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Tips For Traveling to Countries Offering Visas Upon Arrival

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Steve Gempeler and Peter Gulas of Allied Passport & Visa are back with their expert knowledge of all things visas and passports. Today, they will be tackling the topic of visas available on arrival and a few countries you may want to reconsider.

For all your visa and passport needs
For all your visa and passport needs

For the sake of simplicity, travel visas can be categorized two ways, visas which need to be obtained before entering a country and visas available upon arrival.

Most countries require visas to be obtained in advance before you are allowed entry (i.e., China, Russia, Brazil, Ghana, etc.). This means you’ll either need to apply for your visa directly through an embassy or indirectly through a visa passport service. In these cases, expenses & time commitments can often be substantial since embassies require applications, photos, payment, plus your actual passport shipped to and from them for processing. Embassy processing times can take anywhere from two days to two weeks or more.

Example of the lengthy and cumbersome China visa application.
Example of the lengthy and cumbersome China visa application.

Fortunately, many countries offer their visitors visas, which can be obtained upon arrival.

Before You Go – Visas on Arrival

Anytime you’re planning an international trip you should always ask yourself, do I need a visa for this country? For American travelers your best resource will be the Department of State website. We recommend simply doing a Google search using the easy to remember keywords: State Department Travel + the country you’re traveling to.

For example, a Google search for “State Department Travel Kenya” will direct you to the Kenya – Bureau of Consular Affairs webpage. From there find the Entry, Exit & Visa Requirements section, which will reveal the following travel requirements:

A passport and visa are required for entry into Kenya. Visas may be obtained in advance, although airport visas are available for U.S. citizens. Travelers who opt to obtain an airport visa should expect delays upon arrival.

Although the State Department recommends travelers obtain visas to Kenya in advance, currently at least, obtaining a visa on arrival is straightforward and only about a five minute affair.

The State Department's website is a good resource when researching visas.
The State Department’s website is a good resource when researching visas.

For countries that do offer visas on arrival like Kenya, make certain, though, that you read further on arrival procedures. For many countries, you cannot simply show up with your passport and expect a smooth entry. Do your research and you’ll be prepared to handle any additional requirements airport immigration officers request such as proof of vaccinations, confirmed hotel reservations, onward flight tickets, additional passport photos or other documents.

One last thing to consider before embarking on a visa on arrival country is to review your passport. Although your passport may not be expired, depending on where you are visiting, your host will require a certain number of month’s validity beyond your date of exit. If your passport has less than six months remaining, it’s time for a renewal.

Secondly, flip through your passport and make certain there is at least one blank visa page (two blank for select countries) remaining. If not, applying for additional passport pages is remarkably easy. If either requirement isn’t fulfilled you will likely be denied entry. For those needing a passport renewal or additional pages in a hurry, Allied Passport can help guide and expedite the process.

Quick Argument for Obtaining a Visa on Arrival in Advance

It doesn’t happen often, but occasionally a country will–just like sudden airline mile devaluations–without warning change or terminate their visa on arrival program altogether. Last month, Mozambique abruptly required all US Citizens to obtain their visas before entry and turned away dozens of stunned travelers, all of whom could claim they did their research beforehand. Imagine taking a four country trip to Southern Africa and upon arrival to Mozambique you’re turned away because you don’t have a visa. Just think of the financial havoc of adjusting your flights, tours and or hotel accommodations.

Another reason to apply for a visa in advance (even if it’s available upon arrival) is price fluctuation. When applying for a visa through an embassy, visa fees are set in stone. A Tanzania visa will cost you $100 applying through the embassy but could vary at your arrival airport. You may also need to pay for your arrival visa in local currency and in the case of Jordan, if you don’t have dinar on hand, you’ll be forced to convert your USD to Dinar via the immigration currency exchange desk for an atrociously poor exchange rate.

Our Recommendations – Reconsidering Visa on Arrival, Get it in Advance!

Peace of mind is a powerful thing when travelling. Allied Passport recommends obtaining visas in advance almost always, even if available upon arrival. However, some country’s visa arrival programs are just too seamless to pass up the opportunity to breeze through immigration and avoid high fees and your precious time.
Here are our recommendations for US Citizen tourists:

Armenia (on arrival) – You’ll have no issues here!

Bahrain (on arrival) – For short stays you simply pay a fee for a visa stamp at the Manama airport.

Bangladesh (in advance) – You can only obtain a visa on arrival at the Dhaka airport and the lines are often long.

Bolivia (on arrival) – If prepared for this one, Bolivia is fairly easy. Upon entry, you’ll need to provide the following documentation: hotel reservations, evidence of yellow fever vaccination (in certain cases), proof of onward travel, proof of adequate funds, and a passport photo. Visa applications are distributed at immigration facilities.

Cambodia (on arrival) – Just provide payment.

Djbouti (on arrival) – Note two blank visa pages side by side are required along with evidence of yellow fever. Only available at the Ambouli International Airport.

Egypt (on arrival) – Another pay and you’re in scenario.

Ethiopia (on arrival) – On arrival only available at the Addis Ababa International airport.

Indonesia (on arrival) – Quick immigration lines at major ports of entry.

Indonesia Embassy in Washington D.C. Photo by Allied Passport
Indonesia Embassy in Washington D.C. Photo by Allied Passport

Jordan (on arrival) – Moderate waiting in line and visa payment in local currency only can be an issue (as discussed earlier), which will likely leave you feeling bitter.

Kenya (on arrival) – Show up, line waits are a luck of the draw.

Lebanon (in advance) – Although it is an easy process, Lebanon’s stability is always in question and their visa on arrival program could change without notice.

Madagascar (on arrival) – Might run into minor delays, but heck, the visa on arrival is free!

Nepal (on arrival) – Fill out a 2-minute landing card, pay and start your trek.

Papua New Guinea (on arrival) – Only available at Port Moresby airport.

Paraguay (on arrival) – On arrival only because if you want to apply in advance you have to make a personal appearance at the embassy in Washington or local consulate offering visa services.

Qatar (on arrival) – Sukran for making it easy.

Senegal (in advance/on arrival) – A complicated two step process. Tourists need to pay in advance online, print out a receipt then submit that receipt upon arrival. Please note the official website to apply is often times down.

Tanzania (in advance) – There have been many reports of wild times and fee fluctuations but this might offset the cost of getting it in advance anyway.

Uganda (in advance) – Go for it.

Zambia and Zimbabwe (in advance) – Be prepared to show proof of lodging, proof of onward travel and proof of funds. Two side by side visa pages are also required. Like Mozambique, we wouldn’t risk possible changes to the on arrival programs. We’ll go with peace of mind for these two countries.

For more information on obtaining international travel visas and receiving a special $5 TPG discount on your order please visit Allied Passport & Visa. Do you have any questions? Ask away in the comments section below.

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