Tourist visa fees on the rise all over the world, travel becomes more costly as the world comes together
Visa fees are on the rise all over the world. It is a normal way of course for prices to go up as time goes on, and I know that I cannot strive for the same prices that I once paid to travel ten years ago, but within the past few years I have watched the cost of tourist visas to many countries double, triple, and even quadruple. Some countries say that this is to battle back and reciprocate the visa fees of other countries, some say that they are trying to raise revenue for this or that government program, some just seem to be scrapping as much money from tourists as they possibly can. Honestly, I don’t care what the reasons are — all I know is that dozens of countries all over the world now charge me over $100 to enter.
In an attempt at streamlining this article, and because I travel on a US passport, I have only referenced the visa fees applied to US citizens. Though the trend for visa fee hikes affect all travelers of the world, the cost of entering countries is drastically on the rise for all nationalities.
I sit back and I watch a world in flux. As the world’s political and economic systems are congealing together, as countries are teaming up together and organizing themselves into groups, federations, and zones, the doors that once stood open to travelers are being shut closed, and the guards at the gates are demanding a high price to pass through.
I sit back and watch more and more countries upping their fees for tourist visas to amounts that exceed 100 USD, some charging nearly 200. Not all of these countries are even “big draw” tourist zones, most, in fact, are regional backwaters who once welcomed in tourism with open arms — countries who, in the past, would not dare charge someone an excessive fee for simply wanting to visit and spend money within their borders. Some countries say that this is a reciprocity fee — if your country charges our citizens this much money, we are going you charge you that much — some countries say that they raise the price of their visas to cover the cost of various governmental projects or to “improve” their tourism infrastructure, and some countries don’t seem to give much of any explanation at all: one day it is free to enter, the next day you have to pay $150.
The result is that visa fees in excess of 100 USD have put up a major barrier to long term travelers on multi-country journeys and tourists on short vacations alike — especially when they have families and need to pay for three or four visas.
A traveler rarely enters into one country without seeing a clear path to the next, travelers do not go to countries, they go to regions. When a country along my path wants $130 (X 3 for my family) to enter, it is a huge sign telling me to halt in my tracks, it is a sign that says:
You shall not pass.
List of countries currently charging high prices for tourist visas
Note: For standardization purposes, prices are for tourist visas for US citizens applied for in advance of travel at consulates in the USA. Visa prices and duration of allow stay often differ depending on the country you apply for them in.
Visa prices for UK, EU, Australia, and Canadian passport holders are sometimes different that those for US citizens, but the pricing trend is generally pretty consistent.
Chile- $140 reciprocity fee if flying into Santiago
Argentina- $140 reciprocity fee if flying into Buenos Aires
Burkina Faso- $100
Ivory Coast- $150
Sierra Leone- $140
Central African Republic- $150
Many other African countries- $60+
China- $140 for only 30 days!
India- $73 for six months
Russia- $140 + $20 invitation fee for only 30 days!
This is just a quick run down of high visa fees, it is not an all inclusive list. Generally, any fee under $50 I did not bother putting up, and I imagine that I missed some $100+ tourist visas as well. This list is just meant to give a picture of the true cost of multi-country, long term travel, as well as the shocking expense for a tourist wanting to visit a few countries on a short vacation. This list was meant to be a barrage of dollar signs to provoke the realization that world travel has become more expensive very quickly. What is worse is that many of these high visa fees are relatively new — many were vastly less only a few years ago.
Is this the beginning of a trend that will only continue into the upcoming decades? Will we soon see a $1,000 tourist visa? The global auction is open, and many countries seem to be raising their prices for the highest bidder.
What is the impact of high visa fees for travelers?
I look at this list and the above map and I almost weep. My family of three travels on a single income. This means that we would need to pay $600 just to enter Nigeria, $480 to go to Brazil, $300 to visit Suriname or Paraguay, $360 for Tanzania, $420 to return to China for 30 days . . .
This is not possible. The above map may as well have big red slashes through the high visa cost countries, as, with my budget, it is not financially possible for us to travel there. My lifestyle is being exterminated, I am traveling in a very different world than when I stepped foot off the farm 11 years ago.
But these high visa fees don’t only affect long term travelers on tight budgets, they effect all tourists.
For a family of four from the USA to fly into Argentina and go on a short vacation from there to Paraguay and Brazil they are looking at $1600 in visa and reciprocity fees alone. Honestly speaking, a family would be hard pressed to spend this much money on every other vacation expense while in these countries.
I do not want to calculate the visa expenses to travel in West Africa.
Even for a middle class American family of four with a decent sized vacation budget, $640 just to enter Brazil may provide enough of a financial deterrent to spend their vacation domestically — maybe go to Florida again?
$131 is enough to make just about any traveler snicker and travel straight from Peru to Chile without bothering visiting Bolivia, just as a $100 visa fee to go Paraguay is enough to take a detour around this country in the middle of South America.
Do countries not want tourists? Do they really believe that we will continue happily pay double or triple the cost just for the privilege of crossing their borders? Are not tourists just global currency transporters? Is not the prime occupation of a tourist to take money from one country and deposit it directly into another? Why would any country want to do anything to inhibit the inflow of this quick cash? Do raised visa fees lessen tourism? Is there an end in sight, will countries continue doubling and tripling visa fees into the next decade?
Will global tourism continue to decline?
Global tourism on the decline.
I feel as if I am missing something. Clearly, having to pay $197 per visa is going to inhibit the already sparse trail of tourists going to Nigeria. Clearly, having to pay $140 to enter Chile by air is going to push vacationers to Peru or Ecuador. Clearly, China charging $140 for a 30 day visa is going to make people reconsider their travel plans. I cannot see how high visa fees do not put up barriers to tourism. In a world of almost unlimited options for travel it is my impression that people are going to go where it will cost them the least amount of money given that most other factors are equal.
Am I going to pay $160 to get into Brazil or go to Colombia for free?
I am still looking for the hard facts on how high visa fees effect a country’s intake of tourists.
But, maybe, just maybe, some countries do not want all tourists, maybe they only want the truly rich — the people on organized tours, the people willing to roll high, spend big, then go home? Perhaps this is a global move towards low density, high income tourism.
What are the reasons for high visa fees?
What are the reasons for these large hikes in visa fees? Why, in the past few years, have many countries decided to double or triple their prices on tourist visas?
Some of these visa fee hikes are said to give financial support to this or that government program — Argentina says that they now charge US citizens $140 so they can upgrade their immigration computer system, the USA says that they will raise 600 million dollars to put National Guard troops on the Mexican border with money collected from raising the application fee for work visas.
For politicians to raise the taxes of their citizens is to put themselves on the proverbial cooker, so many governments seem to be trying to sidestep taxing their citizens by taxing tourists. Who would complain? Tourists don’t vote. So governments tax tourists and then get befuddled when the visitors to their country start to dwindle. For the past few years my country, the USA, has been concerned by the drop in foreign tourism — they can’t seem to figure out why not as many Europeans and people from other rich nations aren’t coming. So they stamp a $14 fee on tourists from visa-free countries to pay for a program to “promote US tourism abroad.”
Hmm, don’t you think that maybe the high visa fees and the difficult application process could be to blame?
I am sure that few Americans complained when higher visa fees are raised on foreign tourists. I am sure that there are no protests in the USA over the fact that domestic soldiers are being mobilized on the dime of prospective foreign workers. I am sure that very few of my countrymen give a shit that it now costs $2,000 for someone from abroad to apply for H-1B and L1 US work visas. I am sure that the current administration of my country thinks that they can get off the burner by charging foreigners whatever fee they want to pay for their new political initiatives without acknowledging the potential economic backlash that will come from a drop in tourism.
I am also sure that few people in Argentina care that Americans are being charged $140 to land in their capital’s airport. I am sure that there are no objections in Togo that US tourists are being slapped with a $140 visa fee in a country where the average annual income is $270. I hear no whimpers coming from the people of Pakistan that tourists are being charged $120 for one month in a country where the average monthly wage is $41.
But I do hear gripes about how global tourism is on the decline, I hear bull about countries trying to promote tourism, I see that most countries have tourism boards within their governments whose job it is to attract foreigners to come and visit. I have one thing to say: to raise tourism lessen the restraints and costs you slap on tourists.
Visa fees are turning into government fund raisers, a grab all where countries try to take whatever they can get without regard for how it will impact tourism, and, in the end, their own economies.
Another official reason for raising visa fees is that many countries are trying to match the fees that other countries charge for their citizens to enter. So a US citizen who wants to enter Argentina is charge the same amount that a Argentinean needs to pay to enter the USA. What’s fair is fair, right?
But are the countries who levy reciprocity fees just shooting themselves in the foot?
I suppose that is up to the individual country to decide. American tourists are a big part of just about any country’s tourism scheme — they tend to travel places, spend big money, and then split. Americans also don’t have a reputation for overstaying visas. I don’t hear too much about how Argentinean tourists are supporting the US economy. But this is another argument.
Ultimately, high visa fees — from whatever country for whatever reason — serve to inhibit tourism. Even if a poor backpacker only drops $15 a day in a country, that is $15 a day that was not previously in the “on the ground” economy. It is my impression that restrictions on tourism do not benefit ANY country — whether it is that of the USA or that of Argentina, Togo, or China.
Tourism is still the biggest industry on planet earth.
I am also sure that the potential sales tax (or the equivalent) that is levied on the items that a would be tourist could purchase in a country on would more than likely outweigh any visa fee. Tourists in a country = money.
The prime occupation of travel is spending money. I travel cheaply, but I still walk around all day long just spending money.
Tourists don’t only mean money for the local vendors and service providers but also for the government in tax revenue extracted from these businesses and industries. High visa fees discourage tourism (all tourism, not just backpackers), and this lowers the amount of money that a potential visitor is going to leave behind in a prospective country.
Governments around the world don’t seem to understand that visa fees and the amount of tourism they attract are inversely proportional: the more money you charge tourists to enter your country, the less people will visit, the less tourists you attract, the less money you will make. This seems to be simple logic to me, but, clearly, it is not.
Or perhaps many countries want to limit tourism?
This seems difficult to believe, but the writing is on the wall. I will continue to show how countries — and even entire regions — are currently taking vast actions which limit tourism in this series on The Extermination of the Backpacker.
To read the other articles in this series, use the navigational links below or at the top of this page