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Flower Travel

Visas

Visas

In the last twenty years or so the visa situation has definitely improved for Australian travellers. Some of our clients may still recall the hassle of visiting France (and therefore Noumea, Tahiti etc) or Spain in the 1980’s; both countries insisted that Australians apply for entry visas prior to their trip. This requirement is thankfully a distant memory.

In 2004 when many eastern European countries joined the EU the situation improved again and the popular destinations of Hungary and the Czech Republic also abolishing their visa restrictions. But there are still plenty of destinations that require a pre-arranged visa and our preference for the more unusual types of travel means that we have considerable experience with the ins and outs of the visa application process.

Here are a few basic guidelines (for Australian passport holders) to the main visas:

Belarus

Often referred to as the last dictatorship in Europe this former Soviet Republic has an expensive visa to say the least. This visa cannot be obtained on the border no matter what the guidebooks say! Instead a tourist voucher/letter is required showing pre-booked accommodation throughout your intended period of stay. Belarus has no embassy or consulate in Australia and therefore visa applications have to be sent to London.

Please note that if travelling to Russia, the Russian visa needs to be granted before Belarus will process its own one.

Bhutan

Visas are issued only upon arrival in Bhutan, either at Paro Airport or (if entering by road) at Phuentsholing, provided holding prior approval. Applications must be made in advance through a tour operator and approval from Bhutan is required PRIOR to arrival in Bhutan.

All applications for tourist visas must be initialised by a tour operator in Bhutan and are approved by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Thimphu. The operator submits the visa application to the Department Of Tourism in Thimphu. If the applicant has completely paid for their trip, an approval letter will be issued to the tour operator. With this approval in hand, the tour operator then makes a final application to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Upon arrival in Bhutan, the visa officer will produce the approval and the visa will be issued on the spot against payment of approximately USD$20.00 and 2 passport photos. Please ensure all passengers carry a copy of the approval with the reference number or a faxed/emailed scan copy of the “Visa Authority”.

Please note that Flower Travel will oversee this visa process for all its clients travelling to Bhutan.

Brazil

Many Australians are quite irritated about having to get a visa to visit Brazil as they are one of the few nationalities that need to. The reason seems to be no more rational than tit for tat. Brazilians need a visa to travel to Australia and so the Brazilian government returns the favour!

Recent changes to the Brazilian visa process has eased some of the hassles that made this visa a real headache. It is now not necessary, for example, to enter Brazil within 90 days of obtaining the visa. One annoying requirement continues however; the self-employed, students and the retired are all required to show proof of funds for their visit. Embassy of Brazil in Canberra

Cambodia

This wonderful country has many development challenges but it also has a brilliant online visa application system that lets you apply for your visa from your desk. Otherwise visas can be obtained upon arrival into either Phnom Penh or Siem Reap airports for US$25 cash but the online application is so easy why wouldn’t you.

China

In normal circumstances getting a visa for China is quite straight-forward. The process takes about 4 days and the cost is about $80 or so. The actual fee will vary from state to state as many Chinese consulates have sub-contracted their visa processing to private companies who impose their own additional fees on top. Be very careful if you are applying during a sensitive time for China (recent examples included the Olympics and the anniversary of the communist takeover) as the requirements for granting a visa tighten up considerably.

Journalists and politicians should also be aware that additional paperwork is required for them even when just applying as a tourist. Embassy of China in Canberra

Europe

Australian tourists do not need visas to travel to Europe but they should be careful if their stay in Europe is likely to exceed 90 days. The Schengen zone is a common immigration zone covering most of Europe. It was designed to make it easier to travel throughout most of Europe without the need for visas.

Visitors to the Schengen zone are allowed 90 days within the zone…The Schengen zone consists of: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland and Spain.

India

All Australian travellers to India require a visa. This process now begins online and should be more straight forward than in the recent past.

Russia

Russian visas require an invitation letter from an approved travel organisation in Russia. This letter acts a support document for the visa application and the visa is only issued for those specific dates. Currently the cost of a Russian visa is $110 and takes about two weeks to obtain.

Two crucial issues to beware:
1. Russian visas are very difficult to obtain by Australians overseas unless they are actually resident in the country in which they apply,
2. you are only allowed a maximum of 30 days in Russia within a three month visa.

A multi entry visa has the same restrictions. Embassy of Russia in Canberra

Mongolia

Reasonably easy to obtain from the Mongolian embassy in Canberra. The visa costs $100 and the process takes about a week. You are asked to provide an address of pre-booked accommodation. Embassy of Mongolia in Canberra.

Uzbekistan

Similar to Russia in that an invitation needs to be supplied from Uzbekistan in order for the visa to be approved. This is straight-forward to get but the problem is that Uzbekistan has no consular representation in Australia.

Visa applications have to be sent to London with a resultant effect on cost and time. As a guide the cost for two people to obtain a visa for Uzbekistan would be $295 per person including the actual visa cost and international courier charges.

Vietnam

There is now two ways to obtain a visa for Vietnam. Applications can be made as always direct to the embassy of Vietnam in Canberra but a ‘visa on arrival’ is possible for clients with pre-booked arrangements. The cost for this is US$25 paid in cash on arrival.

Additional Useful Information

For detailed information on the visa requirements for all countries check out the relevant embassy websites or DFAT

Flower Travel offers assistance and advice for all its clients visiting these destinations and others.