Everything You Need to Know About Visas

by ShermansTravel Editorial Staff

Everything You Need to Know About Visas

by ShermansTravel Editorial Staff

The pleasure of booking a cruise is that one purchase gets you your itinerary and place to stay, and much of your food and entertainment. But that doesn't mean you won't have to handle some paperwork before your trip. Almost all cruises require passports, and some — especially those to far-flung countries — require visas, too. Not sure if you need one, or how to go about getting it? We're here to help. 

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Sydney Harbour / iStock / Siwawut
Angkor Wat, Cambodia
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1. Some countries require a visa for everyone.

If you're planning a cruise, especially an exotic one, it's important to research whether you'll need a visa as soon as you book your trip. For example, there are many cruises that visit both Australia and New Zealand on one itinerary. While Australia requires a visa, New Zealand does not if you are staying for less than three months. If you are on a cruise in South America, you will need a visa to visit Brazilian ports, but not Argentinean. The Falkland Islands off the coast of Argentina also require a visa.

Cruisers to China need a visa to enter the country, and many countries in Southeast Asia also require visas. Cruisers traveling the Mekong or Irrawaddy need one for Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, and Myanmar.

The Caribbean, the most popular cruising itinerary, does not require visas, with one exception: Cuba.

If you're planning a cruise, especially an exotic one, it's important to research whether you'll need a visa as soon as you book your trip. For example, there are many cruises that visit both Australia and New Zealand on one itinerary. While Australia requires a visa, New Zealand does not if you are staying for less than three months. If you are on a cruise in South America, you will need a visa to visit Brazilian ports, but not Argentinean. The Falkland Islands off the coast of Argentina also require a visa.

Cruisers to China need a visa to enter the country, and many countries in Southeast Asia also require visas. Cruisers traveling the Mekong or Irrawaddy need one for Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, and Myanmar.

The Caribbean, the most popular cruising itinerary, does not require visas, with one exception: Cuba.

Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood in St. Petersburg
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2. Other countries offer loopholes for cruisers.

Even if the typical traveler needs to get a visa, the requirement may not exist for cruisers. Take Russia, for example. You will need a visa if you are taking a river cruise in Russia that spends many days winding along the Volga. But, if you are on a Baltic cruise that calls in St. Petersburg, you may not. Cruise passengers who are in Russia for less than 72 hours do not need a visa if they take organized shore excursions through a licensed tour company.

You do need one, however, if you skip the tour and explore on your own, no matter how long you are in port.

Another example of a country where cruise passengers don't need a visa is Turkey. You can explore while in port for the day without one, but you will need a visa if you embark or disembark in Istanbul.

Even if the typical traveler needs to get a visa, the requirement may not exist for cruisers. Take Russia, for example. You will need a visa if you are taking a river cruise in Russia that spends many days winding along the Volga. But, if you are on a Baltic cruise that calls in St. Petersburg, you may not. Cruise passengers who are in Russia for less than 72 hours do not need a visa if they take organized shore excursions through a licensed tour company.

You do need one, however, if you skip the tour and explore on your own, no matter how long you are in port.

Another example of a country where cruise passengers don't need a visa is Turkey. You can explore while in port for the day without one, but you will need a visa if you embark or disembark in Istanbul.

Zebras crossing the Chobe River
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3. When and you get your visa can vary.

For many large countries, such as Australia and Russia, you need to have your visa before you travel out of the U.S, either by visiting a consulate, mailing away your paperwork, or filing a request online. Other destinations allow you to purchase your visa when you land at the airport or disembark for the day.

If you are doing a Nile cruise, you can purchase a visa at the airport in Cairo. If you are doing Africa's Chobe River, you will need a visa to visit Zimbabwe and Tanzania. The visa for Zimbabwe can only be obtained at the border, while the visa for Tanzania can also be obtained in advance. Cambodia and Vietnam also allow you to purchase your visa upon arrival.

 

For many large countries, such as Australia and Russia, you need to have your visa before you travel out of the U.S, either by visiting a consulate, mailing away your paperwork, or filing a request online. Other destinations allow you to purchase your visa when you land at the airport or disembark for the day.

If you are doing a Nile cruise, you can purchase a visa at the airport in Cairo. If you are doing Africa's Chobe River, you will need a visa to visit Zimbabwe and Tanzania. The visa for Zimbabwe can only be obtained at the border, while the visa for Tanzania can also be obtained in advance. Cambodia and Vietnam also allow you to purchase your visa upon arrival.

 

Havana, Cuba
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4. Your cruise line is not responsible, but can help.

Cruise lines typically include information on necessary travel documents when you book a cruise, so be sure to read everything carefully. And while most lines won't arrange visas directly, they will point you in the right direction by recommending a third-party visa service that can get you all the right paperwork and expedite the process.

That said, it's up to you to make sure everything is in order before you travel. If you show up at the port without the right documents, your cruise line will not offer a refund or cover travel arrangements to get you back home.

One additional word of advice: You will need lots of room in it for your visa, especially if you are in a location that allows you to purchase one when you arrive. It is recommended that you have six to eight blank pages in your passport, and (in some countries) you can be turned away at the port and required to stay on the ship — or worse, unable to leave the airport — if you don't have the correct amount of space.

Cruise lines typically include information on necessary travel documents when you book a cruise, so be sure to read everything carefully. And while most lines won't arrange visas directly, they will point you in the right direction by recommending a third-party visa service that can get you all the right paperwork and expedite the process.

That said, it's up to you to make sure everything is in order before you travel. If you show up at the port without the right documents, your cruise line will not offer a refund or cover travel arrangements to get you back home.

One additional word of advice: You will need lots of room in it for your visa, especially if you are in a location that allows you to purchase one when you arrive. It is recommended that you have six to eight blank pages in your passport, and (in some countries) you can be turned away at the port and required to stay on the ship — or worse, unable to leave the airport — if you don't have the correct amount of space.

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