Run the equator: Visas

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Visas

Looking for visa requirements?: if you have reached this page while searching the web trying to find out if the citizens of your country (most likely Romania) need visas to travel to one of the countries listed below, note that this information is valid for the period from around January 2007 to April 2008. Things may have changed since; when they change it's usually for the better and visas are no longer required.

In my youth, growing up in Romania, I have spent many days waiting outside foreign consulates in the wee hours of the morning, hoping that I would get a chance to get past the gates that seemed permanently closed, and apply for a permit to travel to the promised lands. In these times, the coveted destinations were France, Germany, Italy, the United States... Then, as my native land took steps toward entering the select club of countries who do not call themselves the "first world" but reserve the implicit meaning of those words for themselves, obtaining travel visas became increasingly easier, and in some cases - for example within most of Europe - there was no need for them anymore.

And now it seems that I have to start all over again; this time however, I won't have to knock at the doors of industrial nations suspicious that I will remain in their country as an illegal immigrant, determined to steal their low-wage jobs. Instead, I will be mostly begging to get into the yard of the not-so-privileged but picturesque and dollar-starved countries, most of whom are located between the two tropics. And it seems that they are not going to make my life easier than the condescending representatives of the west did a few years back.

Angela, as an American citizen, is luckier in the visa department. Most countries we're travelling to admit American tourists without requiring a visa, or would grant the visa at the port of entry which is pretty much a bureaucratic way of saying that no visa is needed.

I'm going to try to list all my visa voes one by one. I will need multiple blog instalments in order to cover the whole topic. The authoritative information is taken from various embassy websites, the Romanian foreign affairs ministry (http://www.mae.ro/), foreign affairs ministries of various countries (it's fun to look for those, then try to understand the language), other Internet research, books - although the ones we have don't usually say anything about visas for Romanian citizens, and last but not least, from calling the consulates directly.

  • Mexico - As a United States permanent resident, I do not need to have a visa in order to enter the country. That's one of the few countries where having a u.s. green card gives you a different status when it comes to immigration matters. They are pretty much saying "since you have a green card we can be pretty sure you're not going to hang around here once you run out of money". Update: Romanian citizens do not need a tourist visa to travel to Mexico anymore.
  • Belize - I will need a visa, Angela doesn't. A travel book she has looked at said that there's a way to get it at the border post in the Mexican town of Chetumul, but the embassy people I called said that the honorary consulate in that town no longer exists. I will have to apply beforehand at the embassy of Belize in Washington, DC. It costs $50 + shipping, they need 1 picture, a copy of the green card, and a bank statement. Why the hell do they all need to know how much money I make? ... Visa application sent in the mail March 2, 2007. Visa received March 13!.
  • Guatemala - they have a bilateral agreement with Romania, therefore, no visa needed. Their "Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores" web site says it. Americans are fine as well.
  • Honduras - no visa needed.
  • Ecuador - no visa needed for Romanian citizens, according to the site of the ministry of foreign affairs of Ecuador and its Romanian counterpart. Americans walk right in as well.
  • Peru - Angela does not, but I unfortunately do need a visa. Their "ministerio" and Washington, DC consulate say so. I will have to apply beforehand at their San Francisco consulate. The requirements are on the bilingual visa page. If I can't apply in the US because it would be too early, here's the address of the Peru consulate in Quito, Ecuador. I'm getting to learn some involuntary Spanish as I sift through these websites. Visa received in person at the Peruvian consulate in San Francisco, April 10.
  • Bolivia - I need a visa but there are rumors, rather confirmed by the U.S. consulate in Bolivia that American citizens may as well need it soon. The links to the visa pages on the Bolivian consulate in Washington, DC web site don't work. The Bolivia consulate in Seattle refuses to give visas earlier than 30 days prior to the trip, but they mentioned that I can apply at the Bolivia consulate in Quito, Ecuador, or in Peru. Update: the consul must have had a bad day the first time I called: I got a 30-day visa from the Seattle consul on 4/19.
  • Argentina - no visa needed neither for Americans, nor Romanians. The Romanian ministry says no visa, but many of the Argentinian consulates' web sites say I need a visa. I had to clarify this. I called the embassy of Argentina in Romania and they confirmed I don't need a visa. Maybe I should call the consulate of Argentina in LA for a second opinion.
  • Uruguay - no visa needed, according to the Ministerio de Relaciones Esteriores, neither for Romanians nor for Americans. I'm getting really good at understanding consular Spanish.
  • South Africa - I need a visa, says the South Africa consulate in New York. I'll probably have to apply in L.A. The visa will have to be issued for a longer time than the regular 90 days since I can't apply anywhere but the US. Application sent to consulate 3/14. Visa arrived 3/28. Valid till 11/25.
  • Namibia - Angela, like Angelina Jolie, citizen of the most powerful nation on Earth, does not need a visa, and could even give birth to our children in that country and make them Namibian citizens. However I need one in order to enter. I will apply either at the Namibia consulate in Pretoria or at the Namibia tourist board office in Cape Town - phone number +27 (0) 21 422 3298, which I called and found out that the visa is issued the same day, no picture needed, and costs 213 rand (approx. $30). I already love that country. Visa received in Cape Town on 8/21/2007.
  • Botswana - of course I need a visa (Angela doesn't)... The web page with the addresses of their consulates in South Africa has only one good phone number, the one for Johannesburg. They gave me the correct number for the Cape Town consulate: +27 (0)21 421 1045. Both consulates told me pretty much the same thing: I need 2 pictures, 565 rand (about $80!!!), a copy of the passport data pages and of the itinerary. The office in Jo-burg seemed more anal about having the itinerary and hotel accommodations faxed to them and said something about a copy of the visa for South Africa. It should only take 1 day. Visa received in Cape Town on 8/21/2007.
  • Zimbabwe - we are spending only 2 days on the zimbabwe side of Victoria Falls, but I need the visa nonetheless. The Johannesburg consulate would give it to me in one day if I pay the rush fee: $115. Ouch! Tel: +27 11 838 2156/7/8/9. - no more going to Zimbabwe - their visa proces is screwed up.
  • Zambia - no visa needed. Well, sort of. All tourists can get it at the port of entry. Romanian citizens - for once - don't have to pay, because of a bilateral agreement between the countries. Americans however, dish $100, according to the Embassy in Washington, DC. They gave me the phone numbers of the Zambian authority in Lusaka that manages the border posts: +260 1 25 26 22/25 17 25. More information can be found on the Zambia national tourism board web site.
  • Malawi - hard to find anything about this country on the web, let alone visa requirements for Romanians. The US department of state makes clear that Americans don't need a visa up to 30 days. I'm stuck with having to call the numbers listed on Embassyworld.com. The Malawi tourism web site gives wrong phones numbers. The new phone number for the Malawi embassy in Washington DC: (202) 721 0274. They gave me the phone numbers for the consulate in SA: +27 123 42 0146/1759, and the email: mhc@easyn.co.za. Visa received in johannesburg on 8/16/2007.
  • Tanzania - seems to be quite relaxed with visa matters; but both Romanians and Americans need them. Their High Commission in South Africa accepts applications from everybody. The application costs $50 (bank information on the web site), it requires one photo and it takes 1 day to process. Visa received in Pretoria on 8/14/2007.
  • Kenya - we both need visas and we can apply at the Kenya High Commission in Pretoria. Phone: 27-12-362-2249. It cost 350 rand ($50), we need 1 picture, copy of accommodation, plane ticket, blah, blah. Processing time 24 hours. Visa received in Pretoria on 8/15/2007.
  • Uganda - Romanians and Americans need visas, but it seems these can be purchased at all border posts. The Uganda Travel Planner site gives good tips for people who want to do the gorilla trekking entering and returning to Kenya, like us. A transit visa seems to be adequate for us. In any case, I will call the High Commissioner in Pretoria at +27-12-3426031/34. Call needed.
    No more Uganda - gorilla sightseeing passes are way too expensive!
  • Egypt - Angela emailed back and forth with the consulate and got them to understand the situation, so it seems that with a special letter enclosed with the visa application things can be solved. I can only apply in the united states at the San Francisco consulate. Application sent to consulate 3/28. Visa arrived 4/4!
  • Greece, Italy, Spain, Romania - no visas needed.
  • Turkey - it's still not clear whether I need a visa or not; visas have been introduced between Romania and Turkey since Romania was about to join the EU and the EU wanted to secure the borders. The Romanian embassy in Ankara gives ambiguous informations, mentioning that tourist visas "may" be obtained at the border...
  • India - everybody needs a visa. We will be applying for one in San Francisco. It looks like a trip to California is in the making, especially since their consulates's website says that in person applications are honored the same day, and mail applications take 5 to 10 days... 1-year multiple-entry visa (10 years for Angela) received in San Francisco on April 9!
  • Thailand - I got my Thailand visa at the Thai visa processing center in Chennai, India in 24 hours, no questios asked. However they did want to make sure that I had an outgoing plane ticket, to show that I will leave Thailand eventually. Unfortunately, they do not grant multiple-entry tourist visas, so after leaving for Cambodia and Laos I had to apply for a new Thai visa in Vientiane (again, no problem).
  • Cambodia - this has been the most painless, fast and efficient visa application. No wonder, it's online! The e-visa web addres of the government of Camodia is http://evisa.mfaic.gov.kh/. Applying is smooth and efficient, the site has no unnecessary clutter and you can supply your own digital pictures - they supposedly have an automated system to verify that the photos are accurate enough. The site said it takes 3 business days to process the applications but we got our responses via email in 20 minutes. I didn't even have to type my credit card number - they use paypal! Kudos to the Cambodian government and the web site developers for their efforts!
  • Laos - everyone needs a visa for Laos - no wonder, they're a one-party state and the government has been obsessed with finding "enemies" since the communists took power in 1975. Luckily the visa situation is more relaxed now and the process has become rather a formality. We didn't bother going to stay in line and apply for this one - the Lao consulate in Bangkok was so far out in the suburbs that it would have cost us more money to take the taxi there and back downtown twice (once to apply, once to pick-up) than the markup which tourism agencies were charging for the visa service (all travel agencies in Bangkok offer visa services for Cambodia, Laos and Vientnam). We applied using the agency at the Lamphu House hotel on Soi Rambuttri where we used to have breakfast every morning. The passports were back the next day. Fun fact: the Lao visa application for American citizens costs more than that for Romanians - of course, we weren't the ones who bombed their country to bits.

OK, enough for now. This is an ongoing article, information is added as comes.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Oh boy, you'll need so many visas, especially in Middle East, Asia, Persic Gulf area, Australia, New Zealand, maybe for all those exotic countries in Pacific area that are no bigger than a atol, etc - if you are planning to visit them! Good luck buddy and I can hardly wait for the pics and impressions!
mitru

Cezar said...

Niste updatre-uri:
Din martie, nu ai nevoie de viza pentru Mexic. De asemenea, nu mai ai nevoie de viza pentru Peru. In Tanzania (am fost 1 data, prietena mea de 2 ori), Romania este singura tara cu exceptia Kenyei si Ugandei ai carei cetateni nu au nevoie de viza - multumita lui... Ceausescu ! Pentru Kenya, viza se ia la frontiera (50 dolari).

Big Fat Rat said...

Cezar:

Mersi de informatii.

Am gasit si eu tratatul lui ceausescu din 1975 care spune ca putem calatori fara viza, dar situl MAE.ro zice ca trabuie viza in scop turistic...

Cand ai fost ultima data? Sa nu se fi schimbat ceva intre timp... in rau.

Pentru Kenya si Tanzania am sunat la ambasadele din Africa de Sud, si mi-au zis ca imi trebuie viza... hmm, bag de seama ca aflu eu la fata locului. Desi, prin traditie, cei mai prost informati in legatura cu regimul de vize sunt tocmai functionarii consulari...

Cat despre Peru, am aflat ca nu mai trebuie viza la modul cel mai naspa... dupa ce mi-am luat viza (si am platit)... se schimbase regulamentul tocmai in saptamana aia si nu am verificat inca o data inainte de a merge la consulatul din San Francisco, iar damele de acolo n-au zis nimic...

Hai noroc!

selva said...

my goal was to drive 1000 kms north from Perth. Denham, the most western in Australia town (Byron Bay being the most eastern) is not really interesting, but it is a popular base for visits to nearby Monkey Mia with it's dolphins. The whole area however is scattered with sandy beaches and is a part of Shark Bay World Heritage area. I only got to see one dolphin there but I got to see a few of them in Perth CBD before that anyway. Yes, they swam right up to CBD. Cool stuff.

monica said...

Buna,sunt Monica.As vrea sa va intreb daca e sigur ca nu mai avem nevoie de viza,noi romanii..pentru Peru.eu am pasaport simplu si as vrea sa merg in Peru in vacanta.sunt in Franta deocamdata.

Mutumesc.

Big Fat Rat said...

Monica:

Cand mi-am luat eu viza pentru Peru tocmai se semnase conventia bilaterala intre Peru si Romania, care stipula ca vizele turistice nu mai sunt necesare (cel putin pentru cenatenii Romani calatorind in Peru). Damele de la consulatul din San Francisco ori nu stiau, ori n-au vrut sa-mi spuna...

Pentru ultimele informatii oficiale uita-te la http://www.mae.ro (ministerul afacerilor externe) in sectiunea "Vize".

Noroc in Peru, e o tara care merita vizitata.

mira said...

Buna,
Va rog sa-mi dati si mie o informatie...Am o prietena de origine marocana , care a castigat loteria USA si de 2 ani jumatate e in Texas, are green card si nr social.Ca sa vina in vizita ca turist in Romania are nevoie de viza?
Va multumesc!
Ligia

Big Fat Rat said...

Mira/Ligia:

Nu stiu exact care sunt regulile pentru cetatenii straini care vor sa viziteze Romania (eu mi-am petrecut tineretea incercand sa ies din Romania nu sa intru ;-)), dar MAE.ro spune in Anexa 3 ca cetatenii Marocani au nevoie de invitatie pentru a obtine viza turistica. Nu stiu daca are importanta sau nu ca prietena ta e rezidenta in USA.

Aici e informatia:

http://www.mae.ro/poze_editare/Anexa3.html

Noroc,
Fritz

Angel said...

This website got all the information about the US visas issues who are responsible for the harrasment of many travellers of U.S.

Hank Freid said...

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