Traveling to an exotic location inevitably requires particular conditions to be met. While some countries simply mandate possession of a valid passport, many can be very difficult to visit depending on your particular circumstances and nationality.
Before traveling to a foreign land, it is critical to determine the relationship between your country and your destination. Requirements for entry can vary drastically depending on your nationality. If you need a visa for example, it might take a few weeks to process one. Likewise, vaccination requirements can thwart travel arrangements because of the time necessary to develop an effective number of antibodies.
Once you have determined the prerequisites for entrance, you need to know how long you are permitted to stay in the country. Travelers who mismanage their time and overstay their welcome can face hefty fines and major delays.
Before beginning your journey, start your research at least two months in advance. While this might seem a bit over cautious, this will provide you with an ample buffer in case unexpected issues arise prior to departure. Here is a checklist of items you should review before any trip.
This is a must. Almost every country will require that you own a passport. In addition, most countries require your passport to be valid for at least a certain amount of time, typically six months. For example, if you plan to visit Brazil in January for a month and your passport expires in April, you could likely be barred from entry even though your passport would be valid during your stay.
Visa requirements vary depending on your nationality. Certain countries, such as China, Russia, and Cuba, require a visa for almost every nationality. If you do need a visa, check to see if you can obtain one on arrival. This is possible in countries like Indonesia and Vietnam.
If you must get a visa prior to your departure, determine how long it will take to apply for one at the local embassy. You can figure this out by either checking the embassy website or calling the local office. Keep in mind that the embassy will need your passport for at least a few days during processing. Accordingly, don't plan anything that requires your passport during the visa application process!
Next, check the length of your visa’s validity. Most visas are valid for one year, but again, this varies depending on your destination. If the length is only for a few months, this could drastically affect the planning of a trip. For example, say you're starting your journey in January and you plan to visit China nine months later. If you obtain your visa before you leave and it's valid for six months, it will expire before you arrive. If you know this information beforehand, you can easily rearrange your trip to accommodate your visas.
More information: A useful site to check for visa requirements is VisaHQ
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) also offers a very useful tool to check for passport and visa requirements,
Some countries require proof of financial resources to support yourself during your stay. A bank statement or proof of other assets will satisfy this requirement.
Most countries mandate the booking of a return ticket before entering the country. If this is the case, the airline will deny you boarding unless you have the return ticket. Buying a ticket at the airport on the spot can be an expensive option, so save your self the trouble and book it in advance.
TIP: If you haven't planned your departure yet, one option is to buy a refundable outward ticket. Once you pass immigration, you can cancel the ticket and book a new one once you know your schedule. Another option is to buy a ticket that you can change for a small fee.
For cancelation policies of US carriers and online booking sites see this article by AirfareWatchdog.
Restricted Travel Items
Many countries don't allow travelers to bring agricultural products and large amounts of currencies. There might also be restrictions on things like alcohol and tobacco products. Figure this out beforehand to save yourself from either bungling a trip or having to discard valuables.
See for more information see this article on customs regulations.
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*picture credit: Dannyman