Visa applications a traveller’s nightmare
WHEN planning a trip to a foreign country, including most of Europe, the UK and Australia, do your sums carefully before buying your air tickets.
The UK recently introduced visas for South Africans and despite the airl i nes bl e a t i ng a bout t he punit i v e measure, the authorities went ahead.
A friend who owns a number of travel agencies informed me that since UK visas were introduced, the drop-off in South Africans opting not to travel to the UK has risen to 100 000.
Now, in addition to the R905 for a six-month visa rising to R5 400 for a five-year visa, a further charge of £60 is being levied for airport departure.
Depending on the rand to pound exchange rate this will cost a traveller an extra R720.
Even the photographs you have to supply have to be taken i n a certain way and be of an exact size, otherwise you are turned away, and some photographic studios are not aware of the correct dimensions.
A friend had to have her photographs taken twice before they were acceptable to the British Embassy. Now for the biggest rip-off of all... A month ago, a business associate applied for a 10-year UK visa at the exorbitant cost of R6 200, travelled to the UK for three days then returned, only to have his laptop bag stolen, which contained his passport. When he approached the UK Embassy for a replacement, he was told he would have to pay the full R6 200 again, despite having a valid visa for another nine years and 11 months on their system.
A s i mi l a r v i s a f r o m t h e U S o r Europe will cost R1 000.
He naturally feels they are abusing their position and profiteering, and w ould like to make unsuspecting travellers aware of the risks and costs of the UK visa so where they have alternatives, they should consider other routes.
Applying for a Shengen visa, allowing travel to many countries in Europe, is also expensive – R700 – as well as t he f i l l i ng i n o f f o r ms, s u ppl y i ng photographs then getting letters of invitation, medical insurance, guaranteed accommodation, three months of bank statements, letters of employment and the hassle of back and forth to the relevant consul or embassy.
If you live in Cape Town, you often have the extra expense of couriering your documents to Pretoria and back.
Australi a i s not much easi er at R710, and its embassy will only accept a bank-guaranteed cheque for payment.
Other countries s uch as Li bya, attractive and really worth a visit, ask for £100 plus an Arabic translation of your passport details, and at l east $1 000 (US) spending money.
Even some of the visa-free countries still require a stamp.
Egypt, for example, is one, but in order to obtain the stamp, your passport has to be couriered to Pretoria at a cost of at least R200.
Madagascar will sell visitors a visa on arrival at the airport for $90 (US).
This is before looking for a competi t i ve ai r f are, accommodation and general expenses.
A simple holiday suddenly becomes out of bounds as the expenses rise.
Added to all this is the schlep of filling in myriad forms, proving you have employment, own a home, have a bank account, have t he c or r ect l y posed portrait photographs and the cash in hand to apply for the precious entry stamp. CONGRATULATIONS to Jacobus Scott for his photograph of blossoms near the Great Wall of China. Jacobus wins dinner for two at CinCin, where food and life are celebrated with superb views of the Cape Town city skyline, Table Mountain, and its pièce de résistance, a 3m genuine Swarovski crystal chandelier.
CinCin is synonymous with elegance and ambience. The menu changes with t h e s e a s o n s , i n c l u d i n g a n u mber o f themes: the vegetable garden, the sea, the farm, the veld and fynbos.
From the mountains to the sea, the colourful dishes r eflect l ocal f l avours; sweet, sun drenched, earthy, rich in taste and aroma. Visit CinCin at the Protea Hotel Colosseum in Century City and allow its team to reveal the true essence of CinCin. Whatever language you speak, may it be a celebration.
Our runners-up are Lara Husted for her photograph taken by Epupa falls in Namibia; and Jens Schatke for a photo- graph of a dassie in Hermanus.
Travel2009 will continue to publish the popular readers’ photographic competition, with a prize of a dinner for two for the winners each week.