For those who don’t know, your passport isn’t enough when entering some foreign countries. Don’t be the person who holds up the terribly slow immigration line with a dumb look on your face.
Morgan and I traveled to eight SE Asian countries: Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Japan, India, and Singapore. If you’re planning a trip to a different country, it’s okay…I still got something for ya.
Disclaimer: All information is based on our experiences with US passports
Visa: The certificate or stamp on an applicant’s passport given by an immigration officer in a foreign country. There are multiple forms of visas (Tourist, Business, Marriage, Work, etc.) with varying lengths of stay and number of entries. This post will focus on tourist visa basics and passport regulations.
1. Trust only one website for immigration regulations -> Each country’s respective embassy website
This is where you will find which countries hold Visa exemptions and length of stay. For example: Thai Embassy You will find a list of exempt countries who don’t require payment dependent on desired stay.
2. Take maybe 10-15 minutes researching one month in advance
This will help you choose which Visa site is reliable and the ones ripping people off. It’s not the end of the world if you enter a country blind; however, if you can avoid making that immigration officer repeat the same instructions for the 309th time that day, why not?
Look at blogs (like this one!!), search engines, TripAdvisor reviews, etc. Just pay attention to the dates of the posts to see if the information was updated within the last couple years.
3. Plan for specifics
Some Visas take 1-2 weeks delivery by mail, exact payment in brand new US bills, and/or photocopies of certain documents. Avoid the last-minute scrambles.
If it seems too high, it probably is. The winner for the most expensive Visa we discovered goes to China. A staggering $140! But, this includes multiple entries within 10 years. Worth it if you love the Great Wall, incredible companies like Alibaba, or want to gorge on the best dumplings in the world.
5. Passport photos
For every Visa requiring purchase (not for Visa exemptions), you will need to submit a passport photo. Before you travel, walk in to any UPS, CVS, Walgreens, etc. and buy a set. If you procrastinate *cough* like Morgan *cough* you can find stores that offer passport photos in major cities all over Asia (Morgan found a booth in the Tokyo subway system).
Don’t suffer the process of taking passport photos in the airport, it’s expensive and you likely want to have a beer in your hand within the hour of landing. In general, no one wants a photo taken of themselves after an international flight. Neck pillows only do so much.
6. Proof of departure
When applying for an online visa, you will either be asked rough travel dates or exact dates. Upon arrival, you will be asked to fill out an arrival and a departure card. Yes, before you’re in they want to know when you’re out. The departure card will ask for…you guessed it…your departure information!
If you’re backpacking, you likely don’t know where you’re sleeping the next night, let alone what city you’ll be in. As long as you don’t overstay, don’t stress about the particulars.
7. Passport rules
Most countries require one or two open pages for stamps + an expiration date not within the next 3 months, 6 months, and sometimes 1 year. It pays off doing your research so you’re not sent home from a work vacation, family trip, or worse….your honeymoon. ‘For Better or For Worse’ won’t prepare for you that depressing flight home…
Alright, we’re done! This is part 1 of 2 for the visa and passport series. Next part will focus on the specific countries Morgan and I visited and their Visa requirements. Thank you for reading, we hope you learned something today!
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