The countries that want Americans, and those that don’t.
I used to love visas. One of the most exciting things about travel was poring over a map in search of a countries embassy. Filling out the application was the necessary next step on path of adventure. Often times the embassy itself was a small microcosm of the country I was applying for a visa to enter. A cup of tea in a wicker chair at the Laos consulate or a sparse empty room for the sparse empty country of Mauritania, each visa became a physical memory of time spent on the road.
Now I hate visas. I am not sure when it exactly happened but probably getting shoved around at six thirty in the morning to pay 160 bucks to get a visa for Uzbekistan probably sealed the deal. After my trip through Central Asia where I shelled out nearly a grand for visas they have become something I dread, rather than anticipate.
For Americans, we tend to pay through the nose for each country we visit so those cute little stamps end up becoming a fairly massive chunk of our budget for each trip.
I was pondering this on my way down to Sydney, Australia. Luckily this time I am traveling to China as an employee of Victoria University, and for the first time have been given an expense account to pay my visa fees. While this is an added bonus it doesn’t pay for the nearly 8 hours I will spend on the train going to the visa center and back and the associated costs.
In this highly privitized world even the embassies have been replaced by visa processing centres — outsourced non-descript offices in non-descript office buildings where the country can pawn off its visa granting duties. To be fair, it was highly efficient and my F visa was approved in less than half an hour.
Maybe I am old and jaded or (gasp!) I am just getting tired of travel, but I don’t think so. As you get older your time becomes more valuable and it gets a little bit harder to justify the time spent in filling out forms and going to back and forth from small offices with hurried buearocrats.
The following are what I think are the best three countries visa wise for USA passports and the three worst.
India– Ten years! For 150 bucks you get a ten year visa. If you are an India lover, than it’s a hard one to top.
Georgia– Maybe it was relief after Central Asia, but when I landed in Tbilisi I was stamped into the country for one whole year without even a sniff of paperwork — not even a customs form. Technically not a visa, but a year entry without having to do anything is pretty awesome.
Australia– A simple form on the computer form and usually within 24 hours you have a one year working holiday visa. Pretty amazing if you are thinking of throwing it all in and moving off to earn some cash. However, you do have to be under 30 to qualify for this visa.
Uzbekistan– 160 bucks plus the price of a stupid invitation letter and all the associated bank transfer fees. Quite insane really, and even more so when you meet someone with an EU passport who only paid a fraction of that.
China– China is easy to get, which is a relief, but it costs a ton. The last time I went to China in 2013 I paid roughly 200 Australian dollars for 30 days. I think a good tourist visa should cost between 1-3 dollars a day. China is roughly seven dollars a day just to be there. Yikes.
Russia– I went to Russia back in 2003 and it cost me an arm and a leg. Something like 80 Euros for a week. The best part was that on my application they asked if I knew the whereabouts of any secret military installations in America.