When visas are important
To a backpacker, a visa is the country’s governments way of
collecting a tax off of foreigners who want to visit and a way
of getting more money from them if they stay over their time
limit. Officially, it is a means of governmental control to
ensure they screen whoever enters into their country, limit
what they can do, and limit the length of stay. Overall, it’s just
some extra work that you are going to have to do to enter into
A visa is often a full page sticker that a country’s consulate
will place on a blank page within your passport. Its purpose is
to give the border guards clear information on: when you are
allowed to cross into their country, how long you are able to
stay in the country, and place restrictions on your activities
(being able to work, go to school, etc).
Finding out if you require a visa is part of your research when
you decide to cross over into another country. If you have to
get a Visa or specifying which types of visas you are eligible
for is completely up to that country’s local government. Go on
the Internet and check with your country’s Department of
Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) for that
particular country’s entrance requirements. Don’t rely on your
guidebook’s stated entry requirements. Depending on how a
specific country feels towards another will dictate what is
required. They may change suddenly and without warning.
There are several different types of visas you can apply for.
The following is a list of visas that are commonly used by
Transit: This means that you are passing through the country
and not planning on staying any particular period of time. This
visa is usually valid for one or two nights. Most times they
enforce that you must enter via one border crossing and leave
via a different one. If the country has strict entry requirements,
such as you have to have an invite in or a pre-booked
accommodation and haven’t done that, use this visa. It will get
you a small taste of the country and let you into the next
country on your route.
Tourist single entry: This is the most common visa that
allows you to enter once through one border crossing, stay for
a specific allotment of time, and leave via the same or
different border crossing. You can leave through any border
crossing to another country that you like, even the one you
came in from. If you want to go back into the country, you
will need to purchase another visa.
Tourist multiple entries: You are allowed to leave the
country and then return without needing to reapply for a visa.
These tend to be more expensive than single entry visas. If
you know that your travels will take you back to this country,
a tourist multiple entry visa is the more cost effective.
Student: You are allowed to attend school in that country, but
not to work.
Work: You are allowed to seek employment in the country.
These are usually hard to get, take a long time to be processed
and cost a fair bit. Many times you have to be sponsored by a
company that can prove that you have the skill sets to do the
job and no one else in their country can. You have to apply for
this visa while in your own country.
Residency: You are allowed to live in the country, go to
school, and work. Being backpackers, we never get these
Once you have determined that you need a visa, there are
several steps you have to take before you can finally get that
visa in your passport. On average it takes me one to three days
before I receive a visa from a consulate.
Start by researching the entry requirements for the country.
Check out the destination country’s website since it is
important to know the rules on how to get into to the country.
In general, to apply for a visa you are required to produce two
passport photos, your passport, a completed form, and money.
For stricter countries, you may need to be ‘invited in’ by
someone who is already a resident of that country, produce
specific travel insurance or have your travel itinerary prebooked
Once you have gathered the required items and information,
you have to find your destination country consulate in your
current country. The consulates are usually located in one of
your current country’s major cities. Your guidebook and the
Internet are great resources to find the location and operating
hours of a specific consulate. Make a note of the operating
hours, some are open strange hours and can be a little
frustrating if you finally find the place and it’s closed.
When you finally arrive at the consulate, you will have to fill
out a couple forms stating your personal information and
intention for entering into the country. They will ask you to
surrender or “give” your passport to them. Make sure you get
a receipt. You will need to present the receipt to them to get
your passport back. The process usually takes a couple of
days. If you are in rush and need a passport faster, many of
them offer rush services where they can have the visa done for
you while you wait. This usually costs a premium.
If you want to be lazy and spend some extra money, you can
let a hotel or travel agency do it for you. It does take a bit
longer and you have to trust them with your passport. What
they do is have you fill out all the necessary forms in the
comfort of your hostel/hotel and then have someone go to the
consulate and apply for your visas. Once the passports are
ready to be collected, the agent will go to the consulate, pick
up the passports and drive back and hopefully find you. You
will have to pay the standard visa processing fee plus extra for
the service. I would strongly recommend against this. Always
do it yourself. Never be caught in a foreign country without