These constant musings from Malacañang about the implementation of draconian visa requirements on Americans would almost be funny, if it wasn’t for the fact that they’re not funny, not funny in the slightest.
I get it that our great and fearless leader is a little upset that he was not permitted to visit the United States in his college years to get his end away but turning away the thick end of three quarters of a million tourists a year is just bad economics. To put that in perspective: The republic sees around four million visitors annually, 750,000 (give or take) of which are American.
The other thing you need to remember about these figures is that a lot of these tourists are long term tourists. People who are not counted as resident because they are on the never ending BOI treadmill of visa renewals. The fact is that all foreigners who wish to stay in the Philippines for longer than 30 days DO require visas, and these visas are relatively expensive compared to the alternatives in the region.
When I raised this recently in one of those endless online debates for which the citizens of this particular country are famous, I was met with a range of responses. Everything from “it’s only fair, they do it to us,” to “the Philippines has so much more to offer so it’s worth the trouble!”
This led me to think that it might be a nice idea to put together a bit of a regional comparison, it may even be of use to soon-to-be erstwhile American expatriates who are sick and tired of being beaten up by the local administration. So, let’s take a look at other warm, friendly and humid locations in South East Asia that will be happy to have anyone who comes from a country that once denied our president his stateside conjugals:
Like much of South East Asia, one thing about Cambodia is that the food is far better than the Philippines. Aside from the obvious culinary benefits you’ll feel pretty much right at home. Complete with being surrounded by abject poverty, paying a buck or less for a cold beer and having plenty of nighttime entertainment options.
Another thing that Cambodia has going for it is that it is EXTREMELY foreigner friendly. Where one year of tourist visa renewals in the Philippines could cost you over $1000 (and go to waste if you leave the country) you can get a one year multi entry visa from any travel agent in Cambodia for about $240 at the time of writing. That visa also enables you to conduct business.
For those of us who have the means, the Malaysia My Second Home program is a great option. While the upfront investment is a little on the high side the benefits are huge. This works a little bit like the SRRV in the Philippines.
You need to demonstrate liquid assets of around $120,000 USD (75 of which you will need to put into a fixed deposit with an approved bank in Malaysia, although you can draw on this for certain things). Aside from that you’ll need to be able to show an income of $2300 a month (your pension and investments count toward this).
Why is Malaysia worth it? It’s far more developed, it’s arguably a lot friendlier and the leaders of the administration don’t actively attack people who choose to come and live, invest in and enjoy their country. The downside? The Muslim thing – but if you head for one of the Chinese towns like Ipoh or Penang you’ll never notice.
Ahh Siam, although you might not want to leap right on this one until the mandatory mourning period is over. Thailand has a huge amount to offer to anyone and the visas are relatively straightforward although they do come with a small fish hook. For 2000 baht (about 60 bucks) you can get a 90 day single entry.
For 5000 baht (say 150 bucks) you can get a 1 year multi but it comes with the condition that you have to exit and re-enter the kingdom once every 90 days.
The nice thing about Thailand? Plenty of land and sea borders to cross so it’s not like you have to be up for flights. At the time of writing the Thai administration is also considering the possibility of a 5 year multi entry visa being made available, no details available as yet.
Laos is also a seriously foreigner friendly destination with 30 day visa on arrivals which can be easily extended in Vientiane for $2 per day of extension (at $60 a month it’s getting a little pricey but at least you’re not likely to end up with some slaughtered teenager with a cardboard sign next to him on your doorstep).
The cool thing about all the countries in Indochina is their accessibility. If you’re living in Laos it’s easy to head to Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar and various other places in the region. In many cases you can even just drive your own car.
Americans of a certain era will know the largest city in Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City, by a different name: Saigon. Its fall to the North Vietnamese Army in April 1975 would mark the end of the Vietnam War. A year later, North and South Vietnam were reunified and Saigon merged with the surrounding Gia Định Province to become the Ho Chi Minh City we know today.
Despite being historically associated with war, Vietnam today offers a true taste of life in the East and is an increasingly popular tourist destination and expat retreat. Its beautiful countryside and beaches are what it’s becoming renowned for, not its tragic past.
Furthermore, Vietnam is considered a safe place for foreigners to live and work. Couple this with the low cost of living, great weather, lively culture and steadily-improving infrastructure, and you can see why many expats are choosing to make Vietnam their home.
However, American citizens should be aware that visa requirements have changed very recently and as of September 1, 2016, the only visa US citizens can be issued is a 1-year multiple entry visa. This visa entitles travelers to enter and exit Vietnam multiple times in a year, but no one stay can exceed 3 months.
There are plenty of online vendors that will facilitate the processing of said 1-year entry visa, but it’s entirely up to you which one you choose to partner with. Our tip is that you can’t go far wrong following the instructions on the Vietnamese Embassy in the United States Of America’s website.
Expect to pay around $40 for the processing of the 1-year multiple entry visa and a stamping fee of $135 upon arrival at an airport in Vietnam.
Considering that Mr Duterte has not only offended the United States but much of ASEAN with his pivot to China I’m sure any of these countries will be more than happy to have you.