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Our Advice on Tourist Visas and Entry Requirements (for US Passport Holders)

passportimageRecent changes in tourist visa requirements, and new online applications for Zambia, Kenya, and Rwanda, as well as the always evolving rules for minors entering South Africa, are good reminders for us all to stay up to date with official entry requirements when traveling to and from Africa. A very positive development is the new KAZA UniVisa which allows visitors entry to both Zambia and Zimbabwe and is available for USD 50 at the local airports, and land border crossings close to Livingstone and Victoria Falls.

The Basics …

For every African destination your passport must be valid for at least six (6) months after your return date.  Your passport must also have sufficient blank pages (at least two consecutive/side by side visa pages) for any required visas and for entry and departure stamps. Please note that you will be denied boarding in the USA if you do not have the required blank visa pages.

If you are visiting South Africa as a minor traveling alone, or are traveling to South Africa with children under 18 years of age, contact us for the latest changing requirements with regards to birth certificates and affidavits.

Tourist Visas …

Tourist visas are a requirement for many African countries including Egypt, Zambia, Zimbabwe,Tanzania, Mozambique and Kenya. In some cases you can get a visa on arrival at the airport, in others you will need to plan ahead and get one from the embassy in advance. If you have a choice, getting a visa in advance may save you time when you arrive at the airport, and it certainly saves you from having to part with some precious foreign currency on arrival.

We usually recommend you first call the embassy or consulate of the country you are visiting to find out the most current requirements, since regulations can change day by day. We try and keep up with them, but it’s not always possible, and rules also vary depending on your nationality. Even in our own office we have different experiences, Yvette rarely needs to bother with visas in Africa, since she holds a South African passport. Anouk has a Dutch passport and often travels with one of her son’s, so she sometimes needs additional papers with permission to travel, from his Dad.

Questions to Ask When You Talk to Us and/or Call the Embassy or Consulate

  • Can the tourist visa be issued at the airport or land border – or do you need to get it in advance?
  • Will you need proof of an airline ticket purchase or tour itinerary?
  • How long is the tourist visa valid for?
  • Does the validity of the tourist visa start once issued, or on arrival in the country?
  • How much does it cost and what is the accepted method of payment?
  • Ask if you need a “single” or “multiple” entry visa based on your planned trip itinerary
  • How long does it take to process the visa?

Once you’ve gathered all the information, make sure you get the right application form and follow all the guidelines. It’s likely you will need some passport photos, a money order, and a passport with blank pages that is valid for at least six months after you arrive in the country.

We recommend you start the visa process at least a month before you depart on your trip so you have ample time to get your passport back with the visa in it. If you need multiple visas for a safari that encompasses several countries it may be worth using a visa agency to avoid a lot of mailing back and forth. Click here for a good option.

Even when you can apply for visas online, as is now the case for single entry tourist visas for Kenya (July 2015) and for Zambia (October 2015) make sure you leave plenty of time before you travel to ensure the systems are all in working order!

Part of what we strive for at African Portfolio is to provide unique, customized itineraries for our clients. We love to involve our clients with the planning and choosing of hotels, routes and safaris. By being informed about your trip every step of the way, you will know exactly what borders you may be crossing, and what cities you will be flying into. This will make it easy to ensure you get the right tourist visa in good time for your trip of a lifetime!

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