Visa for Travel
“Don’t take life too seriously…no one comes out alive!” – Elbert Hubbard
Visa for Travel
A visa for travel is a stamp or sticker that goes inside your passport; they allow you access into a country.
Some countries — such as most in Europe — do not require a travel visa at all, while other countries such as China and Vietnam require that you have a visa already issued before you arrive. A country can even detain you in the airport and put you back on the plane if you did not obtain proper permission to enter in the form of a visa for travel. Do a little research!
Do I Need a Visas for Travel?
Unfortunately, there is no cut and dry answer to this question. To make matters worse, visa requirements can change for countries every year or so, so make sure your source of information is reliable.
The best way to find out is to go to each destination’s embassy website to see the visa requirements for your country of citizenship. Different countries of origin may have different travel visa requirements, so you cannot always take another traveler’s word for it.
Travel Visa Resources:
Visas for travel requirements for US citizens can be found here.
Visas on Arrival
Many friendly countries offer a “visa on arrival.” This means that you may obtain the necessary visa once you arrive at their airport or border crossing. The length of these visas are typically 30 days, but can be as little as two weeks or as long as one year! Many times you will be asked to provide at least one passport-sized photo of yourself; carry extra photos in your money pouch just in case.
Sometimes you should obtain your visa for travel in your home country before arrival at your destination, even if it is offered on arrival. This will help you avoid long lines in the airports, and may grant you a longer stay before your visa expires and you have to make a border crossing known to many as the dreaded “visa run.”
To get visas for travel you typically have to mail your passport — a frightening concept — along with the completed forms to the country’s embassy in your home country. They will stamp your passport, collect a fee, and mail it back to you. If you choose this option, pay the extra for certified mail with tracking options. If nothing else, you’ll get some peace of mind if your passport is a few days late coming back.
Visa Rules and Regulations
The visa requirements in some countries can be daunting. In many cases, many of the rules are not enforced. One such rule is the “onward ticket” requirement. The claim is that you must show proof of a means to exit the country before you are allowed in. This is rarely enforced, and many travelers buy a one-way ticket then exit via a border crossing overland to visit neighboring countries. For instance, you fly into Thailand which has the onward ticket requirement and plan to cross into Cambodia by bus.
Many times laws are in place to give the officials a mechanism to deny who they want. Showing adequate proof of funds — which may simply be a valid credit card or US $100 cash — will do the trick. For more peace of mind, check the backpacking forums to hear from other travelers and their experiences.
Some border officials are nicer than others. If you catch one on a bad day, they DO have the option of throwing some outdated law at you or making your life difficult. Believe it or not, appearance does matter, and simply cleaning up before you cross a border can make your life easier. Remember that the agent’s twitchy stamp hand could change your entire trip; so smile, be polite even in the face of their insensitivity, and follow directions closely — especially when filling out the forms.
You will often be asked routine questions at the border such as “What is your business here?” and “What is your occupation?”. These guys are hardly interested in your life story or even an accurate answer, so just give honest-yet-short answers; be confident! Save yourself some effort by not mentioning that you are “vagabonding” which will probably bring more questions. Simply state that you are visiting on holiday as a tourist. If you are unemployed, say that you are a student. We are all students of life.
- Read these tips for crossing land borders easily.
Other Travel Visa Considerations
- Getting a visa for travel stamp in your passport for Israel may make entering Arab countries more difficult later. Jordan and Egypt are still allowing entry at this time, but other Arab countries will discriminate against you for having the Israeli stamp. Some travelers have them put the stamp on a piece of paper that is stapled inside of the passport, then tear it out later. Do not try to remove or mutilate the stamp if it goes into your passport, the entire passport could be declared invalid!
- Border officials are legendary wasters of passport pages. In fact, I am certain that they are sent to a special school that teaches them how to place a stamp just right to take up maximum room in your passport. Although having every page in your passport stamped is certainly a goal to aim for, it can also mean having to get a new passport before your next trip!
- China — despite their efforts at globalization — is still a highly bureaucratic communist country. When filling out the application, avoid mentioning Tibet or other areas of controversy. Also, “journalists” may require a special visa for fear that you will spread the unedited and non-government-approved truth about the interior of the country.
- Beware of “administrative boundaries” in countries. For instance, traveling from the Chinese mainland to Hong Kong or Macau, counts as leaving the country and uses your one-entry on a travel visa. You have to pay more for multiple entries if you wish to return back to the mainland
Relax! Crossing a border, especially if it is your first trip, can be a nervous experience. There may be guards with machine guns and lots of guys in uniform. Unless you are carrying a backpack full of drugs (don’t even think about it!) you have nothing to worry about, and will most likely be welcomed into a new country.