"Do I need a visa?" and other advice before entering a new country


1st Jan 2015 Travel

"Do I need a visa?" and other advice before entering a new country

Travelling is an exciting prospect for most people, but when you arrive in a country unprepared your adventure can soon turn into a nightmare.

While some countries may let you collect a visa at customs, others require you to arrange one in advance. Once you and your passport are safely into your country of choice, there are still more rules to observe. For example, did you know you may face arrest for taking pictures of military facilities in Ghana? Or that you cannot use a bank card issued by an American bank in Cuba? With just a little insight, you can leave each country as peacefully as you entered.


Making sure you get a visa

The best way to determine whether you need a visa for the country of your choice is to check with their consular website. For example, if you want to check on the visa requirements for Ghana, check with the Ghanaian embassy in Britain. Alternatively, you can check with the Foreign Office. When preparing for your visa, make sure you get correctly-sized photos, and allow plenty of time for your appointment and the respective return of your passport. Some may allow you to obtain your visa within a 24-hour period, whereas others may require up to three weeks.

In addition to obtaining a visa, ensure your passport is within date. While some countries allow you to travel up until the very last day, others may need you to have more than six months available before the expiry. Finally, some countries require a yellow fever vaccination certificate before you can travel in or out. If you are unsure, check with the NHS Fit for Travel website or with the World Health Organization.

Observing local customs

Managing your finances can be difficult when entering and exiting some countries. If you are the proud owner of an American Express card, don't expect to be allowed to use it in Cuba. Similarly, you have to pay an exit tax when leaving the country, so check out the rates and ensure you have enough money to board your plane. Before travelling to any country, check as to whether you'll have easy access to a cash machine, or whether you need to change your money as soon as you arrive in the airport. This is particularly important when travelling to remote areas of the developing world, or even those that are simply not urbanised.

It is always advisable to be mindful of local customs. While many people parade around barefooted when the sun is shining in the UK, or even in other parts of Europe, it is rude to show the soles of your feet in Thailand. In addition, when visiting temples in Thailand or other Buddhist countries, you should avoid touching religious displays. Doing so can invoke panic amongst those who are superstitious, and it may even result in a contentious interaction.

Above all, always research the country you are visiting before you set foot on the plane. Ladening yourself with information is the easiest way to ensure you don't put a foot wrong, which in turn allows you to enjoy your holiday without any stresses.


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