Definition of Visa:
An official authorization appended to a passport, permitting entry into and travel within a particular country or region.
Before traveling internationally, you must determine if the country that you are visiting requires a visa. Some visas are obtained upon arrival, while others must be secured in advance. Some visas not only have to be arranged in advance, but have to be applied for in your country of origin! Some visas are freeeeee(!) and others have a fee 🙁 .
All basic visas will have a maximum stay, with some options to extend your duration. Some countries will require that you provide proof of onward travel. If this is the case, and you do not have a ticket showing departure from that destination, you may be denied boarding on your flight. Some countries require proof of certain immunizations, and detailed accommodation reservations at your point of arrival. Others now require that you carry your birth certificate and social security card, in addition to your passport which has to have a 6 month validity beyond your departure date (South Africa Consulate).
It is advised that you have copies of all of your identification (scanned and emailed to yourself as backup), including banking information that shows proof of sufficient funds, and a dozen or so passport photos for various paperwork. It is also advised that you carry crisp US dollars to purchase some visas at border crossings.
The best source for determining visa requirements for US citizens can be found here:
You can also hire a visa service company (i.e. – VisaHQ) to muddle through your entry requirements, but we plan on saving that extra expense.
Since visa/ entry requirements are constantly changing, we will have to double-check all rules before we head to a new country. Dan and I have personal “bad luck” experience with this when we traveled to Paraguay the DAY AFTER they instated a new visa requirement for US citizens. We found ourselves in the sticky situation of bribing our way into the country, and then paying a higher fee upon our exit.
Below are the current rules for the countries we are planning to visit (excerpted from travel.state.gov). I will forewarn you of a major snooze factor!:
Travelers normally receive a free, three-month tourist visa upon arrival in Israel, which may be extended. Israel no longer stamps passports with an entry stamp, but instead provides all travelers with an entry card, although they reserve the right to stamp the passport. All travelers should retain this entry card throughout the duration of their stay in Israel as it is their proof of lawful entry. Although not required for exit, travelers are advised to have their entry card to avoid delays when departing Israel.
Jordan issues visas to U.S. citizens for a fee at most international ports of entry and at most international land border crossings upon arrival. *30 day stay* The visa currently costs 40 JD (approximately USD$56.50) for a single entry one month validity, 60 JD (approximately USD$85.00) for two entries three months validity, and 120 JD (approximately USD$170.00) for a multiple entry six months validity. An exit fee of 10 JD (USD$14.12) is accessed to all visitors departing through the King Hussein/Allenby Bridge. Visas can also be obtained from any Jordanian embassy or consulate ahead of travel. The visa application fee, chargeable only at a Jordanian embassy or consulate, is 5 JD (approximately USD$7.50).
*An update – We learned that since we were planning to exit Israel overland via the King Hussein Bridge, that they do NOT issue visas at this border, and we had to obtain our visa in the US before departure. We went to the consulate in San Francisco, where the lady was extremely friendly and helpful with the process. Our big concern was that the less expensive visa required that we enter the country within a 2-month window, which was sooner than our plans. They were willing to hold on to our passports and delay issuing the visa by 4 days so that we would meet our arrival date requirement, but they ultimately went ahead and issued a visa that allowed us to enter the country within a 3 month period without charging us an additional fee.
Visitors, including those on official U.S. government business, must apply for visas at an Indian Embassy or Consulate abroad before entering the country. Indian visa regulations change frequently, often with little advance notice, and changes may be poorly advertised and inconsistently enforced. Travelers are urged to check the website of the Indian Embassy in Washington, D.C. before any travel to India to review the most current information. If you travel on a tourist visa, you are generally given six months of legal stay upon entering India; extensions are rarely granted. Indian visas may be obtained in the United States through BLS International Services, the Government of India’s visa contractor. *Yellow fever required for entry if entering from a country where yellow fever is present.
*An update – This was one of the most complicated, pain-in-the-ass visas to obtain. We had a thick stack of paperwork for our family (including questions about religious beliefs and any Pakistani family lines!), which took me several hours to complete, and we had to provide fingerprints for our children and notarized documents from our bank. Each passport required its own individual delivery fees / envelopes and cost us about $650 total.
South Africa –
South African law requires travelers to have two fully blank visa pages. Blank “endorsement” pages are not sufficient. The blank pages must be “visa” pages. All travelers should have at least two fully blank passport visa pages upon each arrival in South Africa, including following trips to neighboring countries. U.S. citizen visitors to South Africa for tourism, short business meetings, or in transit do not require visas for stays of up to 90 days. Where BOTH parents are travelling with a child, parents must produce an unabridged birth certificate of the child reflecting the particulars of the parents of the child (named on the cert!). Travelers entering South Africa from WHO-designated yellow fever countries are required to present their current and valid “International Certificate of Vaccination as approved by the World Health Organization (WHO)” (commonly called a “yellow card”) or statement of medical exemption (also located on the same yellow card). *This includes Zambia.
A passport and visa are normally required. Bearers of U.S. passports who plan to visit Namibia for tourism for less than 90 days can obtain visas at the port of entry and do not need visas prior to entering the country. We strongly encourage all travelers to or from Namibia via South Africa to have six or more un-stamped visa pages in their passport.
A passport with at least six months of validity remaining is required. U.S. citizens are permitted stays up to 90 days total within a 12-month period without a visa.
You need a passport, visa, return ticket, and adequate funds to enter Zimbabwe. If you are traveling to Zimbabwe for tourism, business, or transit, you can obtain a visa at the airports or other border ports-of-entry, or in advance by contacting the Embassy of Zimbabwe at 1608 New Hampshire Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. 20009; telephone (202) 332-7100. Zimbabwean Immigration officials at Harare airport and other ports of entry are authorized to admit U.S. citizens without an entry visa. U.S. citizens entering Zimbabwe for tourism only can expect to pay $30 for a single-entry, 30-day duration of stay permit upon entering the country.
U.S. citizens traveling to Mozambique must acquire the appropriate visa prior to entering the country. Although Mozambican Immigration has the authority to issue one-entry visas for US $82 at country points of entry, including airports, and many foreigners have been permitted entry on this basis in the past, this practice is no longer followed for U.S. citizens. U.S. citizens are subject to being denied entry for not having obtained a visa in advance. Additionally, some visa types require a notarized letter of invitation for application. Even after being issued a visa, travelers should be prepared to present this letter at the Point of Entry. U.S. citizens have experienced difficulty gaining admission without this letter, even if holding a valid visa.
*An update – At this time we are not planning to visit Mozambique.
U.S. citizens traveling to Colombia do not need a Colombian visa for a tourist stay of 90 days or less. Travelers entering Colombia are sometimes asked to present evidence of return or onward travel, usually in the form of a plane ticket. The length of stay granted to travelers is determined by the Colombian immigration officer at the point of entry and will be stamped in your passport.
Ecuadorian immigration officials also sometimes request evidence of return or onward travel, such as an airline ticket. Under Ecuadorian law, U.S. citizens traveling for business or tourism on a tourist passport can enter Ecuador for up to 90 days per calendar year without a visa. Once you have entered Ecuador, Ecuadorian authorities require you to carry identification, including proof of U.S. citizenship, at all times. Because of the frequency of passport theft in Ecuador, you should carry a photocopy of your passport (including the personal data page and the entry stamp and/or visa) rather than your actual passport.
Central America – Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Belize, and Mexico…ohmigawd, when does this end???
We are also open to potential stops in the Seychelles, Sri Lanka, Lesotho, and Swaziland, but I am already bored with visa searching!