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Feb 18 2013

Stress-Free Border Crossing Tips

visa, visas, passport, border, crossing, borders, hips

When I travelled around the world, crossing borders from one country to the next became a normal part of my life.  As a result, I learned a few things that I thought might be useful to share with you so you can hopefully enjoy stress-free border crossings:

1.  Check visa expiry dates

This was the most important lesson I learned.  I had been back and forth to Thailand and other Southeast Asian countries and had never thought to check the dates that were stamped in my passport.  That was until I was at the check-in desk at Bangkok airport one day and was told that I couldn’t travel because my visa had expired.  ‘My visa couldn’t have expired’, I thought to myself because I had only been back in the country for a few days.  I opened my passport at the page with the visa stamp and there it was, as clear as day, 8th October.  Damn, it had expired the day before.  ‘How on earth could that be?’, I thought.  As I studied it in more detail, I realised the visa only allowed me to stay in Thailand for 2 days.  When it was stamped at the border, I hadn’t checked the date because it never crossed my mind to do so.  I tried to explain that the person at the border made a mistake but I was ushered off to an office.  ‘Uh, oh, this could be serious’, I feared.  At that point, I was feeling so stressed that the thought of missing my flight never entered my head.  All sorts of other things were going through my head at that point, including ‘what happens if they don’t accept my explanation?’  To my relief, the official very quickly realised it was a mistake and rectified it.  I wanted to give him a hug but realised that probably wouldn’t be appropriate.  I maintained my composure, thanked him and ran back to the check-in desk waving my passport.  Thankfully, I hadn’t missed my flight and I was allowed to board the plane.  Phew!  I would hate anyone to have to go through that so please, please, please check the expiry dates of your visas.

2.  Do your homework

By that I mean find out what is required to get a visa.  Do you need to get it in advance?  If so, what is the procedure, how long is it likely to take to have it approved, and where can you get it from?  It differs depending on the country.  When I was in China, I wanted to stay longer than my visa allowed.  To renew it, someone from the hostel I was staying at came with me because I had to go to the police station first for them to approve it and then to another office to actually get the visa.

3.  Passport photographs

It’s definitely worth having a few passport photos with you if you are crossing borders because you will need them.  It’s best to think ahead and be prepared because you won’t be able to get them at the border.  My tip is to get passport photographs taken when your running low; don’t wait until you run out.

4.  How much does it cost?

You can often buy visas at the border but you need to know that in advance by doing your homework.  You should also be able to find out how much it costs and how you can pay for it.  An example of this is when I wanted to cross from Laos into Cambodia.  I knew it was possible to get a visa at the border so that’s what I did.  I also made sure I had the correct amount of money in USD with me because that was the requirement along with completing a form and handing over a passport photograph.

5.  Restrictions

Again, part of doing your homework should be finding out if there are any entry restrictions because of your nationality or if there are any specific requirements.  Depending on your nationality, you might have to pay more to get a visa.

6.  Carry a pen

OK, maybe this is very obvious but you will need to complete a form to get your visa.  There may not be any or many pens at the border control office so it’s handy to have your own.  More than likely you will have a pen with you anyway but I thought it was worth mentioning just in case.

Further information

There are many ways to find out whether you need a visa: check an up-to-date guidebook, ask at the embassy, check with your hotel or hostel staff, ask other travellers, check with your own foreign office, post the question on a travel forum, google it, or use a visa application site to find the answer.

Have your say

As always, I’d love to hear from you, as long as you aren’t a spammer, so please don’t be shy and leave a comment or ask a question in the section below.  Until next time, cia :)!

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