1. Always check to see if you can order your visa online. If so, print out a copy at the hotel to keep in your backpack.

2. If you’re going to purchase your visa upon arrival, like in Egypt for example, be aware of the price ahead of time and make sure you’re able to purchase it in their specific form of currency. These pay-on-arrival visas are generally only available at major port-entry areas such as shipping ports and airports. When driving, expect many border crossings. Typically, there are forms to be completed on a plane or boat so just ask the attendant for these.

3. If you’ve traveled to Israel and are headed to another Middle Eastern country or North Africa, I’d advise researching how to obtain another passport solely reserved for visiting these countries, because Israel is not currently viewed in a good light and could cause travel problems for you. Trust me, I changed my trip from visiting Israel until after visiting these other countries because I was questioned in Lebanon about my travels in Israel among other stuff once I arrived at the airport.

4. Keep a copy of your passport on you at all times and keep your actual passport in a secured location. This is your lifeline when traveling overseas so treat it like your blood. You won’t be able to get a hotel room without it, even if you booked online and paid in advance. Other travelers may tell you that you can use your International Driver’s License, but from my personal experience after traveling to about thirty-five countries and staying in ninety different hotels, motels, hostels, and Airbnb’s, they all asked me for my passport.

5. If you end up losing your passport and you’re doing a lot of moving around after you’ve checked out of your hotel, they will ask to see a passport again in order to check you back in, so I suggest simply extending your stay instead of checking out. Also try to get an understanding with the hotel host so they’re already aware of what has occurred. Likewise, it’s probably not a bad idea to contact the Embassy if possible.

6. Visas do not automatically grant you unlimited access. Each country has a different set of requirements. Some countries only allow one entry and in order to be granted multiple entries, you must apply for this level of clearance.

7. Be mindful that the EU and Schengen are not one in the same. A Schengen visa is only applicable for countries in Schengen but since most countries in the EU make an exception for U.S. citizens traveling with their passports, you’ll be granted access to move freely. There are several countries that will recognize and accept travelers crossing borders with a U.S. passport. Just know the difference from country to country and remember that you will be checked. Also keep in mind of what you have in your possession because laws are not universal in this particular situation.

8. Don’t forget the number of days your visa will permit you to legally stay in each country and know how the timing works. Take Europe for example; my Schengen visa was valid for 90 days. Now, if I happened to leave the Schengen area, then my time would stop. Upon my return, my 90 days would then resume where it left off. If I wanted to do an extended stay beyond the summer, then I would just spend some time in non-Schengen countries in order to split up my 90-day clearance without needing to apply for another visa. Visa time frames can range anywhere between 30 days and 10 years. For example, 10 years is applicable in Brazil, so if you plan on traveling there you can go ahead and get started.

9. If you’re already overseas and need a new travel visa in order to enter another country, be mindful that some countries are very particular about the required picture on the visa. I’d recommend taking your picture at a printing shop or maybe a photographer’s studio in order to get it done correctly per the required standards. I also learned that using an online visa was great and super easy, especially when crossing the border into Turkey.

10. Stricter countries will require you to visit the embassy specifically designated for your region of the U.S. in order to obtain a proper visa, which can actually take up to a few weeks to receive. In some cases, Washington D.C. embassies may be able to fast-track this process for a same-day turnaround if you’re really pressed for time.

11. Passports can be fast-tracked if you go to the regional offices, but in most cases, you must already have a ticket showing your proof of departure in order to get it expedited for the same day. Also, always remember to check government websites for exact time frames as this may change.

12. When in doubt about completing a passport form correctly, just head over to your local passport office or post office for assistance. Remember to bring all necessary documents, pictures, and materials.

13. Are you required to arrive in the country on the exact date printed on your visa? No. Nine times out of ten, they do understand that incidents occur that are absolutely out of your control, such as delayed and rescheduled flights. As long as you arrive within the allotted time frame, you’re good. It’s also a good rule of thumb to check the website of your destination for policy rules and updates.

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