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Southeast Asia, explained

Burma: online visa coming soon

Tourist-friendly "e-visa" possibly rolled out next month

Welcome news: Burma (officially titled Myanmar) is setting up an online visa system to replace the current process, a paperwork-laden slog that can take weeks.

As soon as March, tourists will be able to apply "anywhere via the internet" says Burma's tourism minister. That's according to the Dutch DPA news outlet, which quotes a Myanmar Times report. Even journalists have started visiting the authoritarian state on the up-and-up in lieu of disguising themselves as tourists.

For most Westerners, getting into Burma isn't particularly difficult. It's just inefficient. You can either mail in your passport and a series of forms to the nearest embassy or chance flying to neighboring Thailand, stand in an early-morning queue and submit your forms outside Myanmar's drab embassy in Bangkok. (For what it's worth, this process more or less mirrors Vietnam's.)

The upside for Burma, of course, is tourist cash. Tourist revenues are still meager but skyrocketing: up to $319 million from last year's $254 million, according to DPA's report.

Before too long, Burma will get its long-awaited Visa/Mastercard-friendly ATMs. At this rate, now might be the time to visit if you want to behold a Burma untouched by Starbucks or -- who knows? -- Thai-style party beaches.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/southeast-asia/burma-online-visa-coming-soon

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