Obtaining Travel Visas as a US Citizen


The only real planning I’m doing prior to setting off for my trip, besides the airline tickets I’ll need, is obtaining the necessary travel visas for countries I plan to visit. Some of them, like New Zealand and Singapore, don’t require visas to be obtained in advance. They’re issued “on arrival” when you go through Customs at your destination airport.

Others require a little bit of preparedness, like Vietnam. I used the website VietnamVisaOnline.net to get mine and it was only $25 USD. You can opt to pay an additional $10 for expedited processing. 

And yet, other countries I’m planning to visit — namely India and Russia — require visas that you must obtain prior to traveling, as they won’t be issued on arrival for U.S. citizens. That means if you book a flight to New Delhi or Moscow and just show up, you’ll be sent back home on the next flight out. Since I’ve never gone about obtaining a visa before, this is all new to me. I leave the U.S. for New Zealand in 12 days and that isn’t enough time to send my passport off to one of the myriads of companies that will get you a Visa. They typically require between 5 and 12 business days for processing, and then add a couple days to that for shipping each way (you have to send your actual passport to them). Since I’ll be needing my passport before then, that isn’t an option.

This leaves only one possible option if I want to backpack through India or Russia on this trip: finding the Indian and Russian embassies in one of the other countries I’m traveling through and obtaining my visa in person. I have no idea what kind of nightmare that’s going to be — I imagine it’s a lot like a trip to the DMV here in the States.

The website I’ve been using to check Visa requirements is VisaHQ.com. They’re one such service you can use to obtain visas for nearly any country in the world. You pay the embassy fee and a service fee, ship them your passport and other required documents, and they do all the leg work. To be clear, I haven’t used their service and can’t vouch for them, but I have found their site helpful as a resource for finding out which countries grant visas on arrival, which require them in advance, and which don’t require a Visa at all.

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About Mike Beauchamp

After a divorce, losing his job, selling his house, a tumultuous relationship and subsequent breakup, Mike sold 80% of his belongings, put another 18% in storage, and packed the remaining 2% into a backpack and hit the road. Mike is currently a vagabond of sorts, traveling the world with only what he can carry on his back. He has two objectives in all of this: to photograph the most beautiful places on Earth and to finally take the time to get to know himself. You can follow Mike on Twitter (@mbchp) for more frequent updates.

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