Essential Travel Documents – Passports And Visas

“I got three passports, couple of visas
Don’t even know my real name.”
– Talking Heads

Sometimes, the world is wrapped and bound in bureaucratic red tape. Although many immigration and customs efforts around the world may look like make-work-projects, they are a necessary part of travel. Below you will find some helpful advice on passports and visas, and other travel documents and identification, to minimize complications and delays.

Passports and Visas

Your passport must be valid for at least six months after your return, and signed. Make sure it has one blank page for every country you plan to visit. Some countries might want two pages – one for the visa and one for the entry/exit stamps.

Research your visa requirements long before your departure. Check which types of visas are available and how much they cost. Some visas are valid for the specified period starting from the date of issue, while others begin their countdown when you enter the country. If you are traveling through several countries requiring visas for an extended period of time, a visa obtained in your home country may expire before you even reach the country in question.

If you’re on a long trip, you’ll have to get visas en route. This takes extra research and planning to locate appropriate embassies and consulates along the way. Capital cities usually have embassies for neighboring countries. Some countries require a reference letter from your own embassy or consulate, which can be inconvenient and costly.

Middle Eastern visas obtained at embassies in neighboring countries

Middle Eastern visas obtained at embassies in neighboring countries

Always carry Euros or US cash and a black pen when crossing into a new country. Some countries will refuse visa applications filled out in any other color, and will only accept Euros or US dollars for the visa application fee.

Although most countries issue visas upon arrival, make sure you know which visas are available at the border, and which ones you must have before you get there. It best to get your visas before leaving home, as the application, approval and issuance could take a month or more. Some visas are single-entry while others are multiple-entry. Are visa extensions easy (or even possible) to obtain? How many can you get?

Identification and Documentation

Make photocopies of all your documents, identification, debit/credit cards and plane tickets. Leave one with a friend, family member or bank manager back home, and stuff one in your backpack. Also, record the serial number of all your traveler’s cheques. All these things will help in reissuing any lost or stolen items.

Carry copies of your passport’s identification page and current visa page. This allows you to leave your passport locked-up inside your hotel room or safe, but still have some identification if local authorities ask to see any. Have these photocopies notarized, in case you must use them for re-issuing documents and/or identification.

Some hotel and rental agencies ask that you leave your passport with them for the duration of their services. Only do this if absolutely necessary.

African and South American Visas

African and South American Visas

Valid and legitimate excuses for not producing your documents include: the next country’s embassy has it for an onward visa processing, and I need it to exchange traveler’s cheques at the bank.

Also, consider bringing a birth certificate and driver’s license. They can act as sufficient identification for things like hotel and bicycle deposits. Some countries require an international driving permit to rent vehicles. Check these requirements if you plan to do so.

Money Matters

Hostel cards can save you money on accommodation at member and affiliate hostels. Similarly, student cards can reduce admission fees and even the price of transportation in some cases.

Many countries require proof of onward travel and/or sufficient funds before allowing travelers to enter. A plane ticket home and/or a major credit card will usually be satisfactory. You probably won’t have to provide either if you look respectable.

But, if you must prove solvency, a credit card with an expiry date beyond your intended length of stay should do, whether the limit is maxed or not. If you don’t have a ticket home but require one, buy a refundable return ticket from wherever and however you entering the country. You might have to absorb the cost if you don’t use it or get a refund.

Check your country’s government travel website for information on passports and visas, document requirements and advisories for your destination and particular nationality.

Australian Visa Fact Sheet

Australian Visa Fact Sheet

With a bit of research and effort, things go a lot more smoothly at the border. The best ways to avoid any border hassles that could curtail your travel plans are to look respectable, be patient and smile, and have your passports and visas in order.


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