A VISA for An African Safari – But I already have a passport!
Yes, even on an African safari, you need a passport to travel to Tanzania, BUT you also need a VISA. More often than not, on several of my trips, when I advise potential guests that a VISA is required, invariably, the response is…
”but, I have a passport”. A passport and a visa are two different travel documents. Sometimes both are needed, sometimes just a passport, but with a VISA you must have a passport.
Because so many travelers don’t know that a VISA may be required, I decided to write a blog about the differences between a passport and a visa and when each might be required.
A US Passport Allows You to Travel Internationally
Quite simply a US passport is a document issued by the United States Government, that allows you to travel internationally. To determine what countries require a passport, you should always check the website: travel.state.gov.
That site will provide information on whether a passport is required, as well as the expiration date that must be on your passport. For instance, most passports now, must be valid for SIX months AFTER your return from your trip. If not, you may not be allowed to enter the country you are trying to get to.
For example, you are planning to return from a trip in December and your passport expires the following month, or January. You may not be allowed to even board the plane if the country to which you are traveling has that requirement.
The requirements vary with each destination. In that case your passport must be valid six months from the December date. This has been in effect for some countries forever, but lately, more and more countries are adopting that policy. It is always wise to check before you leave, so you’re not surprised at the airport.
For some Countries a Passport is Not Absolutely Required
There are some countries, i.e., Mexico and Canada, depending on your port of entry, or whether by foot, by plane or ship, that a passport may not be absolutely required as long as you have all other necessary documents. With the recent change in rules, today, it is wise and strongly recommended that you travel with a passport, no matter where you travel – if it’s international.
Sometimes, it could be on entry BACK into the United States where you could have a problem, not flying TO the country. You could find yourself looking for an Embassy in a foreign country to get the problem resolved.
This is especially true of some cruises. Always check with the State Department or your cruise company. Typically, tour and cruise companies do not take responsibility for advising you, so it is your responsibility to check yourself. I have personally seen travelers turned back or sent to the American Embassy to try to get their situation corrected. It cannot be done at the point of entry. This takes time, and really puts a damper on your travel experience. Situations like these are often preventable.
While most travel agents will advise you, if they know, and if they are booking you to a destination that requires a passport/visa, rules change daily and they are not responsible for advising you of current restrictions. Be smart, check yourself on an official site.
What is a Visa and what is it used for?
A VISA is a document issued by the country to which you are traveling. It allows you entry, exit and provides a limited duration of stay. Many countries today require a VISA. Some do not. This document is in addition to your passport. There may or may not be a charge to obtain a VISA. Be advised that some countries charge upwards of $100 to enter their country.
Some countries allow you to get a VISA on entry, others require a VISA be obtained in advance and you cannot board a plane without it. There are also many different ways in which a VISA is issued. A VISA can be a separate piece of paper that is carried in your passport or it can be a stamp in your passport, or a sticker in your passport.
It can be a tourist VISA, a work VISA or a transit VISA. It can be a single or multiple entry VISA. Be sure you know the type that is required for the country you are visiting and the restrictions.
VISAs are usually good for a specified period of time ONLY. That too, can be found on travel.state.gov for the country to which you are traveling. You’ll want to ensure that you know the date it expires, if you overstay, you could find yourself in a situation that may take some time and effort to get out of, or with legal woes.
Check if a Visa is Required, BEFORE You Travel
The bottom line is if you don’t check, BEFORE you travel, you might be in for a problem. Don’t wait until the last minute. Some countries, i.e., Brazil or China can take some time to have a VISA issued, so always do it ahead of time, but within the specified time limits so it doesn’t expire before you use it.
With the every changing rules and regulations, be sure you know before you go. It is often when one is planning a trip on their own, without benefit of a tour company or travel agent, that they run into problems. I’ve seen it time and time again. Buyer beware. You’ll be glad you did.
Safarikay@earthlink.net – destined-to-travel.com – findyourselfinafrica.com