All about Visas


Just had yet another discussion with an international traveller who was amazed that  they needed to get a visa in advance for several of the countries they are planning to visit. “I have a passport“, they said.

A passport is a document issued by your home country that identifies you as a citizen of that country. A visa is essentially a permission note from the country you are visiting indicating you can enter and stay there temporally.

There are many types of visa including:

  • a tourist visa (the most common type of visa)
  • a work visa (this means you can have employment in the home country)
  • working holiday visa (generally issued to young people for 6,12 or 24 months)
  • a medical purpose visa (indicating you will only be in the country for medical attention)
  • Transit visa (indicating you can pass through but not stay in a country)

Before buying a ticket is the best time to find out what visa you will need. Unfortunately many passengers get their visa information after booking and some find out they need a visa on arrival at their departure airport. (Few airlines allow passengers onto a flight these days without checking they have a valid passport or visa for their destination).

Some countries issue visas on arrival and some have visa waiver programs which means that citizens of your home country do not need to apply for a visa to visit. Others have to be applied for in advance and can be hard to get. Early planning is advised. There are companies that will help that I have blogged about before.

Some visas are electronic and others are a stamp in your passport. For some of the countries I have visited, I have received an elaborate (and often beautiful) passport page sized piece of paper stapled or glued to my passport often with my photo and signature affixed.

Visas are either single entry or multiple entry. Note: All visas expire. There is a special section at immigration at Thailand airports for all of the people that overstay their visas. The temptations of food, massage, sun and cheap beer seem to cloud some tourist’s memories of their visa expiry date. Don’t do it!

When planning to travel, these sites will help. As always, do your own research.


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