Getting your Visas
For British travellers cruising around Europe, your passport often stays in the safe, except for a small number of countries. It comes back home in the same state as you left with no additional entries.
On a world cruise things are different.
Firstly the passport has to be handed over to reception when you board, and gets passed back to you when you arrive at a country that wants you to present it.
You will also have to organise visas for some countries before the cruise begins. These might involve sending the passports off to the visa service centres for each different country. The passport will then have an official stamp for each of these countries. Other places are less strict and require an electronic application which automatically adds the relevant visa to your passport. Alternatively you apply online and receive a form that should be kept with your passport when you get to that country.
Also while on your cruise, the ship’s crew will add further visas for other countries as you arrive at them.
I have spent quite a time researching the subject of visas. We will need them for our cruise in 2017 and I want to know which ones I have to organise, how much time I need to allow to get them to and from the various governmental organisations, and how much they will cost.
Now, our cruise on Aurora is visiting a lot of countries, so that is where I have a fair bit of information to pass on to you. Sadly we will not be going to Africa or South America so sorry but you will need to check the requirements for these countries yourself.
There is a serious warning here.
Things can change at a moment’s notice when it comes to visas. So my information is only as correct and accurate as is available at this moment – March 2016.
I will start with a couple of easy countries.
When your cruise includes a stop in Australia, you need a simple form of visa, known as an Electronic Travel Authority (ETA). Fortunately the British have a friendly relationship with Australia and you can apply for a simple ‘eVisitor’ visa (subclass 651) online.
The good news is this style of visa is free.
I did this for our 2012 world cruise, and it was simple.
For those who are not one of the lucky countries, your version of the ETA (class 601) will cost you 20 Australian dollars.
Once again this is a simple exercise.
From UK simply go to www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/usa/entry-requirements and fill out the necessary section to get an Electronic System for Travel Authorisation or ESTA.
There are some restrictions for those with multiple nationalities, and the passport has to be of the modern type (e-passport with chips)
The current cost (March 2016) was $14.
Now we move to the less simple countries
OK this time a true visa is required that is permanently fixed into your passport.
Although it sounds a very good idea, the e Tourist Visa (eTV) is not acceptable for cruise passengers. The eTV is an online application for a simple visa at less than half the cost of the conventional tourist visa. Unfortunately it is only allowed for arrival at main Indian airports.
So let’s turn our attention to the standard tourist visa process for India.
You could use an agent to do some of this, but I completed it satisfactorily for our cruise in 2012 and I know many others who have similarly saved themselves a lot of money in agent fees.
- Go to the Indian High Commission website for visa applications hcilondon.in
- Click on the Visa Information link where it will outline the process and show the different visa option. For cruise passengers it is the Tourist Visa at £100 (each person) for a year or £300 if you are hoping for multiple world cruises or visits to the country.
There is also a consular surcharge of £2 each as well.
Things to be aware of are the need for a passport with at least 180 days left with enough empty pages for all the expected visas needed for your cruise.
You also need photographs which are not the standard passport size.
- Once satisfied with the instructions and notes, click on the link to the online visa application form site. indianvisaonline.gov.in/
- You are going for the Regular Visa Application option so scroll down to the link labelled ‘Apply online’
- That opens up the form that needs to be completed.
Complete the form carefully.
I partially completed a form to the point where a photo was needed. Be aware it asks for a referral from someone in India. I believe the last time I did this it was someone in the P&O port agent’s office in Mumbai, so this needs to be checked.
- Once completed it has to be sent off to the address shown along with your passport(s) and money.
Be careful to send passports securely. You don’t want to lose them in the postal system, especially if your application is late.
Our cruise is not stopping at any Chinese ports but I have looked into the needs for here as I know there are a lot of concerns for visiting China.
A reminder again – with entry requirements for any country, conditions are subject to change at a moment’s notice, so the following is what I perceive to be true, based on the rules as they stand at this moment.
You will need a single or double entry visa for China if the ship is due to dock in the country. Even if you have no intention of leaving the ship, you will still need this visa.
On the Chinese Embassy website (www.chinese-embassy.org.uk/eng/) select the link labelled ‘Visas to China’ for some basic information. Under the ‘Guidelines for Visa Applications’ you can select a section a titled ‘Part One: A Brief Introduction to Chinese Visas(2013-12-01)’.
In that section you will find a mass of different types of visa and the relevant one for you is:
L visa- Issued to those who intend to go to China as a tourist
Go back to the Guidelines for Visa Applications page and select the next section titled ‘Part Two: How to make a visa application 2013/08/31’.
- You will need to have a passport with at least six months left on it at the end of your visit.
- You have to complete the visa form and include recent passport size photos.
- You also need to have copies of any previous passports when visas for China have been given.
- Finally you need to have a supporting letter as follows:
- Documents showing the itinerary including air ticket booking record (round trip) and proof of a hotel reservation, etc. (for cruise passengers this information must come from the cruise company), or an invitation letter issued by a relevant entity or individual in China.
- Information on the applicant (full name, gender, date of birth, etc.)
- Information on the planned visit (arrival and departure dates, place(s) to be visited, etc.)
- Information on the inviting entity or individual (name, contact telephone number, address, official stamp, signature of the legal representative or the inviting individual)
The basic cost (for each person) of a visa is £85 for British citizens. On top of that there is a Service Fee for the Chinese Visa Application Service Centre of between £66 and £90 dependent on how quickly you need it.
Back at the ‘Guidelines for Visa Applications’ page there is then a link to get started.
Other countries requiring visas
Many of the countries you visit require visas but they can be sorted out while you are sailing between ports. On a world cruise the passports are handed over at the beginning of the cruise and several visas are added for the various countries. They may well cost you money, but the charges are funnelled through your on-board account.
It seems quite painless until the end of sector account has a few more charges added to it.
Here is a list of countries where visas magically appeared in our passports during the 2012 cruise:
Cambodia, Thailand, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Vietnam, Egypt, and Indonesia
There weren’t many clear pages left in my passport after that.
The Easy Way
You might decide that getting visas could be tricky and decide to use one of the many agencies that appear on the Internet search engine when you type in the world ‘visa’. This will certainly be an easy option but be aware – they charge a lot of money for their services.
As an example, applying for an Indian visa direct will cost you about £100 each, while an agent could add £50 (or more) on top. This is similar to the mark-up for a Chinese visa, so your holiday is getting more and more expensive.
Assuming you reasonably happy completing online forms, then simply go to the official site for each country rather than clicking on the third party agents.
If on the other hand you really are concerned, then your cruise company will recommend their own preferred agency who can sort everything for you. As the cruise gets nearer, download a visa pack from the cruise company and then tick the boxes for the ones you need. Send off the form, your passports, and the money to the company. A couple of weeks later everything will have been done and your passports return ready to go.