Disaster Averted: Always check visa requirements First!

– Posted in: Travel Planning
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The times, they are a-changin!  Take travel visas for instance.

Always check Visa Requirements before purchasing flights!

If you book your own flights, check visa requirements for the countries you want to visit first. If you book flights and holidays via a travel agent, check visa requirements first. Yes. Do it yourself. Trust me, you can’t rely on travel agents to advise or alert you to any changes; half the time they don’t know anyway.

You’d think it was the obvious thing to do, I know, but I’ve got friends who’ve been just about everywhere in the world, travelling extensively and they’ve admitted to being caught out and either been unable to leave the country of origin and/or refused entry into their destination country. They’d simply assumed that they didn’t need a visa because they hadn’t needed one last time, which was a mere few months previous.

“3 Months” was one day too long

Take my recent experience for example. Deciding to have a “3 month” holiday in Europe beginning in France,  my friend and I began to plan a vague-ish itinerary. She spends at least one month in France each year and has done for years (because she loves the place). Last year she stayed 3 months and the year before, 6 months. (She REALLY loves the place). You could say she knows her way around. When I asked her about visa’s she simply waved her arms and told me that “the French don’t even check your passports!”  Hmmm  that was LAST year. It’s just as well I checked.

The actual days we’d be in Europe is 91 if we were to take the flights we’d found, which was one day too long!  Had we continued booking without checking we may have been refused entry, or been fined $600 +, and/or even been refused re-entry into France for several years in the future! Extreme! The “rules” were changed about 6 months ago. Australian passport holders can now stay only 90 days on a “short-stay” visa. Any longer requires a Schengen Visa.

Schengen Visas

User-friendly NOT!

User-friendly NOT!

To apply for a Schengen Visa we’d have had to fly to Sydney, having previously obtained an appointment with the French Consulate (the next available appointment would to be 2 months in the future!) where they’d take our fingerprints and charge us an arm and a leg. It’s not possible to call or email the Consulate to receive any advice on visas; you must apply for an appointment on their website, and their website is about as user-friendly as a concrete umbrella.

Visas for Thailand – another anomaly to watch for

Arriving in Thailand by plane Australians get a 30 day visa-free exemption; most of us probably know that. But cross over by land (many travellers cross over from Laos) and we get only 15 days.

In 2013 citizens of US, Canada, UK, Germany, France, Italy and Japan were “upgraded” to a 30-day free entry overland, but Australians weren’t invited to the party. In this case if you want to stay longer than 15 days in Thailand, it’s possible to do a “visa run” into a neighbouring country. That’s just a case of entering and exiting, enabling your passport to be stamped (and paying the required fee).  When I needed to do this I took a quick run up to Myanmar from Chiang Mai. 

“Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you
Is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’.”

Bob Dylan

Multiple-Entry Visa for Vietnam

If you’re planning a trip to Vietnam and have the time and the inclination to check out neighbouring countries make sure you obtain a “multiple-entry” visa.

 

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