquarium”

How to pack for a weekend trip [Weekend Traveller series part 6]

pack for the weekend

Welcome back to the fortnightly Weekend Traveller series where I share tips and strategies for travelling during the weekend so you can travel more using less work leave. You can find all of the previous posts for weekend end travel here.

Today, we will be thinking up a packing list for a 2-day trip.

Now that it’s almost time to leave for your trip, we need to start packing!

Packing for a weekend trip is very easy since you won’t need that much clothes. In fact, for one of my trips, I bought just my pajamas and washed my day clothes and wore them the next say after washing and drying them for the night.

overpacking

(Photo credit: Flickr–AlphaTangoBravo / Adam Baker)

Since all my weekend trips were in Southeast Asia, I don’t need a lot of thick clothing, besides a light sweater for the inevitable cold airplane/train/bus.

Here are some of the things you will need in your backpack for the weekend (besides all the basic underwear):

For city trips:

  • Fancy clothes for the night (not that I go out much at night)

For countryside trips:

  • Mosquito repellant
  • Walking shoes

Funnily, my list of electronics is much longer than my clothing list. For a weekend trip, I would bring:

  • Phone
  • Phone charger
  • Camera battery charger
  • Laptop and charger
  • E-book reader

Check out what others have to say about packing for the weekend:

how not to pack for weekend trip

What would you pack for a weekend trip?

Missed the previous weekend travel posts?

Part 1: Pros & cons of weekend travel
Part 2: Where to go for Weekend Travel?
Part 3: Choosing transportation for weekend travel
Part 4: Travel planning for weekend trips
Part 5: Make your own travel guide for a weekend trip
Part 6: How to pack for a weekend trip
Part 7: How to use Foursquare to plan a day’s travel
Part 8: Why a weekend trip is the best time to start solo travelling
Part 9: I’m going to Melaka for a weekend trip

Should you fly from JB Senai Airport or Singapore Changi Airport?

Senai Airport

When I was in the first three years of university, I flew from Kota Kinabaluto Johor’s Senai Airport on AirAsia. From the airport, I usually take a private cab into Singapore for a princely sum.

Of course I had a choice of flying directly into Changi Airport but it was an expensive choice of SilkAir.

When AirAsia finally flew from KK to Singapore directly, I was ecstatic. I remember saying “goodbye” to Senai Airport, adding, “We’ll never see each other again.”

Unfortunately, I did see Senai again.

I took an AirAsia flight from JB back home to Sabah during the Christmas break. It was more than S$100 cheaper per trip compared with flying directly to or from Singapore. (RM284 [SG$115] vs ~S$250).

Compared to 4 years ago, AirAsia has made it convenient for passengers in Singapore to go to Senai. There’s a 2-hourly bus from JB’s CIQ to Senai. The bus journey is about 40 minutes and a pleasant ride.

AirAsia Sky Shuttle
AirAsia Sky Shuttle

When I was on the way to the airport, I asked the driver about the number of passengers who have taken the shuttle. He counted in his head and said, “13. And that’s a good number. It’s the weekend, you see.”

On the way to the airport, there were 3 passengers. On my way back to JB, there was only me. I have a feeling AirAsia might cancel the shuttle any time.

Since I had the chance to experience flying to Senai and to Changi, I will list down the pros and cons for you to decide.

Pros and cons of Senai and Changi

Senai Airport
Cruel fate

Senai Airport

Pros:

  • Tickets are cheaper than flying directly into Singapore
  • Marry Brown fast food at airport
  • Less crowded at airport
  • Free transport to Senai and CIQ

Cons:

  • Extra travelling time to JB or Singapore (depending on traffic)
  • Nothing much at airport
  • Free transport only available once every 2 hours
Changi Airport
Changi Airport

Changi Airport

Pros:

Cons:

  • Tickets are usually more expensive

If you are still undecided, here are some factors to take into consideration when buying your JB/Singapore ticket:

  • Total price difference (Remember to count in transport fees from Senai into Singapore. It doesn’t make sense if your transport fees are similar to airtickets savings.)
  • Time to travel to airport (You will probably be travelling for an extra 2+ hours depending on your SIngapore location.)
  • Wait for SkyShuttle bus (Buses come 2-hourly)
  • Getting to location in Singapore (Do you have too much luggage? Do you really want to drag them from Malaysia to Singapore?)

Have you flown from JB airport instead of Singapore? How was your experience?

5 ways to take a selfie when travelling solo

For those who are not well versed in internet speak, here is a definition of “selfie” from urbandictionary.com:

A picture taken of yourself that is planned to be uploaded to Facebook, Myspace or any other sort of social networking website.
You can usually see the person’s arm holding out the camera in which case you can clearly tell that this person does not have any friends to take pictures of them…

I like taking photos when travelling but I do not have a lot of photos of myself.

In fact, I checked my Hoi An albums and found that out of the 440 photos I took, I was in 5 of them.

The reason I do not have as much photos of myself when travelling solo is that I am easily embarrassed and I do not ask strangers to take photos of me.

While I’ve not taken many photos of myself, I’ve devised a few ways to take a selfie when travelling:

1. Arm stretching

How to take a selfie

Basic level of taking a selfie is holding your camera at arm’s length. Make sure that not too much double chin appears.

2. Mirror mirror

How to take a selfie
Another basic level of taking a selfie is taking a photo of your reflection. This works best in museums with reflective surfaces or glass doors.

It’s best to crop the photo before you share it on the Internet or print it out:
How to take a selfie
The key to a good reflection selfie is to look at the camera lens or you will look distracted.

Take care to take photos of a smooth reflective surface, or you will end up looking like something else.
How to take a selfie

3. Balance it on things

How to take a selfie
An intermediate level way of taking a selfie is settling your camera on a surface and pose from a distance. This way, there is less chance of your double chin being exposed as it does in Tip 1.

Taking a photo this way requires an empty area, with no one to gawk at the poor tourist smiling at a camera on a timer or to steal your camera.

First set your camera’s timer (10 seconds is more than enough). Find a flat area to balance your camera. Look into the view finder/screen to guess where you should stand. Press the button to get the timer running. Run to the place to take a photo.

4. Hang it on things

How to take a selfie
Another intermediate level selfie. While I do not recommend hanging a DSLR from a skinny twig, it is possible to hang light snap and shoot on its strap and set the timer.

While waiting for the shot to take, pray hard that the camera doesn’t turn to the other direction or it will take a photo of the opposite direction.

5. Take photo of shadow

How to take a selfie
This is the most boring of selfies. A photo of your shadow isn’t the most exciting but at least there is a part of you in the picture.

It works best if you have a unique headshape or weird shaped clothes.

Do you have any selfie-taking tips for solo travellers?

A guide to walking from Malaysia to Thailand

To Padang Besar & Hatyai
To Padang Besar & Hatyai

When I was planning my trip to Padang Besar, Perlis, I wanted to walk from Malaysia to Thailand so I could tell people, “Yup, I’ve walked to Thailand from Malaysia before.”

So I flipped through the traveller’s bible, aka Lonely Planet, and was shocked.

In the tiny two-inch column for Padang Besar, the guidebook said: “Very few people, if any, walk the more than 2km of no-man’s land between the Thai and Malaysian sides of the border.”

NO INSTRUCTION, IT’S THE DAY OF DESTRUCTION.

After freaking out, I decided to become one of the “very few people” to walk to Thailand and back. And write a post about it. (Although another reason I’m walking is that I am too stingy to pay for the RM40 cab fare.)

A guide to walking from Malaysia to Thailand

Step 1 Get to Padang Besar’s immigration checkpoint

Malaysian side of immigration checkpoint border
Malaysian side of immigration checkpoint border

The entrance of immigration checkpoint is right in front of the big roundabout. Walk up to the toll booth-like area, keeping to your left since cars and motorbikes are on the right.

Step 2 Get your documents verified (and stamped)
Pass through the immigration checkpoint using the electronic gates if you have a Malaysian passport.

If you have a foreign passport, you’ll need to get it stamped at one of the officer’s booth.

Step 3 Walk a lot
It’s quite a long walk to the end of the border from the document checking area. Even though you will see a path (which is persumably for pedestrians) near the walls, do not take that route as it brings you to a dead end.

Weird murals
Weird murals

Admire the murals while you walk. I am not sure who the murals were put up for, perhaps it is for drivers who are stuck in a traffic jam.

Wave as drivers drive pass and motorcyclists give you a second look. Sticking out a thumb to hitchhike here does not work. I tried.

You will eventually reach the end of Malaysia’s border where a few officials hang around.

Step 4 Explain why you are walking to anyone who asks
The immigration officers will be curious why you are walking when there are motorcycle shuttles. The excuse “Because we want to” does not seem to satisfy their curiosity.

The officer practically interrogated us after looking at our passports. When we said we just wanted to walk to Thailand, he told that there were motorcycles shuttling people across. I asked where the motorbikes are, he pointed to the other end. I told him that I will not walk all the way back just for a motorcycle.

After being released, we walked to the Thai part of the border.

Step 5 Reach Thai border
There are no lines on the road to tell where passengers can walk, so be careful of traffic.

Follow the cars and where a bunch of people are filling up forms. Fill up the form and pay RM1 to the immigration officer.

Step 6 Enter Thailand
With the new stamp in your passport, head out of the immigration checkpoint. Do not be alarmed that it looks exactly like Malaysia but with Thai signs.

A guide to walking back to Malaysia from Thailand

Step 1 Get to Padang Beser checkpoint
The line back to Malaysia is not the same as the one you came in from. It’s at the other gate.

Step 2 Get passport stamped
Get your Checking Out stamp and hand over another RM1 to the person behind the booth.

Step 3 Walk back to Malaysia
The Malaysian folks will be less curious about you by now. Walk on. Same as usual, walk on the left side of the road to avoid traffic.

There is a sad duty free store along the no-man’s land.

The Zone duty free shopping
The Zone duty free shopping

Step 4 Get your documents verified to enter Malaysia

For pedestrian
For pedestrian

Show off your passport to the official at the toll booth. You must get an entry stamp or face being stripped naked during interrogation when you want to leave Malaysia. This is serious business.

Step 5 Get your luggage scanned
There’s probably no one in luggage check so just ignore this step.

Step 6 Back in Malaysia
At the end of the Malaysian customs, another officer will be interested in why you are walking. Answer his questions even though you know all the answers are in the passport which he is holding. Smile pleasantly.

Have you walked through the Malaysian-Thai border before?

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Why visitors should get the Singapore Tourist Pass

EZ-Link Card

Day passes can save money. I’ve saved plenty in San Francisco.

For transportation, travellers to Singapore can choose between a day pass, the EZ-Link (stored value card used by locals for transport and other small payments) or paying by cash.

Singapore’s day pass is called the Singapore Tourist Pass (which I will shorten to STPass).

Singapore Tourist Pass
Singapore Tourist Pass

When I first read about STPass, my gut feel told me the pass is not worth the money and that a regular EZLink is an even better value for a traveler.

Here is the cost of the pass:
1 Day Pass S$10
2 Day Pass S$16
3 Day Pass S$20

The official site also lists a comparison between the STPass and EZ-Link.

However, I’m not quite sure what this line means: “Hence passes issued in Singapore come with a rental deposit of S$10 which is fully refundable if the card is returned within 5 days from the date of issuance.”

Update: You’ll need to give an extra S$10 when you buy the card. You’ll forfeit the money if you decide to keep the card. (Too expensive!)

The math

To see if my gut feel is right, I’ll do the math of travelling on an EZ-Link card for 3 days.

EZ-Link Card
EZ-Link Card

I’m using Wikipedia’s 3 Days in Singapore as an itinerary and use gothere.sg as my guide for transport cost.

For accomodation, let’s pretend that we’re staying at Raffles Hotel which I cannot afford (but bear with me).

Day 1:
Raffles Hotel to Singapore Zoo $1.89
Singapore Zoo to Orchard MRT station $1.72
Orchard Road to Clarke Quay MRT $0.83
Clarke Quay back to Raffles Hotel $0.88
Total spent: $5.32 + (non-refundable $5)=$10.32

Day 2:
Raffles Hotel to Chinatown $0.88
Chinatown to Little India $0.88
Farrer Park to Raffles Hotel $0.83
Total spent: $2.59
Day 1 + Day 2 expenses= $7.91
+ (non-refundable $5) =$12.91

Day 3
Raffles Hotel to HarbourFront $1.26
Monorail from HarbourFront into Sentosa $3.00 [Micheal said the pass does not cover this charge.]
Sentosa back to HarbourFront (Free)
HarbourFront to Raffles Hotel $0.83
Total spent: $5.09 + $3 Monorail
Day 1 + Day 2 + Day 3 expenses= $16
+ (non-refundable $5) =$21

There’s a small flaw with my calculations though: Most of my transport cost involves taking the bus. I like taking buses but some travelers might shun buses because there are too many routes.

Verdict

[Update (12/6/2012):] If we add the $3 for Sentosa Monorail, it gets a little more expensive.
Turns out, the STPass is quite a good value for travellers. This is due to the unrefundable $5 in the EZ-Link card. But you have to make sure that you will take enough public transport to cover your STPass.

I have to admit that the STPass does look a lot prettier than a regular EZ-Link. So if you are travelling to Singapore, maybe you can give it a try.

UPDATE: As Gurpal mentioned below, the card is only available at selected MRTs and at specific timings. Boo.

Have you bought the Singapore Tourist Pass before? How was your experience?

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