Don't Forget Your Visa

You have settled on your next trip and dug out your passport, but don't forget your visa, warns Elizabeth Mistry

By Elizabeth Mistry on 31 July 2007 in Travel Articles

Imagine the shock of arriving at your holiday destination – only to be told you can’t enter the country because you don’t have a visa.  This is, luckily, no longer a problem for many travellers to some of the UK’s favourite holiday hotspots outside the EU (where British passport holders do not require visas) such as Australia because the airlines will simply not let you board without checking your passport has an electronically issued visa – and all passengers flying to Australia are advised of the need to arrange this in advance.
But Egypt, Turkey and India all require those traveling on UK passports to arrange a visa. Indian visas must be arranged in advance while Egypt and Turkey sell them at main airports if you have the correct local currency – and for those arriving on charter flights at 4am it isn’t always easy to whip out the exact change in Egyptian pounds or Turkish Lira.
May Chapman found herself in a sticky position when, traveling with her 13-year old grand-daughter a few years ago, she found a planned transit stopover in Bombay turning into a 13-hour unplanned nightmare as authorities refused to let her through to meet people waiting for her on the other side of the immigration barrier.  The fact that they were happy to let her grand-daughter through (she didn’t have a visa either) added to the confusion somewhat – needless to say they remained together.
“I had relied on the ticket agency I had bought my flight from to advise me but no one had mentioned anything about needing a visa if we wanted to leave the airport while in transit.  We had planned to pass the time relaxing with friends but instead we were herded into a side room and our passports were taken away for hours.”
More frustrating still is arriving at an airport expecting to be able to purchase a visa on arrival and finding the place closed, uncooperative or just difficult.  “Travellers who turn up expecting to get a visa at the point of entry are taking a gamble which will usually pay off but at the end of the day it is down to the official on duty to decide if they get a visa and if someone takes a dislike to you they can simply decide not to issue you a visa and send you back,” explains a travel agent who advises all his customers to arrange a visa before departure.”
The answer is of course to arrange your travel documentation well in advance and to make it your responsibility to ensure that you know which visa(s) you might need.
Almost every country has an embassy or consulate in the UK (some such as Kazakhstan have two) which will, on payment of the appropriate fee and usually after a few weeks, provide a tourist visa.  However, postal applications can mean several nail-biting weeks waiting for one’s passport so many people prefer to organize visas in person. 
But while the thrill of queuing for several hours (India and China are currently some of the countries with the longest waits) is part of the trip, it isn’t feasible for everyone, especially those with small children or other commitments – or those unable to stand for long periods.
More and more travellers are using a commercial visa service such as The Visa Company which has more than 10 years experience and its own team of specialist couriers who do the queuing for you.  They also check that all the necessary forms are filled out correctly avoiding expensive repeat trips. 
The company’s newly updated website is a one-stop shop for those looking to acquire visas and renew passports.  “It doesn’t matter what passport you hold, if you need to travel you can enter your details – nationality and destination and you can check instantly to see if your trip requires a visa,” says The Visa Company’s Sally Powell.
“We offer 1.3 million combinations and it is free to check.  If you want to use the service our team can guide you through the process.  We send everyone a personalized checklist and ensure that things are processed as quickly as possible.
The Visa Company is offering The Travel Magazine readers a special rate of 10% off the handling fees. 

For more information see the website at or call 090 65500 740.  (Calls cost GBP1.00 per minute from a landline.  For other charges please contact your provider and make sure you have the permission of the person who pays the bill to call.)
To take advantage of the offer, please quote reference code TMAPR1.


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