According to our experience, applying for visa for the different countries you intend to travel to, has a big impact on your travel planning. It happened to us several times, that we had to change our travel plans completely because of visa issues. As an example: I wanted to spend more time in Russia at Lake Baikal. However, it was not possible to extend my visa. I had to leave the country and apply for a new one. Also depending on your visa you might not be allowed to return to China after travelling from China to Hong Kong (which belongs to China). You should always avoid to stay longer in a country than allowed. Immigration authorities can become very nasty when overstaying and leaving the country. Often you have to pay a fine for this. In some countries you even take the risk of being arrested.
Luckily a lot of countries, especially in South East Asia and also Latin America are more flexible in this. Sometimes you only need your passport to enter the country and stay for up to 90 days. Of course, this also depends of your nationality as visa regulations are arranged according to the diverse international relationship among the countries.
By crossing the border to some neighbouring country and returning the same day you can “renew” your allowance to another 90 days (e.g. in Thailand, Malaysia, Chile etc.). Also extending the allowance within the country is often possible (like in Mongolia, China).
Here are some general recommendations:
- Before leaving your home country check the website of your Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Not only they might explain about security, health and travelling aspects for most foreign countries but also about regulations to enter the country. In Germany this is Auswärtiges Amt. Beside this, also check the embassy website in your home country for all foreign countries you intend to travel to. They will explain about visa, costs and the application process.
- For some countries it is possible to apply for express visa, but usually this is very expensive. Therefore plan in advance before your departure, check how long the embassies need for your visas.
- You don’t have to get all the visa in advance before you leave. Sometimes it is better to apply while on the trip, just to remain flexible. For example some of our friends applied for the China visa in Ulan Bator/Mongolia. However, you should make sure this is possible for your nationality and the country you want to travel to. If you have some doubts, send an email to the embassy and ask. And you have to allocate some time for the visa process, sometimes it may take up to two weeks. If you leave your passport with some embassy because you applied for visa or visa extension, make sure they provide some document you can use as “passport replacement” within the country you are. For example when asking in Beijing for extending the China visa, we got a document showing to Chinese authorities that our passport was at immigration office. Having a passport and visa copy is always advisable.
- In some cases immigration authorities and embassies expect a proof that you will leave the country again. You have to show an ongoing flight, train or bus ticket that you might not have at that moment. Often your accommodation or some local travel agency can help you with this. And you also can use some service like OnwardFlights to buy a confirmed ticket for few money.
- If this visa topic is far to complicated for you, or if you don’t have much time and you don’t care spending more money, you can ask special agencies to arrange the visa for you. For EU and German citizens www.buch-dein-visum.de is one company I can recommend. They have been able to organise my visa for Belarus, Russia, China and Vietnam within two weeks only. However, this service has some price: a tourist visa (no express) for Russia starts at 85 EUR instead of 35 EUR with the Russian embassy.