TAKING THE RIGHT STEPS
Memories of a ruined holiday prompt Steve Jacobs to check on visa requirements early when planning travel
Weekend Today’s Steve Jacobs has more stamps in his passport than most, but it was an absent visa that put an abrupt halt to a dream South American vacation with his wife Rose.
“My wife’s bucket-list destination is Rio, so on a work trip to Chile I decided to make her dream happen,” Jacobs says. “We got through the airport to board the flight when the airline crew asked to see our visas for Brazil. I had one from a previous trip so I was allowed to board but not my wife, and because I thought that may be a marriage-ending idea, our luggage went to Rio but we both stayed in Chile.
“I had accommodation and tours booked and prepaid in Rio, which I lost, so it really was a holiday disaster and while I was eventually forgiven, we still haven’t been to Rio together.”
After his Brazil debacle, Jacobs now always checks entry conditions early in the trip-planning process and accesses embassy, consulate and high commission websites to confirm a destination’s rules and regulations before locking anything down.
“I now check all country visa requirements thoroughly as they can all be different,’’ he says. “We’re currently planning a work trip to Argentina and the consulate here in Australia physically wants my passport to issue a work visa.”
WHAT IS A VISA?
“A visa is a form of permission to enter a country for a period of time and may be required for tourism, work, education and sometimes even in transit,” Helloworld Travel Camberwell’s owner Natalie Daw says.
“Some of the most common destinations for Australians needing a visa are China, Vietnam and the US, and while some are issued easily by answering questions online – like America – others are difficult and you don’t want to make any errors on a China application as they can be rejected for corrections and legibility.
“A travel agent will run through your whole travel itinerary and advise which countries need a visa, and an experienced agent will have all the dates noted as to which visas to apply for first if multiple countries all requiring visas are being visited.
“If an air ticket is purchased online, and the passenger is unaware that country requires a visa, boarding is denied and the airline will not grant a refund, so it’s imperative to know the legal requirements of the countries you visit.”
GET GOOD INFORMATION
These days destinations generally fall into four categories. Some spots allow travellers to make visa-free visits; others require a physical application be made well in advance of arrival; some simplify the process by allowing online requests; and a few places allow visitors to obtain a visa on entry.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Smartraveller website is a reliable source for up-to-date information. The government’s online resource has a page dedicated to each country, with the relevant information found under the “entry and exit” heading; as well as links to trusted websites should advance applications be necessary.
While travel agents can help secure the necessary paperwork, it’s also possible for confident travellers to obtain their own visas by applying only through reliable websites, completing each step in the process carefully, using Express Post envelopes when mailing passports, ensuring details on money orders are correct – and starting early.
No visa, no entry is the hard way Steve Jacobs found out about entry requirements for Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.