Categorized | Travel

Don’t Forget Your Passport

Posted on 20 September 2008

You booked the cheap ticket, packed your bags and brought plenty of film. So make sure you see more of the country you’re visiting than the airport customs office by pulling together all of your paperwork before you leave.


If you’re a U.S. citizen, you’ll need a valid passport for travel abroad. Only a few destinations in the Caribbean exempt U.S. citizens from the duty of presenting a valid passport upon arrival. You can apply for a passport at any federal or state courthouse, or at any post office authorized to accept applications for passports. The State Department maintains Web sites with detailed information about documents and formalities related to travel abroad; try their passport services site.

Upon issuance, your passport is valid for 10 years. When traveling abroad, remember that the passport should be valid for six months before entering a foreign country. You may be denied entry if this requirement is not met. Poland even requires at least a year-old valid passport upon crossing the Polish border.


Each country has detailed instructions governing entry by foreign nationals. Visas stamped into a passport by a consulate of a foreign country (or, in specific cases up arrival at the border) specify the right of entry and stay for a given period of time in this country. Full information on Foreign Entry Requirements is available from the Consumer Information Center. Should a visa be required, you must obtain it from a consulate of a country you plan to visit or you may obtain it at an entry point.

Visas cost money – some are expensive, costing upward of $50 or $75 for India or Russia, respectively. A visa to Ukraine costs between $50 and $180 (depending upon the duration of your visit). Many countries require that, upon arrival, the visitor present tickets for on-going travel or return travel to the United States, and sometimes proof of sufficient means to stay in the visited country.

All countries in Western and Central Europe, Japan, Thailand, Morocco, South Africa, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Brazil, Peru, Argentina and Chile, for example, do not require a visa from U.S. citizens for a visit of up to 90 days. A few countries in Eastern Europe, like the Slovak Republic, Romania or Bulgaria, do not require a visa for a stay of up to 30 days. Israel issues visas for 90 days upon arrival. Mexico and the Dominican Republic do not require a visa, but require a Tourist Card, which may be issued for a fee upon arrival.

In short, study the foreign entry relations. Whether you need a visa to any country you plan to visit, or to ensure that you are aware of the requirements of entry or transit, contact the consulate of the nation(s) you plan to visit.

Driving Permits

Most countries require visiting drivers to have an International Driving Permit, and renters to be at least 21 years of age. Certain countries permit travelers to drive for a short period of time with a U.S. Driver’s License. Any American Automobile Association is authorized to issue an IDP. It costs $10 and is valid for one year. Applications in writing are accepted by:

AAA Florida
Travel Agency Services Department,
1000 AAA Drive, Mail Stop 28,
Heathrow, FL 32746.

They can be reached by phone at (407) 444-4245 or by fax at (407) 444-4247. Availability of rental cars with automatic transmissions may be very limited.

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