Cruising and visas

Jo Hall has a clear and concise guide to what visas you need, and when and how to get them.

Cruising and visas

Taking a cruise to an exotic or far-flung destination is a bucket-list trip of a lifetime for many people, but when it comes to visa requirements, the situation has become increasingly complex over the years, leaving many in doubt whether they need one or not to visit a particular country or port of call. Here are Jo’s top tips for tackling visas.

1. Do your research
Don’t rely on getting accurate information from cruise lines or travel agents; do your own research based on the passport you're using, or use a visa agent. Cruise lines place the onus of responsibility for visas onto the passenger, and unfortunately requirements change frequently. So even if you have cruised somewhere before, things may have changed.

2. Check your passport
When it comes to visas, much depends on the type of passport on which you’re travelling and the country of issue. Something everyone should do, however, is check the expiration date, as many countries require people to travel on a passport which is valid for at least six months beyond the date of entry into that country. If need be, renew it early to avoid potential problems.

3. Check with embassies
Some countries waive visa requirements for most cruise passengers but, it’s important to check the specifics for your passport and the destinations on your itinerary with the respective embassy, or engage a visa agent to do it for you. Be mindful that there may be a difference between needing a visa to arrive in that country to join a cruise, for disembarking to go home, and for the destination being a port of call. Also be aware that if you are visiting multiple ports of call in one country with another country in between, you might need to get a multi-entry visa. Be clear with your information so you have the best chance of getting the right answers.

4. Visa on arrival
In some countries, a visa can be issued on arrival, even for passengers on a cruise ship. This is usually a transit visa; the cruise line pays for it during the immigration inspection, then adds the fee to your shipboard account. Be aware, however, that cruise lines often charge extra for this – sometimes double the face value of the visa compared to if you organised it yourself at home. Also, if you obtain any visas independently before you cruise, alert the purser when you board the ship so they don't process a second visa and charge you for it.

5. Obtaining visas
If you need one or more visas, and decide to organise them yourself, allow plenty of time to get the job done before your departure date. It can take some time to organise with certain countries, and the more visas you need, the more time it will take, including time for sending your passport away if need be.

6. Budgets
Don’t forget to factor the cost of visas into a cruise before you finalise your ticket, as some can cost several hundred dollars. Obtaining visas can also be time consuming, so if you need several and you’re time poor, consider paying a visa agency to get them for you; it can cost up to double the fee, but saves much time and effort. And, finally, if you’re not sure if you need a visa for a particular port of call, get one anyway; it’s not worth being stopped at the gangway and out on visiting the destination.

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    1st Aug 2015
    Bali is a good example of the above, my wife and I recently had to transit through Denpasar, we were on a KLM flight from Amsterdam and changing to Jetstar to fly to Sydney, when we tried to go through the transit exit we were told only passengers flying Garuda could use the transit exit, we had to go through immigration, they charged us a total of $120 for a visa and an exit tax just to get through to our Jetstar flight. We had also booked our baggage all the way through to Sydney, fortunately I spoke to a KLM rep who told me that they don't transfer your bags at Denpasar so we then had to search for our cases, just as well we had 3 hours before our Jetstar flight.
    1st Aug 2015
    I've booked a flight to Perth via Melbourne through Qantas. Because the flight to Melbourne is with Jetstar I have to collect my bags in Melbourne and book them on the Perth Qantas plane. So it wouldn't surprise me that your lack of bag transfer had something to do with Jetstar.
    1st Aug 2015
    I'm a bit surprised re jetstar and qantas, they are partner airlines. I have just travelled from Beijing to Sydney, first leg Dragon Air yo Hong Kong, then change flight to qantas flight to Sydney, luggage transferred through ok as Dragon Air are a partner airline etc....
    1st Aug 2015
    I am not sure if the lack of bag transfer was anything to do with Jetstar, it was the KLM rep that informed me that they didn't transfer your bags at Densapar. The Indonesians discriminate against non Asians when you travel through Bali unless you are using their national carrier Garuda, they also have signs everywhere informing you that if you don't have a visa the penalty is 5 years in prison,it's certainly a place I am not interested in going to in the future, I know a lot of people that have had a positive experience in Bali, but not the place for me.
    1st Aug 2015
    Wondering if anyone has done a world cruise, Sydney to Sydney. If so, what did they do about visas? Thanks
    1st Aug 2015
    I have in the past checked each port of call, decided if I wish to get off the ship at this point, then looked on the Govt website for visas, and cost etc., before I get the visas. It is worth doing your homework on this.
    Some ports do not interest me, besides the ship is less crowded on these days, and I enjoy it so much more.
    You are also paying for your meals etc on board for that day don't forget.
    Happy cruising (I hope they have cruising in heaven)
    1st Aug 2015
    Thanks Dizzy. I was under the impression that if the country required a visa, you had to have one whether you went ashore or not. Lots of homework ahead for me :)
    1st Aug 2015
    I did world cruise with Princess in 2012, travelling on an Australian passport. For that itinerary we were landing in Mumbai & an Indian visa was required in advance, whether or not you were getting off the ship. My travel agent helped with that. Also required was the US Visa Waver form - easily done on the internet for about USD$12 & you just carry the printed copy with you. All other visas were done by the ship with little fuss & not high charges, so not worth the bother. I notice that there's a Sydney to Sydney next year around South America. When I went last year (land tour + cruise) I needed a Brazil visa arranged before I left (travel agent again assisted) & internet registration for Argentina. I always use a reliable travel agant (been with the same company for years) & get all the assistance & advice I need there, as well as checking it on the internet. Another great information source is the website for Cruise Critic, where you can join the roll-call for your particular cruise & keep up to date with what's happening.
    1st Aug 2015
    Jo says, don't rely on your travel agent! Well, although I do do my own research, visas are an issue that a good TA should be across. I don't always use a TA, but when I do, I expect them to have access to up-to-date information on visas. Mine does; if they didn't, I'd go elsewhere.
    1st Aug 2015
    My understanding is that westerners generally do not need a visa in most countries for stays of up to 90 days. We never have. So far.
    1st Aug 2015
    Not been to Bali yet then, not that I would blame you.
    2nd Mar 2016
    Why fly with a second rate airline Jetstar and have baggage problems??

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