Mexico

  • Agua Azul
  • Museo de Antropología
  • San Juan Chamula

Mexico

The United Mexican States or Mexico ( Spanish : Estados Unidos Mexicanos or México; regarding the use of the variant spelling Méjico , see section The name below) is a country located in North America , bordered by the United States to the north, and Belize and Guatemala to the southeast. It is the northernmost and westernmost country in Latin America , and also the most populous Spanish-speaking country in the world. The country is often referred to by Mexicans as the Mexican Republic (Spanish: Republica Mexicana ) although this is not the officially recognised title. The term State of Mexico (Spanish: Estado de Mexico ) does not refer to the country, but only to one state within Mexico, located near the centre of the country adjacent to the Federal District.

Flag_of_Mexico.svg

With an estimated 2013 population of about 118.3 million , Mexico is the most populous Spanish -speaking country in the world.

Map-Mexico

How to go

By plane

From the United States

There are hundreds of daily flights linking Mexico to cities large and small throughout the United States.

As with the United States, you will have to clear both immigration and customs at your first point of entry in Mexico, even though that airport may not be your final destination. (For example, many trips on Aeromexico will involve connecting through its Mexico City hub.) You will then have to re-check your bags and possibly go through security again to proceed to your next flight segment.

From Australia or New Zealand

Fly from either Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne or Auckland(NZ) direct to Los Angeles. Delta, Qantas, United, and V Australia offer non-stop air service from Australia to Los Angeles. Air New Zealand offers one-stop air service from Australia and non-stop air service from Auckland to Los Angeles. Hawaiian Airlines and Air Tahiti Nui offer one- or two-stop air service to Los Angeles from Australia and New Zealand.

Many airlines fly from Los Angeles to Mexico including AeroMexico, Alaska, Volaris, Horizon, Aerolitoral, and United. More options are available if connecting through another U.S. city. Also, make sure to have a good look at visas beforehand. Even just for transit, you will need an ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) or transit visa for for the USA, and if you get a visa waiver, they treat Mexico as part of the USA, meaning if you stay longer than 90 days in Mexico, you will need to travel further south before returning to the USA.

From Europe

Many commercial airlines link Mexico directly to Europe. It is always worthwhile to compare flight offers from air carriers who can bring you to Mexico City or Cancun via many European hubs, like Frankfurt, Paris, Amsterdam, Madrid; the flight duration from those cities is always approximately 11 hours (plus your connecting flight from home if you are not originating at one of those hubs.)

By train

There is at least one place where Mexico is accessible via rail and a short walk – south of San Diego. The San Diego Trolley can be taken from downtown San Diego (which Amtrak serves) to the California-Baja California border. (note: El Paso/Juarez is also well served by Amtrak, the station is within a stones throw of the Rio Grande)

Like almost all countries in the Americas, Mexico phased out intercity passenger rail in the mid-20th century and has not brought it back since. Thus, unlike the US-Canada border where you can ride a train from Seattle to Vancouver or New York to Montreal, there are no options for taking an Amtrak train across the border into any Mexican cities.

By car

American automobile insurance is not accepted in Mexico; however it is easy to obtain short-term or long-term tourist policies that include the mandatory liability coverage, together with theft and accident cover for your vehicle and, often, legal assistance cover. Should you decide to drive to Mexico, the Transport and Communications Secretariat website has free downloadable road maps.

Foreign-plated vehicles must obtain the necessary permits before being allowed into the interior of Mexico. This can be done at the border checkpoints by showing your vehicle title or registration, as well as immigration documents and a valid credit card. It is now possible to apply for your vehicle import permit on-line. Vehicle permits will only be issued to the registered owner of the vehicle, so the papers will have to be in the name of the applicant. The Baja California peninsular and the northern part of the State of Sonora do not require a permit.

Due to the incredibly high volume of drugs and illegal immigration (into the US) and drug money and weapons (into Mexico) crossing the US-Mexico border, expect long delays and thorough searches of vehicles when crossing the border. At some of the busiest crossings, expect a delay of one to four hours.

By bus

The Mexican intercity bus system is reportedly the most efficient in the world. There are many different independent companies but all use a central computerized ticketing system. Rates per mile are generally comparable to those of Greyhound in the US, but there are more departures and the system serves much smaller villages than its American counterpart. There are many bus companies based in Mexico with branch offices in major US cities and/or provide cross border transport with a few such examples noted below:

Greyhound offers tickets from the US to major Mexican cities, including Monterrey, Queretaro, Durango, Mazatlan, Torreon, Mexico City with onwards travel with Grupo Estrella Blanca south of the border and vice verse from Mexico north. It is best (and cheapest) to buy a round-trip Greyhound ticket since it may be more difficult and expensive to buy a ticket from Mexico to a US destination which is not a major city. When departing from Mexico, the local bus line (usually Futura) will change the Greyhound-issued ticket into its own, free of charge.

There are other bus companies offering transborder service from Guatemala to Tapachula or Comitan in Chiapas state and from Belize to Chetumal

  • ADO/OCC operates once daily buses from Merida and Cancun, via Chetumal to Belize City. Nearest to the U.S. border is in Matamoros where passenger transfer to Greyhound Lines for the onward trip north.
  • Linea Dorada goes across from Guatemala City to the Guatemala side of La Mesilla/Ciudad Cuauhtemoc in La Mesilla and once daily to/from Tapachula. From the Mexican side there are taxis or combis (shared ride vans) down to the Mexican immigration station in Ciudad Cuauhtemoc.
  • Tica Bus runs the length of the Central American isthmus from Panama City to Tapachula stopping at every Central American capital city and select towns or cities along the way except Belize.
  • Trans Galgos Inter goes from Guatemala City to Tapchula via Rethaluleau and El Carmen/Talisman crossing.

By boat

  • Border crossing from Guatemala.
  • Cruise ships from United States.

Visa and other entrance requirements

According to the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Secretaria de Relaciones Exteriores), certain foreign nationals who intend to stay in Mexico fewer than 180 days for the purpose of tourism or 30 days for business can fill out a tourist card at the border or upon landing at an airport after presenting a valid passport, for USD 22. If arriving via air, it is included in the price of the fare. This service is available to citizens of Andorra, Argentina, Aruba, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Belgium, Belize, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Ireland, Iceland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, Trinidad and Tobago, United Kingdom, United States of America, Uruguay and Venezuela (see official list).

Visitors to Mexico are processed at all land and air entry points by officials of the Instituto Nacional de Migración (National Institute of Migration), a unit of the Secretaría de Gobernación (Secretariat of the Interior). These are the names you will see prominently displayed at those entry points.

The current Mexican tourist card is formally known as a Forma Migratoria Múltiple (Multiple Immigration Form), or FMM. The current FMM design as of 2014 is a tall rectangular card. If you are flying into the country, the FMM fee is normally included as part of the ticket price and the FMM forms will be distributed while in-flight. The FMM form has a perforation that divides the card into two parts; the lower part asks for some of the same information requested on the top part. At entry, after reviewing your passport and filled-out FMM, the INM officer will run the machine-readable part of your passport’s information page followed by the bar code on the FMM form through a scanner on his computer, stamp your passport and the FMM, separate the FMM along the perforation and give the bottom portion of the FMM back to you with your passport.
Keep the FMM together with your passport at all times. Under Mexican law, it is your responsibility to ensure the bottom portion of the FMM is returned to the Mexican government at time of departure so that the bar code can be scanned, thus showing that you left the country on time.

Hostels all over Mexico

Acapulco    Akumal    Bacalar    Cabo Pulmo    Cabo San Lucas    Caleta de Campos    Campeche    Cancun    Chetumal    Chichen Itza    Colima    Contepec    Cordoba    Cozumel    Creel    Cuernavaca    Cuetzalan    Durango    Ensenada    Guadalajara    Guanajuato    Hermosillo    Holbox    Island    Huatulco    Isla Mujeres    Ixtapa    Jose Maria Morelos    La Paz    Leon    Loreto    Los Mochis    Mahahual    Mazatlan    Mazunte    Merida    Mexico City    Monterrey    Morelia    Mulege    Oaxaca    Palenque    Papantla    Patzcuaro    Playa del Carmen    Puebla    Puerto Angel    Puerto Escondido    Puerto Morelos    Puerto Vallarta   Queretaro    Rincon de Guayabitos    Rosarito    San Andres Cholula    San Carlos Nuevo Guaymas    San Cristobal de las Casas    San Jeronimo de Juarez    San Jose del Cabo San Juan    Teotihuacan    San Luis Potosi    San Miguel de Allende    San Pancho    San Pedro Cholula    Sayulita    Taxco    Teacapan    Tepotzotlan    Tepoztlan    Tequisquiapan    Tlaxcala    Toluca    Troncones    Tulum    Tuxtla Gutierrez    Tzucacab    Uxmal    Valladolid    Valle de Bravo    Veracruz    Villa de Santiago    Xalapa    Xico    Zacatecas      Zihuatanejo

 

Except where otherwise noted, content of this article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License    Text is available under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 

Vietnam

  • Ha Lonbay
  • Sapa-Red Dzao
  • Tai Chi - Hanoi

Vietnam

Vietnam (Việt Nam), officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (Cộng hòa xã hội chủ nghĩa Việt Nam) is a long, thin country in Southeast Asia. Its neighbouring countries are China to the north, Laos and Cambodia to the west.

Vietnam_Expand1

Climate

Vietnam is large enough to have several distinct climate zones.

The North has four distinct seasons, with a comparatively chilly winter (temperatures can dip below 15°C/59°F in Hanoi), a hot and wet summer and pleasant spring (March-April) and autumn (October-December) seasons. However, in the Highlands both extremes are amplified, with occasional snow in the winter and temperatures hitting 40°C (104°F) in the summer.

In the Central regions the Hai Van pass separates two different weather patterns of the North starting in Langco (which is hotter in summer and cooler in winter) from the milder conditions South starting in Danang. North East Monsoon conditions September – February with often strong winds, large sea swells and rain make this a miserable and difficult time to travel through Central Vietnam. Normally summers are hot and dry.

The South has three somewhat distinct seasons: hot and dry from March to May/June; rainy from June/July to November; and cool and dry from December to February. April is the hottest month, with mid-day temperatures of 33°C (91°F) or more most days. During the rainy season, downpours can happen every afternoon, and occasional street flooding occurs. Temperatures range from stifling hot before a rainstorm to pleasantly cool afterwards. Mosquitoes are most numerous in the rainy season. December to February is the most pleasant time to visit, with cool evenings down to around 20° (68°F).

108px-Flag_of_Vietnam.svg

Visas

Visitors with passports from these countries do not require a visa for stays up to the days specified:

14 days – Brunei
15 days – Denmark, Finland, Japan, Norway, South Korea, Sweden, Russia
21 days – Philippines
30 days – Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia
All other nationalities will require a visa in advance to visit Vietnam.

Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has agreed to grant visa exemption to the people of five European countries, in an attempt to lure more tourists to the country.

The countries whose residents will not require a visa to travel to Viet Nam are the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy and Spain.

The PM’s decision will come into effect on July 1 this year.(2015)

Embassies are recalcitrant in publishing a schedule of fees, as the relatively high visa cost is a source of embarrassment, revenue, and a tourism deterrent (EU and US). A slowdown in tourist number arrivals has been disguised by the removal of visa fees for certain nationalities (but not former Vietnamese) resulting in neighbouring countries numbers filling the vacuum. Visa free travel for neighbouring countries is part of Vietnam’s commitment to visa free travel for fellow citizens of ASEAN (The Association of South East Asian Nations)
Foreign citizens of Vietnamese origin can apply for visa exemption that allows multiple entry for 3 months at a time which is valid for the duration of the passport.

Visa on arrival

This method is available only for Air travel.
The term visa on arrival is a bit of a misnomer in the case of Vietnam as a letter of approval has to be obtained before arrival. This is handled by a growing number of on-line agencies for a charge of USD10-21 (Aug 2014). Most agencies accept payment by credit card, some accept payment by Western Union or Paypal. You also have to pay stamp fee at the airport when arrival. You need 1 photo.

The visa on arrival fees 2014:

One month – single entry USD45
One month – multiple entry USD65
Three months – single entry costs the same with one month single entry
Three months – multiple entry USD95
Six months – multiple entry USD135

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office of Her Majesty’s Government in London states “We are aware that there are nearly 1000 travel companies that are able to arrange legitimate visas-on-arrival but this must be done prior to arrival in Vietnam. There have also been reports of bogus companies that claim to be able to arrange for a visa on arrival. As the British Embassy and Consulate cannot confirm whether a company has a legitimate arrangement in place, the safest way to obtain a visa is via the nearest Vietnamese Embassy. Vietnamese visas are usually valid for only one entry. If you plan to leave Vietnam and re-enter from another country make sure you obtain a visa allowing multiple entries.”
The situation is complicated by the fact that the Internet high level domain “gov.vn” does not necessarily denote a government agency!

Visa extensions

Prior to 2015 it was relatively simple (and inexpensive) to obtain a one-time, 30 day extension to your standard single-entry tourist visa. This is no longer the case! As of May 2015, obtaining a 30 day extension took 10 days and cost US$185 – although the stamp still states “10 (mười) USD”. Similarly, overstaying your visa has become considerably more expensive (on the order of USD 50/day).

How to go

By plane

Vietnam has international airports at Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and Da Nang. Non-stop flights are available from Australia, Cambodia, China, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Poland, Russia, Singapore, Brunei, Thailand, Taiwan, Indonesia, Macau, Qatar, Turkey, Dubai and the U.S. However, most direct flights are served by flag carrier Vietnam Airlines while plenty of other long-haul flights are available with transits via Bangkok, Doha, Dubai, Hong Kong, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Taipei.

By train

There are direct international train services from Nanning and Beijing in China to Hanoi. Most require a change of trains at the border at Pingxiang/Dong Dang, but the Chinese-operated daily Nanning express (T8701/MR2) runs through, although it still spends about four hours at the border for immigration.
The daily train from Nanning starts around 18:00 and arrives around 05:00 to Hanoi. Hard Sleeper c. CNY180 and soft sleeper c. CNY295. (You can consider taking the bus from Nanning instead which is a cheaper and pretty convenient day journey.
The Kunming-Hanoi line was shut down by landslides in 2002 and, as of 2011, remains closed. There are no train links to Laos or Cambodia.

By road

Cambodia

The main crossing is the Moc Bai/Bavet crossing on the Ho Chi Minh City – Phnom Penh road. Buses between the two cities cost USD-12 and take around 6 hr. Passengers vacate the vehicle at both countries’ checkpoints. Only one passport photo is required for a Cambodian visa on arrival. Tours of the Mekong Delta (USD25-35, 2-3 days) can provide a more insightful journey between the two cities.
Through tickets to Siem Reap are also available (US$18), though it is cheaper to buy a ticket to Phnom Penh and then arrange onward transport on one of the many connecting buses.
Close to the coast is the Xa Xia/Prek Chak border. Cambodian visas are available on arrival. Buses run between Ha Tien in Vietnam to Sihanoukville and Phnom Penh in Cambodia. The Vietnamese consulate in Sihanoukville issues 30-day tourist visas on a same-day basis.
Coastal areas are also served by the Tinh Bien/Phnom Den border near Chau Doc in Vietnam
The Xa Mat/Trapeang Phlong crossing on the Ho Chi Minh City – Kampong Cham road is not well served by public transport but may be useful for accessing Kampong Cham and Eastern Cambodia.
Banlung in North Eastern Cambodia is connect to Pleiku in Vietnam by a crossing at Le Tanh/O Yadaw. Visas are avaiable on arrival, one photo required. Change buses at Le Tanh.

China

There are three border crossings between China and Vietnam that can be used by foreigners:
Dongxing – Mong Cai (by road; onward travel Mong Cai to Ha Long by sea or by road)
Hekou – Lao Cai (by road and/or rail, but no international passenger train services)
Youyi Guan – Huu Nghi Quan (Friendship Pass – by road and/or rail)
There are several Day buses from Nanning running every day, at least at 10:00 and 13:50 and costs about CNY160 (Nov 2014), reaching Hanoi at evening (around 22:00 although in China they may tell you the arrival is before 22:00), with a break for less than an hour to cross the border and transfer buses – all arranged in the ticket and no further hassle or arrangements by yourself. This may be more convenient than the night train from Nanning to Hanoi at 18:00 reaching Hanoi around 05:00, which is also more expensive. The ride itself is picturesque, and you receive a water bottle and some snacks at the bus. At the border crossing there are money changing ladies trying to get your dollars or renminbi for a deal.

Laos

There are at least six border crossings between Laos and Vietnam that can be used by foreigners.
Be wary of catching local buses from Laos to Vietnam. Not only are they often crammed with cargo (coal and live chickens, often underfoot) but many buses run in the middle of the night, stopping for several hours in order to wait for the border to open at 07:00. Whilst waiting, you will be herded off the bus (for several hours) where you will be approached by pushy locals offering assistance in getting a Laos exit stamp in exchange for money (usually USD5+). If you bargain hard (tiring, at 04:00) you can get the figure down to about USD2. The men will take your passports, which can be incredibly disconcerting, but will actually provide the service they promise. It is better to get the Laos exit stamp yourself for free at the border station. The sleeping bus from Vientaine to Hanoi is fairly nice as all cargo is stored in the cargo hold and you are allowed to sleep in the bus at the border crossing until it opens at 7AM. There is also a VIP bus from Savannakhet.

These include:

Donsavanh – Lao Bao
Kaew Neua – Cau Treo (Keo Nua Pass)
Nam Can ( Vietnam ) to Xieng Khuang ( Laos )
Tay Trang ( Vietnam ) to Phong Sa Ly ( Laos )

By boat

Boats can be taken from Phnom Penh to the Vietnamese border town of Chau Doc. Such a journey takes roughly 5 hours and includes brief stops both to exit Cambodia and enter Vietnam. Make sure you carry a few US dollars to tip the boat porters with, so as to avoid losing your luggage in the Mekong when alighting or changing boats.
Longer tours lasting multiple days may also be available from Phnom Penh. Check with your accommodation provider or along Sisowath Quay.

Sleep

Lodging is not an issue in Vietnam, even if you’re travelling on a pretty tight budget. Accommodation in Vietnam ranges from scruffy US$6-a-night dorm accommodation in backpacking hostels to world-class resorts, both in large cities and in popular coastal and rural destinations.
Even backpacking hostels and budget hotels are often far cleaner and nicer than in neighboring countries (Cambodia, Thailand, Laos), and cheap hotels that charge US$8-10 for a double room are often very clean and equipped with towels, clean white sheets, soap, disposable toothbrushes and so on.
In hotels costing a few dollars more (US$12 per room upwards, more in Hanoi) you can expect an en suite bathroom, telephone, air conditioning and television. As with hotels elsewhere in the world, mini-refrigerators in Vietnamese hotels are often stocked with drinks and snacks, but these can be horribly overpriced and you would be much better off buying such items on the street. Adequate plumbing can be a problem in some hotels but the standard is constantly improving.
It is a legal requirement for all hotels to register the details of foreign guests with the local police. For this reason they will always ask for your passport when you check in. The process usually only takes a few minutes, after which they will return your passport. However, because non-payment by guests is by no means unknown, some hotels retain passports until check-out. If a place looks dodgy then ask that they register you while you wait and take your passport with you afterwards. It is helpful to carry some photocopies of your passport as well as Vietnam visa, which you can then hand over to the hotel, insisting if necessary that your actual passport is not in your possession but rather at a travel agency for purpose of visa extension (which is a legitimate situation). Alternatively, you can try to extend an advance payment rather than allow them to keep your passport.
Most hotels throughout Vietnam now have high-speed Internet access. Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks are blocked but a quick google search can explain how to easily bypass this ban. The use of computers is generally free, although some hotels levy a small charge.

Vietnam Hostels for Backpakers

Ben Tre   Buon Ma Thuot   Can Tho   Cat Ba Island   Chau Doc   Da Lat   Da Nang   Dong Hoi   Ha Long   Haiphong   Hanoi   Ho Chi Minh   Hoi An   Hue   Kontum   Luong Son   Mui Ne   Nha Trang   Ninh Binh   Phan Thiet   Phu Quoc Island   Quy Nhon   Sapa   Tien Giang   Vung Tau

 

 

Except where otherwise noted, content of this article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License    Text is available under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0

Thailand

  • Ayutthaya
  • Kwai River
  • Bangkok

Thailand

Thailand is a country in Southeast Asia with coasts on the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand. It borders Myanmar to the northwest, Laos to the northeast, Cambodia to the west and Malaysia to the south.
 With great food, a tropical climate, fascinating culture and, hey, great beaches, Thailand is a magnet for travelers the world over.

108px-Flag_of_Thailand.svg

 Thailand is made up of 76 provinces, but may be conveniently divided into five geographic and cultural regions.

* The Central Plains — Bangkok, highlands and historic Thailand.
* The North — Chiang Mai, hill tribes, and the Golden Triangle.
* Isaan — The great undeveloped Northeast. Get off the beaten track and discover backcountry Thailand and some magnificent Khmer ruins.
* The East — Beaches and islands on the northern Gulf of Thailand coast, within easy reach of Bangkok  And, oh yes, Pattaya.
* The South and Islands — Hundreds of kilometers of coastline on both the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand, with Phuket, Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, Krabi and many more of Thailand’s famous beach spots.

 Thailand is the most popular tourist destination in South-East Asia, and for a reason. Exotic yet safe and largely hassle-free, cheap yet equipped with every modern amenity you need, there is something for every interest and every price bracket, from beachfront backpacker bungalows to some of the best luxury hotels in the world. And despite the heavy flow of tourism, Thailand retains its quintessential Thainess, with a culture and history all its own and a carefree people famed for their smiles and their fun-seeking sanuk lifestyle.

 This is not to say that Thailand doesn’t have its downsides, including the considerable growing pains of an economy where an agricultural laborer is lucky to earn $1 per day while the nouveau riche cruise past in their BMWs, and a highly visible sex tourism industry. Bangkok, the capital, is notorious for its traffic jams and rampant development has wrecked much of once-beautiful Pattaya and Phuket. In heavily touristed areas, some lowlifes have made scamming tourists into an art form, but in Thailand as anywhere the old adage is true — if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.tailandia_mapa

Visas

A) Countries/territories that do not require a visa for stay up to 90 days:- Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Peru and South Korea.

(B) Countries/territories that do not require a visa for stay up to 30 days: (30 days when entering by air; by land border only 14 days)- Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bahrain, Brunei, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Laos, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Macau, Malaysia, Monaco, Mongolia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Russia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States and Vietnam.

(C) Countries/territories that do not require a visa for stay up to 14 days or others (if indicated):- Cambodia, Ukraine.
Those with passports from countries not widely known, including European city-states, or have problems with document forgery, should obtain a visa in advance from the nearest Thai embassy. This is true even if visa on arrival is technically permitted. There are reports of tourists being detained using valid passports not commonly presented in Thailand. In addition, ask for a business card from the person or embassy which granted the visa, so they may be contacted on arrival, if necessary. Anyone whose nationality does not have its own embassy in Bangkok, should find out which third country represents your interests there, along with local contact information.
Proof of onward transit:- long happily ignored by Thai immigration, has been known to be strictly applied in some instances (Indian passport holders beware). The requirement is for an international flight itinerary – NOT train, ferry, or other departure type.

Airlines, who have to pay for your return flight if Thai immigration doesn’t let you into the country, also check this and often will not let you board your flight for Thailand without it.) A print-out of an international e-ticket on a budget airline is sufficient to convince the enforcers, but those planning on continuing by land may have to get a little creative. Buying a fully refundable ticket and getting it refunded once in Thailand is also an option. Land crossings, on the other hand, are a very straightforward process and proof of onward journey is generally not required (Indian passport holders beware again… or anyone, if the border officials simply decide to uphold the bureaucracy).

Overstaying:- Overstaying in Thailand is possible with a 500 baht fine per day. Earlier it was fairly simple to avoid overstaying by doing a visa run to a neighbouring country overland or via a cheap flight, but since 12 August 2014 this will not be possible according to latest developments.
Stricter regulations introduced on 22 July 2014 now impose harsher penalties as a means of curbing overstaying. As can be seen from the tables, a distinction is made regarding an overstayer’s circumstances. Overstayers presenting themselves to immigration officials at an airport or other border control are subject to the regulations in the first table.

In all other circumstances,  overstayers will incur the much harsher penalties of being banned from re-entering Thailand for at least five years even if they overstay by just one or two days.
For example, an overstayer through no fault of their own is involved in an accident, or becomes involved in an altercation where the police are called. The first thing the police will want to see is your passport. Once it becomes apparent that you’ve overstayed your welcome, you’re likely to be deported and banned from re-entering the kingdom for either five or ten years.

New Regulations for extensions 2014

Climate

Thailand is largely tropical, so it’s hot and humid all year around with temperatures in the 28-35°C range (82-95°F), a degree of relief provided only in the mountains in the far north of Thailand. The careful observer will, however, note three seasons:

Cool: From November to the end of February, it doesn’t rain much and temperatures are at their lowest, although you will barely notice the difference in the south and will only need to pack a sweater if hiking in the northern mountains, where temperatures can fall as low as 5°C. This is the most popular time to visit and, especially around Christmas and New Year’s or at Chinese New Year a few weeks later, finding flights and accommodation can be expensive and difficult.

Hot: From March to June, Thailand swelters in temperatures as high as 40°C (104°F). Pleasant enough when sitting on the beach with a drink in hand, but not the best time of year to go temple-tramping in Bangkok.

Rainy: From July to October, although it only really gets under way in September, tropical monsoons hit most of the country. This doesn’t mean it rains non-stop, but when it does it pours and flooding is not uncommon.
There are local deviations to these general patterns. In particular, the south-east coast of Thailand (including Ko Samui) has the rains reversed, with the peak season being May-October and the rainy off season in November-February.

How to Go

By plane

The main international airports in Thailand are at Bangkok and Phuket, and both are well-served by intercontinental flights. Practically every airline that flies to Asia also flies into Bangkok, this means there are plenty of services and the competition on the routes helps to keep the ticket prices down.
International airports are also located at Hat Yai, Krabi, Ko Samui and Chiang Mai, though these largely restricted to flights from other Southeast Asian countries. Kuala Lumpur and Singapore make excellent places to catch flights into these smaller Thai cities, meaning you can skip the ever-present touts and queues at Bangkok.
The national carrier is the well-regarded Thai Airways, with Bangkok Airways filling in some gaps in the nearby region. Bangkok Airways offers free Internet access while you wait for boarding to start at your gate.
Chartered flights from and to Thailand from international destinations are operated by Hi Flying Group. They fly to Bangkok, Phuket, Ko Samui, and Udon Thani.
Many low-cost carriers serve Thailand including [Nok Air], Thai Air Asia and Thai Lion Air. See Discount airlines in Asia for an up to date list.
For a full at-a-glance list of all Thai-based carriers, see the Thai airlines section (below).

By road

Cambodia – six international border crossings. The highway from Siem Reap and the temples of Angkor via Poipet to Aranyaprathet, once the stuff of nightmares, is now merely bad and can usually be covered in less than 3 hours. The border crossing at Poipet remains the stuff of nightmares, however. The Cambodian side is merely slow. The Thai side is glacial: travellers queue (outdoors in the heat) to reach a queue (in the Immigration building) – typically two and one hours, respectively. An alternative is to head to Hatlek/ Cham Yeam towards Koh Kong; that crossing is quiet and honest with good communication links.

Laos – the busiest border crossing is at the Friendship Bridge across the Mekong between Nong Khai and the Lao capital Vientiane. It’s also possible to cross the Mekong at Chiang Khong/Huay Xai, Nakhon Phanom/Tha Khaek, Mukdahan/Savannakhet, and elsewhere.
Vientiane/Udon Thani – A bus service runs from the Morning Market bus station in Vientiane to the bus station in Udon Thani. The cost is 80 baht or LAK22,000 and the journey takes two hours. The Udon Thani airport is 30 minutes by tuk-tuk from the bus station and is served by Thai Airways, Nok Air and Air Asia.

Malaysia and Singapore – driving up is entirely possible, although not with a rented vehicle. Main crossings (with name of town on Malaysian side in brackets) between Thailand and Malaysia are Padang Besar (Padang Besar) and Sadao (Bukit Kayu Hitam) in Songkhla province, Betong (Pengkalan Hulu) in Yala province, and Sungai Kolok (Rantau Panjang) in Narathiwat province. There are regular buses from Singapore to the southern hub of Hat Yai.
If you are driving, then depending on whether your starting point is Singapore, Kuala Lumpur or Penang, you can expect to make it to Hat Yai, Nakhon Si Thammarat and Krabi/Phuket/Ko Samui respectively on the same day. The key to this is leaving *EARLY* (7 a.m.) since border crossing formalities can take up to 2.5 hours, particularly on holiday weekends. The following is a guide to border crossing procedures at the Bukit Kayu Hitam/Sadao border crossing point.

What you will need:

1) Passports with at least six months validity
2) Original car registration document – if you are in Malaysia and you have a car on loan, you can go to your financing bank and request the original for the trip. They will ask you to write a letter requesting it and then hand it over to you.
3) Visa for Thailand if your nationality requires it (Malaysians and Singaporeans do not need one). Even if you are not eligible for visa-free entry, if you are crossing at the Bukit Kayu Hitam / Sadao border crossing, you can obtain a visa on arrival at the border if you are from one of the eligible countries.
4) 3rd party liability coverage car insurance for Thailand – Malaysian and Singaporean car insurance does NOT extend to the territory of Thailand. The minumum legal coverage for Thailand is easily purchased in the Malaysian town of Changlun right before the border. Stop at any one of the numerous shops that have signs advertising ‘Insurans’. 3rd party coverage can be bought for a minimum of MYR 17 (~SGD 6.3) which covers you for 9 days. Longer term coverage can be purchased as well if you plan on making multiple trips during a year. However, since this insurance does not cover damages to your own vehicle, you should call your insurance company and ask them for an extension of 1st party coverage to Thailand, although this is not legally required. Most insurance companies will do this on a per-trip basis. Charges may vary according to your insurance company. When you buy car insurance, many will also sell you Thai arrival / departure cards for a nominal fee of MYR 2 (SGD 0.75) for each. While these are freely available at the border, it will save you some time and hassle getting these here. The insurance agent will also fill them in for you!

Procedure for crossing:

1) Follow the North-South highway to its terminus at Bukit Kayu Hitam. Continue straight towards the Thailand border.
2) You will first pass through a Malaysian immigration checkpoint. You do not need to get out of your car here, regardless of nationality. Just drive up to the window and hand over the passports for yourself and all passengers in the car as well the car registration document. Once they are scanned / stamped and handed back to you, continue driving ahead.
3) The next checkpoint is a Malaysian customs checkpoint, but there is a gap of about a kilometer between the Malaysian immigration and Malaysian customs checkpoints. In this gap, on the left, there is a duty-free shopping complex. It might be worth stopping here on the way back since goods here are somewhat cheaper than at Malaysian supermarkets and no GST is charged here. Again, at the Malaysian customs checkpoint, you do not need to get down from the vehicle. Just drive up to the window and hand over your documents. Assuming that you have no contraband and nothing to declare, you will be waved through. Now this part is a bit tricky …
4) Immediately after the Malaysian customs checkpoint, you will pass a border stone indicating that you are now in Thailand. To your left, there will be a large parking lot. Go ahead and park your vehicle there and come outside with your documents (Passports, car registration and car insurance).
5) Stand in the Immigration and Borderpass lines to clear immigration. You can *only* stand in these lines if you are of Malaysian, Singaporean, Thai, or other nationality that does not require a visa for entry to Thailand. If you require a visa on arrival or if you have a stamped visa from the Thai embassy, you must go into the office on the left to get your immigration stamp. However, since the queues at the Immigration and Borderpass lines are longer than the crowd inside the office, you’ll probably finish your immigration formalities faster than if you were of a nationality that does not need a visa for entry to Thailand!
6) Once the immigration stamp has been provided, take your documents to the Customs window (right in front of the Immigration and Borderpass windows). Hand over your passport and car registration (and insurance, if they ask for it) to the Customs agent and they will provide you with a temporary import permit for your vehicle. This import permit is valid for ONE MONTH and you must have this permit in order to take your vehicle out of Thailand, so protect it as carefully as you would your passport. The import permit has some scary looking words in it, such that you will pay a fine of THB 1,000 per day for every day beyond the expiry of this import permit for a maximum of 10 days, and then THB 1,450,000 if you keep your vehicle in Thailand beyond that! Don’t worry about those scary words, as long as you don’t overstay your visa and leave within 30 days with your vehicle, you will face no problems whatsoever. The temporary import permit is provided freely for no charge.
7) Once you have cleared immigration formalities and collected your vehicle import permit, walk back behind these booths you just passed to the parking lot. Collect your car now and then drive past those very same booths. You may or may not get stopped by a Thai officer for documents checking, so it is imperative that you complete the procedures mentioned above. It would be very easy to drive into Thailand without either getting an immigration stamp or a vehicle import permit, which may complicate matters for you upon your exit.
8) Set your clocks back an hour since Thailand time is one hour behind Malaysia / Singapore time. Drive into Sadao and further into Thailand! Enjoy your stay and drive safely!

Myanmar:

Mae Sai/Tachileik – foreigners can access this crossing from either side, and enter and/or exit either country here; onward travel restrictions: since Oct 2009, onward travel by land to Kengtung is only possible if accompanied by an official guide (1,000 baht/day + expenses), exiting Myanmar at Tachilek is only possible for those who entered at this border crossing and were issued a 14-day entry permit; to get to Tachileik or Kengtung from the rest of Myanmar, a domestic flight must be taken (eg from Heho).

Mae Sot/Myawaddy – This border crossing was closed in July 2010 and re-opened on 5 December 2011. When open, foreigners can only access this crossing from the Thai side; neither onward travel into Myanmar (ie beyond the Burmese border town of Myawaddy) nor overnight stays are possible. No visa is needed; instead there’s an entry stamp fee: USD10 if paid in dollars, more (500 baht) if paid with Thai currency.

Three Pagodas Pass (Sangkhlaburi/Payathonzu) – foreigners can only access this crossing from the Thai side; onward travel into Myanmar (ie beyond the border town) is not possible; entry/exit stamps are NOT issued here, and foreigners passports are held at the Myanmar checkpoint, where a fee is levied: USD10 if paid in dollars, more (500 baht) if paid with Thai currency. However, as of November 25, 2008, this crossing is temporarily closed.

Ranong/Kawthoung – foreigners can access this crossing from either side, and enter and/or exit either country here; no onward travel restrictions (other than those that apply to everyone, no matter how they enter); access to/from Kawthoung is by sea (Mergui/Dawei & Yangon) and air (Mergui & Yangon). If entering without a visa, maximum stay is 3 days / 2 nights, travel beyond Kawthoung is not permitted, and there’s an entry stamp fee: USD10 if paid in dollars, more (500 baht) if paid with Thai currency.

By train

Thailand’s sole international train service links to Butterworth (near Penang) and Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, continuing all the way to Singapore. Tickets are cheap even in first class sleepers, but it can be a slow ride; the 2-hour flight to Singapore will take you close to 48 hours by rail, as you have to change trains twice. The luxury option is to take the Eastern & Oriental Express, a refurbished super-luxury train that runs along the same route once per week, with gourmet dining, personal butler service and every other colonial perk you can think of. However, at around USD1000 one-way just from Bangkok to Butterworth, this is approximately 30 times more expensive than an ordinary first-class sleeper!

While you can’t get to Laos or Cambodia by train, you can get very close, with rail terminals just across the border at Nong Khai (across the river from Vientiane) and Aranyaprathet (for Poipet, on the road to Siem Reap). A link across the Mekong to Laos opened in March 2009, but service to Cambodia remains on the drawing board.
There are no rail services to Myanmar, but the Thai part of the infamous Burma Death Railway is still operating near Kanchanaburi.

By ferry

It is now possible in high-season (Nov-May) to island-hop using ferries from Phuket all the way to Indonesia. This can now be done without ever touching the mainland, Phuket (Thailand) to Padang (Indonesia).

Thailand Hostels

Ayutthaya    Ban Phe    Bangkok    Buriram    Cha-Am    Chiang Dao    Chiang Khong           Chiang Mai    Chiang Rai    Chumphon    Don Sak    Hatyai    Hua Hin    Hua Tan Taew    Kanchanaburi    Khanom    Khao Lak    Khao Sok    Khon  Kaen    Koh Chang    Koh Kho Khao    Koh Lanta    Koh Lipe    Koh Phangan    Koh Phi Phi    Koh Samet    Koh Samui   Koh Tao    Koh Yao    Krabi       Krabi Ao Nang    Loei    Mukdahan    Nakhon Phanom    Nakhon Ratchasima      Nakhon  Sawan    Nan    Pai    Pak Chong    Pattaya    Phang Nga    Phatthalung    Phetchaburi    Phitsanulok    Phuket    Phuket Karon Beach    Phuket Patong Beach    Phuket Rawai Beach    Phuket Town    Prachuap Khiri Khan    Ranong    Ratchaburi    Rayong    Samut Songkhram    Samuthprakarn    Satun    Sukhothai    Suratthani    Ubon Ratchathani    Udon Thani

 

 

 

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Mongolia

  • Ulaan Baatar
  • Ulaan Baatar

Mongolia

Mongolia Listeni/mɒŋˈɡliə/ (Mongolian: ᠮᠤᠩᠭᠤᠯ ᠤᠯᠤᠰ, Monggol Ulus and Монгол Улс, Mongol Uls) is a landlocked country in east-central Asia. It is bordered by Russia to the north and China to the south, east and west. Ulaanbaatar, the capital and also the largest city, is home to about 45% of the population. Mongolia’s political system is a parliamentary republic.

The area of what is now Mongolia has been ruled by various nomadic empires, including the Xiongnu, the Xianbei, theRouran, the Turkic Khaganate, and others. In 1206, Genghis Khan founded the Mongol Empire, and his grandson Kublai Khan conquered China to establish the Yuan dynasty. After the collapse of the Yuan, the Mongols retreated to Mongolia and resumed their earlier pattern of factional conflict except during the era of Dayan Khan and Tumen Zasagt Khan. In the 16th century, Tibetan Buddhism began to spread in Mongolia and it was accelerated by the unwavering support of the Qing government after Mongolia was incorporated by the Qing dynasty. In the 1900s almost half of the adult male population were Buddhist monks.

      By the mid-18th century, all of Mongolia had been incorporated into the area ruled by the Manchus’ Qing dynasty. During the collapse of the Qing dynasty Mongols established the Temporary Government of Khalkha on 30 November 1911, before the abdication of the last Qing emperor and the establishment of the People’s Republic of China. On 29 December 1911 Mongolia declared independence from the Qing dynasty and this National Liberation Revolution ended 220 years of Manchu rule (153 years after the collapse of the Dzungar Khanate).

Shortly thereafter, the country came under Soviet control, resulting in the proclamation of the Mongolian People’s Republic as a Soviet satellite state in 1924. After the breakdown of communist regimes in Europe in late 1989, Mongolia saw its own peaceful democratic revolution in early 1990; it led to a multi-party system, a new constitution of 1992, and transition to a market economy.

 

At 1,564,116 square kilometres (603,909 sq mi), Mongolia is the 19th largest and one of the most sparsely populatedindependent countries in the world, with a population of around 3 million people. It is also the world’s second-largest landlocked country. The country contains very little arable land, as much of its area is covered by grassy steppe, with mountains to the north and west and the Gobi Desert to the south.

Approximately 30% of the population are nomadic or semi-nomadic. The majority of its population are Buddhists and non-religious population is the second largest group. Islam is the dominant religion among ethnic Kazakhs. The majority of the state’s citizens are of Mongol ethnicity, although Kazakhs, Tuvans, and other minorities also live in the country, especially in the west. Mongolia joined the World Trade Organization in 1997 and seeks to expand its participation in regional economic and trade regimes.

Mapa de Mongolia

Visas

Entry requirements

There are four border crossings open to foreigners, three on the Russian border of which the main one is Altanbulag, and one called Zamyn – Uud near the small town of Erlian on the border with China.

Foreign nationals of the following countries/territories can enter Mongolia visa-free:

For up to 90 days: United States, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Georgia and Macau SAR

For up to 30 days: Canada, Cuba, Israel, Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, Turkey, Japan, Romania and Russia. From 25 June 2014 to 31 December 2015 passport holders of 42 countries additional countries (including the United Kingdom, Norway and Brazil) will be able to enter visa-free for up to 30 days.

For up to 21 days: Philippines

For up to 14 days: Hong Kong SAR, Singapore

For other foreign nationals, the process for obtaining a thirty day visa or tourist visa is relatively painless, requiring a visa application form, a small fee at your local Mongolian embassy and an invitation letter that is arranged through tour companies. Licensed tour companies can issue the invitation letter for you. However, the citizens of Indonesia, Russia, China and Taiwan and some other countries needs to get an official invitation letter that is issued by the Consular Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs after confirmation by the tour company or firm or individual who is inviting you. Longer visas are available; it requires an invitation letter from a Mongolian company or individual.

Citizens of countries where a Mongolian Embassy or Honorary consulate of Mongolia doesn’t exist, can apply for a Mongolian visa at the Mongolian borders – Chinggis Khaan Airport, Zamyn – Uud and Altanbulag. It requires your official permission letter that is issued by Immigration Office in Ulaanbaatar according to your invited person or entity’s request, exact arrival date and time, flight or train number. Once you got the permission, you have to bring the copy of permission, passport sized photo and visa fee of c. US$105 per applicant and then you can get the visa at the airport. For most cases, it is easy to seek a help from licensed travel company that can get permission for you from Immigration Office in Ulaanbaatar.

Also, it is possible to acquire an expedited visa in a matter of hours at the Mongolian consulate in Erlian, though there is a steep $50 US fee for this service. A similar service is available in the Mongolian consulate in the Russian city of Irkutsk and Ulan-Ude. Indian nationals are required to apply for a visa, although the visa fee is waived.

You won’t get more than 30 days on a tourist visa. In Mongolia you can extend your visa for another 30 days maximum.

The Embassy of Mongolia in the UK website is useful for updates.

The Embassy of Mongolia in China website allows you to print off the application form you will need if you are applying for your Mongolian visa in China, although the consulate does have them too. If you going to stay more than 30 days you have to get registered at Mongolia Immigration.

As of September 2013, the consulate in Irkutsk does not require an invitation letter any more and will issue even one year multiple entry visas without a fuss.

By plane

There are a few places with flights into the capital, Ulaanbaatar. National air carrier MIAT Mongolian airlines operates daily flights (during some peak season – twice a day) from Beijing and Seoul, twice a week flights from Hong Kong, Berlin, Moscow and Tokyo (during some peak season – from Narita). During peak summer season it increases flight frequencies and operates direct flights from Berlin. There are branch offices in Berlin, Moscow, Hong Kong, Seoul, Tokyo and Beijing. North American branch office is in Denver, CO and can be reached via Air Bridge

There are almost daily flights from Seoul on Korean Air as well as other flights through Beijing. It is also possible to fly to Ulaanbaatar through Tokyo’s Narita Airport. There are also direct flights from Istanbul with Turkish Airlines. Don’t buy a non-refundable or unchangeable ticket if you are going to Mongolia, because flights don’t always actually happen. You can also fly in from Beijing, with MIAT Mongolian airlines being the cheapest, then Air China after that. You may find the cheapest air ticket to Mongolia from travel agents.

Hunnu Air, a Mongolian Airline, offers flights from Hong Kong, Shanghai, Bankok to Ulaanbaatar.

Once you are in the country you can also fly to all the provincial capitals. Plane flights between the capitals may be hard to find though. But air travel agents, guest houses, and hotels can help you to obtain your domestic air ticket in Mongolia.

As of 24th September 2014 MIAT has started cheap (relatively) flights from Singapore to Ulan Bator twice a week (Wednesdays and Saturday).

By train

The Trans-Mongolian Line of the legendary Trans-Siberian Railway links Mongolia’s capital Ulaanbaatar with Moscow and Vladivostok, Russia and Beijing, China.

From Russia

The Trans-Mongolian train crosses the Russia/Mongolia border at the town of Naushki, Russia.

  • Those interested in saving money can book one way elektrichka (regional train) tickets from Irkutsk or Ulan Ude to Naushki. In Naushki, one can spend the night in the recently (June 2009) renovated train resting rooms (komnati otdiha) for US$.50 per hour. From there, it is possible to take a marshrutka to the land border crossing town of Kyakhta, Russia. Walking across the border is prohibited, but travelers have no problems arranging for Mongolia bound cars to take them across the border, either for a small fee or for free. Upon crossing into Mongolia it is relatively easy to hitchhike, taxi, or bus to Sukhbaator or UB, as all southbound traffic is headed towards those cities.
  • From the West, from Russia, it is possible to cross at the land border in Tsagaannuur. There are daily petrol and wheat-carrying Russian Kamaz trucks headed to Olgii and it is possible to hitchhike to Tsagaannuur or even Olgii. Regular buses and marshrutkas also operate from the border, though service is unpredictable due to the lack of a schedule.

From China

Trans Mongolian Railway

2nd class (hard sleeper) costs about US$200 (Mar 2011) from Beijing to Ulaanbaatar. The ride takes almost 30 hours, but you are given a berth in a sleeper-car. The train leaves twice per week from Beijing. Currently, as of Mar 2011, tickets cannot be purchased from the Beijing station. Instead you will be directed to the China International Tour Service (CITS) office at 2nd floor of the Beijing International Hotel (10 min. walk north of the station, large, white building).

Local Trains

Beijing to the border: If the Beijing – Ulaanbaatar train is sold out, as seems to be common, or you need a more frequent option, you can make your way from Beijing to the border at Erlian by local train as described below, and then on to Ulaanbaatar by bus and train. You may also try looking on eLong.com for flights from Beijing to Erlian (Elianhaote on eLong). As of March 2011, there are morning flights from Beijing to Erlian out of Capital Airport Terminal 1 that only cost 160Y, which is cheaper than the bus.

Trains run daily from Beijing to Jining (Inner Mongolia) or Hohhot. You can change there for a train to the border town of Erlian near the Mongolian-Chinese border. The K89 leaves Beijing in the morning and arrives at Jining in the evening. Jining has many hotels near the train station and has karaoke bars to keep you entertained while you wait. From Jining to Erlian there is a slow train that leaves in the morning, passes the great wall multiple times, and arrives in the early evening. For up to date train times and costs see China Guide. Note that this will take a night longer than getting the sleeper bus as described in “By Bus”.

Crossing the border

Be wary of scams at the border where people in uniform will attempt to sell you “required travel insurance.” There is no such thing and you can safely ignore them.

You should then cross the border from Erlian in China to Zamiin-Uud in Mongolia as described in Erlian to and from Mongolia.

In Erlian you can cross the border in a Jeep or by Bus. The bus goes everyday. In the bus station look for the international ticket window.

Once in Zamin-Uud, the only option is the train.

From the border to Ulaanbaatar

Once you have crossed the border, you will need to get from Zamiin-Uud to Ulaanbaatar as described in Zamiin-Uud get in.

Stay safe

Apart from Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia is generally a safe place to travel. However, incidences of pick pocketing and bag slashing have been on the rise in recent years, so always keep your personal belongings in a safe place (money belts are highly recommended), especially in crowded areas or in places where your attention is diverted, such as internet cafes . Notorious places for theft are the Black Market (bazaar), the railway station and crowded bus stops.

Violent crime is uncommon outside the capital city, but still caution is required at night, and dark or deserted alleys and streets, in particular, should be avoided.

Unfortunately, Xenophobia is rampant, and violence towards foreigners is not uncommon. This problem usually affects males. Mongolian men will generally pick out the largest foreign men and attack them, mostly with their fists. This is known to happen at all hours of the day and in any part of the city. Of course, at night the problem becomes much worse. Be very, very wary of clubs that have a majority of Mongolians. Do not under any circumstances fight back if a Mongolian man assaults you. Many foreigners have been hospitalized and it will never be a fair fight. Ignore completely any drunk Mongolian man; NO EXCEPTIONS. If you are on the street keep walking. If you are in a club and Mongolian men become aggressive, leave immediately. Also be aware that if you are a male, in a group with Asian women (Mongolian or not), this is perceived incredibly negatively by Mongolian men, and it is very likely that you will get assaulted.

Additionally there are ultra nationalist Neo Nazis operating freely in Ulaanbaatar, and they have multiple times shown up at clubs and assaulted foreigners. Some of these assaults end up with hospitalizations. In one particular instance these Neo Nazis showed up at around 2 AM at the gay club (Hanzo or ‘H’) and threatened to ‘kill all gay people’.

Most foreigners visit Ulaanbaatar without incident, but remember to be extremely cautious.

Corruption is a huge problem in Mongolia, and locals are convinced that the police are not to be trusted.

There are small bands of Mongolian ultra nationalists that style themselves as neo-Nazis who assault foreigners including white, black and particularly Chinese. They are especially provoked by foreigner interaction with Mongolian women.

Lone or female travellers, especially blondes, obviously need to exercise a higher degree of awareness of their surroundings as getting groped in the chest or buttocks is not uncommon.

Be careful when travelling by horse as it is not unknown for groups to follow tourists and then steal their goods, including the horses, while they sleep at night.

Many tourists are injured from falling off of horses. Mongolian herders are expert riders, thus their idea of a horse suitable for riding is quite different from most casual riders. Also, the horses are trained differently than in the west. If you are injured in Mongolia, you may be hundreds of kilometres from medical aid and ambulance service may be hard to obtain and consist of a Russian minivan. Medical evacuation insurance is advisable.

Dogs in Mongolia can be aggressive and may run in packs. It is a good idea to be wary of them since they are not likely to be as tame as domestic dogs elsewhere.

Stay healthy

Nomads’ dogs may have rabies. As a precaution, consider having a rabies shots before coming.

Marmots should not be eaten at certain times of the year because they can carry pnemonia. That said, the disease is carried by the marmot’s fleas so the afflicted tend to be fur traders, and marmot is not a mainstream dish even in Mongolia.

Hepatitis and tuberculosis are common throughout Mongolia.

Respect

Mongols traditionally live on the steppes, breeding horses, just like their ancestor Genghis Khan. Not surprisingly, following Western pleasantries will not have the intended effect in Mongolia. That being said, there are still a few rules to follow. Always receive items with the right hand, palm facing up. Drink from the right hand with the palm up as well. It is very rude to refuse a gift. If offered a plate of hospitality munchies, take at least a small nibble from something. You should never point anyone with your index finger since it implies disrespect.

Whenever you approach a nomadic family, or enter a ger, you will, without knowing, break one or several of the many traditional, religious and superstitious customs. If you do become confused, don’t panic, minor indiscretions will be tolerated and forgiven. The following do’s and don’ts will help minimize cultural differences.

Do

  • Say hello (sain bainuu) when you arrive (but repeating it again when you see the same person is considered strange to Mongolians)
  • Take at least a sip, or a nibble, of the delicacies offered
  • Pick up everything with an open hand, with your palm facing upwards
  • Hold a cup by the bottom, and not by the top rim
  • If by accident you tap someones foot with yours, immediately shake hands with them (failing to do so will be seen as an insult).

Don’t

  • Lean against a support column
  • Whistle inside a ger
  • Stand on, or lean over, the threshold
  • Stamp out a fire, or put water or any rubbish on it (fire is sacred to Mongolians)
  • Walk in front of an older person; or turn your back to the altar, or religious objects (except when leaving)
  • Take food from a communal plate with your left hand
  • Touch other people’s hats
  • Have a long conversation in your own language in front of your hosts

Contact

There are plenty of Internet cafés in the capital. The postal service is slow and most people have a PO Box if they want to get anything. It is possible to buy phone cards that can be used to call abroad very cheaply from domestic phones, but not all phones can do this. (You can ask for MiCom or MobiCom cards). In the countryside, don’t expect to be staying in contact with anyone. Most Aimag Centers (Province Capitals) have an Internet Café in the post office.

To make local calls in Ulaanbaatar use a phone of one of the many entrepreneurs with cellular telephones on the street corners. 

Hostels in Mongolia

Mongolia

 

 

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Laos

  • Wat Xieng Thong
  • Muang Khoua
  • Buddha Park

Laos

Laos, officially known as the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR), is one of the poorest nations in Southeast Asia. A mountainous and landlocked country, Laos shares borders with Vietnam to the east, Cambodia to the south, Thailand to the west, and Myanmar and China to the north. 

Flag of Laos.svg

Thailand promotes itself as amazing, Vietnam can well be described as bustling, Cambodia’s Khmer temples are awe-inspiring… but the adjective that was most often applied to Laos is forgotten, this is changing fast however, with tourism being the biggest growth sector in Laos with ever rising visitor numbers under its new tourism slogan ‘Simply beautiful’.

Visitors who are drawn by the laid-back lifestyle and the opportunity to watch the sunsets on the Mekong will simply explain the attraction by revealing that the true meaning of “Lao PDR” is Lao – Please Don’t Rush.

Laos Map

 

Visas

Russians, Korean, Japanese, Swiss and ASEAN nationals including Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Philippines can enter Laos “visa free”; all other tourists need a visa in the form of a tourist visa (for one or possibly two months) issued by a Lao embassy or consulate. A visa on arrival is also available to most people entering at the airports in Vientiane, Luang Prabang and Pakse, as well as the Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge between Nong Khai in Thailand and Vientiane and on the Lao/Vietnam-Border. It is also available when entering via Stung Treng (Cambodia), although guesthouses in Cambodia and the Lao embassy in Phnom Phen will say it is not to make money with visa services. When applying for a tourist visa or to obtain a visa on arrival, one (maybe two at Lao embassies) passport photo is/may be required (although you may be able to pay a USD “fee” to have this  requirement waived) – recently (June 2013) passport photos were not asked for (at Friendship Bridge).

Visas can be obtained in advance from Lao embassies/consulates. The fee varies by nationality/embassy; USD50 is common, although can be as high as USD 63 (in Kuala Lumpur). Processing times also vary; 2-3 days is typical, though you may be able to pay an extra small amount (around USD 5) to receive the visa in as little as one hour. In Phnom Penh the travel agencies can arrange the visa the same day (but may charge as much as USD 58) while getting it from the embassy takes a few days. Getting a visa from the embassy in Bangkok costs around 1,400 baht for most nationalities, plus 200 baht more for “same day” processing. It’s cheaper and quicker to get one at the border.

Visas are also available at the Lao PDR consulate in Khon Kaen, Thailand. Thai and English (limited) are spoken by consular staff. Hours are Monday-Friday 08:00 to 12:00 and 13:00 to 16:00. (UPDATE July 2012): There have been several changes that took place in February 2012. Prices have increased and are now similar to those charged by the Laotian Embassy in Bangkok.

 The Laotian consulate has re-located to a big gated building off of Friendship Road. The consulate is about 1 km north of the Khon Kaen Immigration office. It’s on the southbound side of Friendship Road (going towards Nakhon Ratchasima). The consulate is on the same side of the road as the Khon Kaen Immigration office. It’s also about 500m from a large Tesco Extra which is on the opposite side of the road.  

There are visa-on-arrival facilities at the international airports in Vientiane, Luang Prabang and Pakse, and at all border crossings (see below), including now overland from Cambodia (visa on arrival facilities opened at Voen Kham -north of Stung Treng, Cambodia). Paying with Thai baht will cost considerably more and border officials will not accept Lao kip at all). A USD 1 “out of office hours/overtime” surcharge, and a small (possibly THB10 to USD1) entry stamp fee, might also be charged.

Entry permit extensions (sometimes referred to as “visa extensions”) are available from the Immigration Department in Vientiane, the Immigration Department in Luang Prabang, the Police Station in Pakse, the Police Station opposite the Lao-Mongolian Hospital in Phonsavan and possibly other cities. Extensions are not possible in Lao’s second city, Savannakhet, although you can do a border run from there to Thailand to get a new 30 day visa.

The cost is USD2 per day plus a small “form fee” ranging between 5,000 kip (Pakse) to USD2 (Luang Prabang.) In Vientiane it’s 5000 kip for the form and 3 usd for application fee. The exchange rate is bad so better pay in usd if you have. The process is very easy; turn up in the morning with your passport and one photo; fill in a form (in Luang Prabang immigration officers do this for you) and come back in the afternoon for your extension.

If you want to extend for longer than two weeks and are near the Thai border, it can be more cost effective to cross the border (entry to Thailand is free for most western nationalities) and return immediately to get a new 30 day Lao visa. 
Extensions are also possible via agencies elsewhere in Laos (who will courier your passport to Vientiane and back again, around USD3 per day minimum of 7 days). 

Hostels in Laos

Luang Prabang    Pakse    Vang Vieng    Vientiane

 

 

 

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