Travelers from the U.S. are used to traipsing around Europe without worrying about visa fees and added paperwork. This summer should change that carefree, globetrotting view.
Just as the U.S. dollar nears parity with the euro ($1.06 for every euro), the European Parliament has voted to end free visa passage for U.S. citizens temporarily. The U.S. brought this on itself by requiring visas for travelers from Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Poland and Romania -- all European Union members -- but not the rest of the European Union. The other counties participate in a reciprocal visa-waiver program that's been admittedly beneficial to the EU as a whole.
"Making it more difficult for U.S. citizens to travel to Europe would certainly deprive the European travel and tourism sector of essential revenue, and put thousands of European jobs at stake in one of the few sectors which experienced a strong growth in employment," says European Travel Commission Executive Director Eduardo Santander.
But that's the price you pay for violating EU rules that require al member citizens to be treated the same way. The visa-waiver exclusions were made well before President Trump took office, but the State Department's response indicates that the administration may not be so keen on extending the visa-waiver program to the entire EU.
"The program is open to countries that have very low non-immigrant visitor visa refusal rates and immigration violations, issue secure travel documents, and work closely with U.S. law enforcement and security authorities," the State Department said in a statement just oozing with subtext.
There's a U.S.-EU meeting in June that may clear all of this up, but in the meantime it's given U.S. travelers reason to consider the time and money that go into securing visas elsewhere on the globe. With help from the folks at HowMuch.net, here's a look at visa fees for U.S. travelers:
Editors' pick: Originally published April 13.
Until the EU actually wages visa war, passage through the overwhelming majority of Europe is free. However, if you're jonesing to get to Belarus and see what life's been like under the tight grip of "president" Alexander Lukashenko (whom Europe seems to have no problem calling a dictator outside mixed company), it'll cost you $65. Considering that U.S. travelers born when Lukashenko first took power in 1994 are now old enough to drink, that's not a regime to be taken lightly.
Azerbaijan, tucked away in the southeasternmost corner of Europe, vastly overestimates its popularity by charging $160 just to get in. That is not only what the U.S. charges citizens of most visa-waiver countries, but what you'd pay to see all of Russia. By contrast, you'd have to stay in the Czech Republic for more than 90 days to trigger its $98 fee, but the dollar's exchange rate with the Czech koruna more than makes up for it. The dollar is worth roughly 25 koruna, which is more than the price of the average beer (23 koruna) and gets you a whole lot of goulash and dumplings (80 koruna per plate).
It isn't a free-for-all like Europe, but you can go a long way before you pay. Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Japan,South Korea, Taiwan and the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand are all devoid of visa fees. Meanwhile, in the Middle East, Lebanon, Israel and the United Arab Emirates all lack visa fees, as do Brunei, Kyrgyzstan and the Maldives. It isn't as if the countries that do charge fees are asking all that much. Nepal and Tajikistan want only $25. Cambodia, Jordan, Pakistan, Qatar, Sri Lanka and Timor-Leste seek $30, while Kuwait and Laos each charge $35. It's a sliding scale from there, with Bangladesh, India, Iraq and Oman charging $50 apiece. Venturing into North Korea will cost you $70, while Bahrain ($77), Uzbekistan ($80) and Vietnam ($85) can all be seen for less than $100.
Iran is the first triple-digit destination at $100 -- a small miracle given the tense back-and-forth of U.S.-Iran relations at the highest levels. China charges $140, which is still a steal at $20 less than the U.S. and Russia, but considerably more than the $30 paid by non-U.S. travelers. Afghanistan wants $160, which is a bargain relative only to the other means through which U.S. citizens have entered that country for the last 15 years or so.
Bhutan ($200) and Myanmar ($250) are more expensive, but if you want to go to Saudi Arabia? That's a whopping $533. Yep, you're getting a far better deal in the UAE.
There are some gorgeous freebies including South Africa, Morocco, Tunisia, Namibia, Seychelles, Mauritius, Lesotho, Swaziland and Senegal. Even some of the countries that charge fees are bargains: Egypt ($20), Togo and Zimbabwe ($30), the Comoros ($32) and Cabo Verde ($43) are all more than reasonable. From there, it's all lumped into tiers. From $50 to $100, you get Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, Tanzania, Angola, Djibouti, Sao Tome and Principe, Malawi, Benin, Ghana, Mali and Madagascar. From $100 to $200, there's Burundi, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Niger, Sierra Leone, Sudan and Uganda, Gabon, the Republic of the Congo and Democratic Republic of Congo. If you're in the energy business and need to spend time in Nigeria, however, each trip is $253.
Island hopping generally doesn't involve a visa fee. The only fees you'll find in this neck of the woods are $20 to get into Australia, $40 for Papua New Guinea and $100 for Nauru. Everywhere else, from Fiji to New Zealand, is free.
No country in Central or South America that touches the Pacific charges visa fees. Venezuela's visa status is up in the air, as is Guyana's, but the only countries charging fees in South America are Suriname ($35), Paraguay ($100) and Brazil ($160).