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Mark Moxon's Travel Writing

Travel Tips: Visas

Entry visas for some countries can be a nightmare, and for others they can be no problem at all. The difficulty is that the rules are different depending on the nationality of the passport you hold, the country you want to visit, the kind of visit you want to make, and the state of political relations between the two countries.


Australian tourist visa
Australian tourist visa
Australian working holiday visa
Australian working holiday visa

Australia provides some fantastic visas for young people (which they define as those under 30), but once you break the 30 barrier you're pretty much restricted to being a tourist only. If you can get one, a working holiday visa is a cracker, as it lets you live and work in Australia for a year and doesn't cost a bomb. Failing that, you can get three- and six-month tourist visas pretty easily, but you'll need enough funds to see you through your trip.

Burkina Faso

Three-month tourist visa for Burkina Faso
Burkinabe tourist visa

Most people pass through Burkina Faso on their way between Ghana and Mali, and if you're doing it the way I did it – Mali to Ghana – prepare yourself for a bit of a treasure hunt to find the Burkinabe embassy in Bamako. It's miles out of town, past the Medina and beyond the Hippodrome, and by far the best way to get there is by taxi, because it's tucked away in a block of anonymous concrete buildings in the middle of nowhere, and without local knowledge you could end up enjoying a tour of some of the less thrilling suburbs of the city. You need to get there early, too, so a taxi is by far the best bet.


The southern half of Cyprus joined the European Union in 2004; even before this, it was a breeze for owners of a burgundy EU passport to wander through passport control without so much as a stamp. Beware of crossing into the Turkey-occupied north, though; although the form filling is a formality and there's rarely any problem with a day trip to the north, you should make sure that the Turkish authorities don't accidentally stamp your passport, or you may have problems getting back into the southern half. Luckily the border staff are pretty clued up, but it's worth keeping your wits about you to avoid any nasty surprises. Also, although we were expecting to pay for our Turkish visas, they were issued free of charge. You may have to pay, though; as ever, the rules change regularly.

French Polynesia

Entry stamp for Rikitea, French Polynesia
Entry stamp for Rikitea

French Polynesia has practically the same entry requirements as France, so if you're European, you're laughing. I was allowed to stay for three months and didn't need a visa to enter the country; I think this also applies to most European countries, but to check your best bet is to contact a French embassy in your home country, as French Polynesia is administrated from France.


Ghanaian three-month tourist visa
Ghanaian tourist visa

Like so many other ex-British colonies, Ghana's bureaucracy is legendary, and the form you have to fill in to get a tourist visa is long, needs to be filled out a number of times, and requires more photos than you'd think they'd need in a lifetime. On the other hand, if you're from the UK and smile a lot at the man in the embassy, the chances are you'll get your visa without any hassle.

The Gambia

Gambian entry and exit stamps
Gambian entry and exit stamps

If you're from a Commonwealth country or a handful of other European countries, you don't need a visa to visit the Gambia. All you need is a valid passport and a friendly face, and the immigration people will stamp your passport with a visitor's pass that's valid for 30 days. Given the size of the Gambia, that's ample time to explore the country, and if you really need more time it's easy to pop over the border into Senegal and back to get yourself another pass (similarly you can 'extend' your Senegalese stay by popping into the Gambia for a top-up).


Indian six-month tourist visa (2007)
Indian tourist visa (2007)
Indian six-month tourist visa (1997)
Indian tourist visa (1997)

India bureaucracy is legendary and most people need a visa to enter the country, but luckily it's not a nightmare to get hold of one, even though it can take a fair amount longer than the over-the-counter experience you get from the more enlightened embassies. Even if you're visiting India for a week's holiday, you'll probably be issued with a six-month visa, but they're not massively expensive, so it's no great waste of resources.


Indonesian entry and exit stamps
Indonesian entry and exit stamps

Most people get two months of visa-free travel in Indonesia, but extending this period is not really practical. Indeed, if you want more than two months in Indonesia, your best bet is to simply leave the country after two months, to wait a week or so, and to re-enter the country to get another two months.


Malaysian entry and exit stamps
Malaysian entry and exit stamps

Malaysia is another trouble-free entry point for most people; on arrival, assuming you're from the right kind of country, you get a two-month entry stamp in their passport on arrival that entitles them to explore Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah (that's quite a good amount of time, to be honest).


Malian one-month tourist visa
Malian tourist visa

Getting my Malian visa was my first experience of African bureaucracy, and although it all worked out OK in the end, I really wasn't sure what I was doing. The first hurdle was to find the Malian embassy in Dakar, which was pretty hard to track down as it had just moved (and it hadn't moved into a nice obvious new building, but into a strange blue concrete monster that looked more like a hostel than an embassy). The taxi driver eventually worked out where it was, though not before giving me a quick tour of the suburbs, but I'd arrived before opening time, so I sat on the steps to wait.


Moroccan exit stamp
Moroccan exit stamp

As Morocco is so close to Europe, the entry requirements for members of the European Union are hardly stringent; I didn't need a visa and could stay for 90 days without any hassle. I wasn't asked for a return flight (even though I had one), and apart from having to specify a specific hotel on arrival, it wasn't a difficult entry.


Nepalese one-month tourist visa
Nepalese 30-day visa

Most people need to get hold of a visa for Nepal, though these are pretty simple to pick up at Nepalese embassies (though, of course, each embassy is a law unto itself, so it's possible that out there somewhere is an embassy where the visa department runs as smoothly as the life of a Nepalese royal). I got my visa in Calcutta as soon as I landed in India, so I could enter Nepal when it was convenient, and they processed my application while I waited. The visa I got entitled me to stay for up to 30 days from the date of my arrival in Nepal.

New Zealand

New Zealand six-month visitor's permit
New Zealand visitor's permit

Being British, entering New Zealand was a piece of cake. I didn't need a visa, I wasn't asked to show any flight tickets (though I had them anyway) and I got a stamp in my passport giving me six months' of work-free exploring time.


Senegalese entry and exit stamps
Senegalese entry and exit stamps

People from a handful of countries – including the UK and the USA – can enter Senegal without a visa, which makes Dakar a very handy entry point for West Africa (especially as Morocco, which is similarly easy to enter, is blocked off from the rest of the region by Mauritania, which is a pig to get a visa for). For those unlucky enough to require a visa, it's a relatively simple affair to pick one up, as Senegal is pretty switched on to tourism, being such a popular destination for the French.


Singaporean entry and exit stamps
Singaporean entry and exit stamps

Entering Singapore was a breeze, and I was given a stamp in my passport entitling me to 30 days in the country without any hassle at all. Without a doubt, 30 days is more than enough time to explore the city. If you need to stay longer, then you're probably there on business, in which case I wouldn't have a clue what you need to do.


Thai entry and exit stamps
Thai entry and exit stamps - the top one indicates an overstay of one day

Most visitors to Thailand used to get a month of visa-free travel, but I think it's changed now. Whatever, applying for a visa is normally no hassle. You get a stamp on entering that doesn't tell you much except for the date you entered, which is probably all you need to know.