Tourist visas are a requirement for many African countries including Egypt, Tanzania, Ghana, and Kenya. Find out if you need a tourist visa if you are planning a safari or vacation in Africa. Find out how to apply for a tourist visa in advance and what documents you will need.
Time Required: 1 week
- Do you need a tourist visa?
You must call the embassy or consulate of the country/ies you are planning to visit in Africa to find out if you need a tourist visa or not. Make sure you tell the Embassy person on the phone what passport you have, since visa regulations differ depending on your nationality, (not the country you are traveling from). Do not rely on guidebooks for your information, they could be out of date. Most qualified tour operators should be able to advise you too. However, visa regulations can change and often do. Embassy web sites are also a good resources, click on their "visa information" tab.
- Important questions to ask the Embassy/Consulate about your tourist visa
- Can the tourist visa be issued at the airport or land border - or do you need to get it in advance?
- Will you need proof of an airline ticket purchase or tour itinerary?
- How long is the tourist visa valid for?
- Does the validity of the tourist visa start once issued, or on arrival in the country?
- How much does it cost and what is the accepted method of payment?
- Ask if you need a "single" or "multiple" entry visa based on your planned trip itinerary
- Do you need photos, if so what size/requirements?
- How long does it take to process the visa?
- If you need to get a tourist visa before you depart you will need the following:
- A tourist visa application form, usually available from the embassy web site.
- A passport with at least one blank page that is valid for at least 6 months after your departure
- An embassy/consulate address and phone number to send (or take) your paperwork to (this may be in a different country, so leave enough time for processing)
- A definitive list of all documents needed to process the visa (see questions above)
- A stamped addressed return envelope, or pick up date, to get your passport with issued visa back.
- How long in advance should you get a tourist visa?
A month before you travel would be the best time to get a tourist visa. You have to submit your passport, so it's important to get that back safely in good time. Most embassies offer a rush service that will get you a visa within 2-3 days, but it will double your cost. The timing also depends on how long you plan to stay and whether the visa is valid from date of issue, or when you enter the country. If you plan to visit Ghana for example for 3 months, then wait until the last minute to get your visa, since it is only valid for 3 months from date of issue.
- Is it better to get a tourist visa in advance even if they can be issued upon arrival?
Personally, I like to get my tourist visa in advance if there is even a small question mark as to whether it can be issued at the border/airport or not. It's the safest option since the embassy will adhere to the latest official rules regarding all entry requirements. Getting your visa in advance will save you time in customs when you arrive, as well as some precious foreign cash since you will usually have to pay for a tourist visa in US Dollars.
- Should I use a visa agency?
If you only need a straightforward tourist visa for a single country, then you can easily get it yourself by following the steps above. If you are planning on visiting multiple countries in Africa, or are in charge of a group going to Africa, it can be worth the extra fees to send everything to one agency (usually based where the embassies are all located) and let them run around for you. It will save you having to mail your passport back and forth a few times to the respective embassies/consulates. In the US, check out: Travisa and Traveldocs.
- Need a student, business or work visa?
Anything other than a tourist visa will always need to be issued by an embassy in advance of your planned trip. Please call the appropriate embassy for details. Expect to pay more and submit extra paperwork for a student, business or work visa.