Today, I shall focus upon visas. This topic is always a fun one in our house. They are ridiculously expensive. But, they are a necessary cost if you want to travel! I’m not going to pretend to know everything about them, but here is my knowledge, and tips for hassle free travel.
Being based in the UK, we have an advantage – we don’t need a visa for anywhere in the EU (and several other countries in central Europe). We still need them for certain places though. We are going to jump about throughout the World here, there is no logical way for me to discuss these… Mainly because I will write about them as I remember things!
Turkey: 3 month visa, available on landing. It depends where you are from as to what it costs (all costs are available online). From the UK, it is €15. BUT, if you give them a €20 note, don’t expect change… The people in front of me learnt that one the hard way! You can get them from the consulate (and in e-visa) form before leaving the UK (or your home country) but it actually ends up costing more. You have to pay travel expenses, or special delivery for passports. And, you have to pay a processing fee. So, my advice, check how much it costs before hand, take the correct change, and buy it at the border – it will only take 2 minutes (and that is if you have to queue!)
USA: 3 months, but you need to fill out an online form before you go. Check out ESTA to see what you need to do, and how much you need to pay. If you are under the VWP, then you can stay in the USA for up to 90 days – but this cannot be extended. So if you are planning on being there for any longer, then you HAVE to get a full visa.
Thailand: You get a one month (30 day) entry on arrival. The border will take an eternity anyway (airports or overland) and the guards are fine, and nice to have a chat to, so we get when we arrive. The one thing, which caught us out last time, was: you get 30 days, but if you leave within that time and return, you only get 10 days after you return. Our flight was on day 11 after returning…. Yay, for spending 12 hours in an airport…. It is fine to leave the country and return immediately if this happens to you, but we just didn’t have time! Oh well, you live and learn!
New Zealand: British citizens get 6 months (now I sound like we have been arrested…) without a visa. But, you do have to check for mud on your shoes (this was an unexpected bit of stomping!) But check out the New Zealand VISA information site to see what you need!
Belarus: Get’s my vote for the most expensive visa. I didn’t even get to stay in the country – I had a transit visa, as we were travelling on a train from Poland to Russia. We were in the country for 4 hours, and didn’t even stop – but it cost £44 each. Thats £11 per hour (which is like double minimum wage!) Admittedly, you can’t get through the country without it, so it was needed. But it is still expensive!
Cambodia: We learnt last time. Last time, we bought at the border between Cambodia and Thailand. And had guns waved at us to try and extort more money. It was not a fun experience! But, it was, by the sound of things, infinitely better than the experience of a Canadian couple that we met. They were kept at the border for 3 whole days without being given their passports for not paying extra. The visa should cost $20 per person, and that is all you should have to pay. BUT the guards are not always the most trustworthy. And they do carry guns, and do have your passport. So they extort where they can. We were lucky, Sam is not the tallest, but he is built like a Rugby player, and so was about 4 stone heavier than the guards… and the argument that ensued was broken up by an elderly guard who could tell Sam just wasn’t going to pay any more money. Admittedly, not the best plan Sam has ever had, but it was OK! To solve this problem, we are pre-buying our visas in the embassy in London this year. OK, it costs a little extra as we have to go down there a couple of times to sort them, but we won’t have guns waved in our faces, so I’ll deal with the cost!
Basically, when it comes to visas, if you need them, you have to pay for them or you won’t be going – it’s that simple. But do your research, see if it is going to cost more to get them before you go, see if it will save you time, and fear. But in general, you can buy on arrival at the border. Just research. And make sure you have a legitimate website if you are buying online!
What are your visa/border crossing stories? The more info we are armed with before we go anywhere, the easier it is!!
For more visa tales, check out: Visas and their Hoops