They may not be the most glamorous part of your trip planning, but visas are pretty important – for a lot of international destinations you won’t be able to board your flight without one. But how do you get one and when do you need them?
What type of passport do I need?
Visa requirements differ according to which country issued your passport and where your travelling to. British citizens should head to the UK Foreign Office website – they’ve got all the information you’ll need, plus you can sign up for email alerts about current political or economic situations in your chosen destination. Having an e-Passport definitely makes things easier, and is an entry requirement for some countries. These electronic passports were first issued in the UK in March 2006, so if you got yours after this date then it’s probably fitted with a small chip that holds all your data – name, date of birth, and a biometric identifier. They make applying for visas a whole lot easier!
Which countries do UK passport holders need visas for?
Being a part of the EU means you have freedom of movement across all 28 member states. Other popular destinations do not require UK citizens to obtain a visa for short stays. Visas are not needed for trips to:
- Argentina – for up to 90 days
- Bahamas – 21 days
- Brazil – 90 days
- Costa Rica – 3 months
- Indonesia – 30 days
- Japan – 90 days
- Mexico – 180 days
- New Zealand – 6 months
- Singapore – 90 days
- Thailand – 30 days
In some countries you’re able to apply and pay for a visa on arrival. This includes some popular Southeast Asian destinations such as Cambodia and Laos. Australia and the US are slightly different: Australia requires a free eVisitor for trips of up to three months and for the US you’ll need an ESTA which is valid for two years.
Then there are those destinations where there’s no avoiding it; you have to apply for a visa before booking a flight to these places:
- North Korea
Don’t see your destination on this page? Check with the FCO for the full list.
Tips on applying for travel visas:
1. Check how long you’ve got left on your passport
Most countries will ask that your passport is valid for at least three months beyond the date you intend to leave, so check this before you start getting bogged down with the paperwork.
2. Going for less than three months? Get all visas before you travel
It’s easier to apply for visas before you go if you’re travelling for less than three months, and it’s one less thing to worry about when you should be busy having fun – trust me, sitting in stuffy embassies all afternoon is no fun when the sun’s shining! If there’s a country you’re planning to stop by after three months then you’ll probably have to get a visa whilst you’re on the road, as you probably won’t be able to get it more than a few months in advance.
3. Check the embassy’s website before you visit
Save yourself a wasted journey and take all of the paperwork you’ll need on the first trip to the embassy of the country you’re apply for a visa for. Their website will usually list what’s required, but I found it useful to travel with a photocopy of my passport, spare passport photos and printed travel itineraries (flight booking details, tickets) as proof of onward travel. Have these things to hand and you’ll save time sourcing this while you’re in a foreign country trying to figure it all out. Plus, if you have to hand in your actual passport for the application then it’s wise to have a photocopy of it to carry whilst it’s off being approved – in some countries it’s illegal to be without at least a photocopy, so carry one at all times!
4. Consider how long it’s going to take
You could get lucky and have your application approved in a day, you might have to go back two to three days later, or, if you’re really unlucky, your application might get delayed or declined altogether. Make sure you leave plenty of time for all eventualities and don’t leave applying to the last minute. You don’t want to get stuck or have to miss a flight because you’re waiting on a pesky piece of paper for the next part of your journey.
5. Have a Plan B
Just in case things don’t go according to plan and you can’t obtain a visa for whatever reason, have an alternative route mapped out that you can move on to should this happen.
Did you find this useful? Let em know in the comments section below.
Find more tips for planning your next trip here, including what to pack and which vaccinations you’ll need.