One of the biggest hurdles for travelers from developing countries is the visa. Venturing into international travel with a powerless passport can be scary. Especially with confusing and often times conflicting visa requirements. It is often difficult to research visa requirements. There is no one source out there that gives you a complete picture. You have to contact consulates, read up on blogs, check with airlines and search on the internet to figure the visa procedure.
I have been traveling the world for over 3 years now. In these 3 years, I have applied for a lot of visas. I have contacted consulates and embassies. I have asked people on the forums and blogs. I have spent a ton of time on the internet researching and consolidating visa information.
Over the time, I have learned the most efficient way to research visa requirements and find the information that I am looking for. With my experience and knowledge, I have put together the list of sources that you can rely on for your visa information.
In the last 3 years, I have traveled to a lot of countries. I have applied for many visas. I have made phone calls and sent emails to consulates asking for requirements and procedures. I have spent a ton of time researching and consolidating visa information online.
I have put together Visa Guides for all the visas I have applied so far. These visa guides are the best source of visa information out there. They include detailed information on requirements, eligibility, documentation, application procedure, visa fee and processing times.
I have personally applied for all of these visas. All information is from my personal experience. It is well researched and verified. I have traveled to all of these destinations myself. I have even documented the entry and exit formalities that you would need to follow at the destination airports.
IATA (International Air Transport Association) is the trade association of the world’s airlines. Most airlines in the world are part of this association. IATA Travel Centre provides travelers with most up to date international travel restrictions and requirements. It’s the most accurate and trustable source of information on visa requirements for any country in the world.
TIMATIC (Travel Information Manual Automatic) is an international database containing cross border passenger documentation requirements. All airlines and travel agents use this database to verify visa requirements. It is mandatory for all airlines to refer to this database as the fines levied by immigration authorities are high.
TIMATIC database is managed by IATA (International Air Transport Association) and it can be integrated with back offices of travel agents and airlines. Here is United Airline’s TIMATIC interface.
04. Ministry of Foreign Affairs website
Pretty much every country these days have their own Ministry of Foreign Affairs website. They usually have a visa section dedicated to travelers interested in visiting their country. Here is an example, the visa section from the Foreign Affairs of Germany website.
Do a quick search on the internet for the Foreign Affairs website of whichever country you are planning to travel. Quickly glance through the menu to find the visa section.
05. Consulate website
Check if there is a consulate of the foreign country in your city or nearby. The consulate website usually has information on the visa requirements and application procedure.
If they do not have all the information you need, there should at least be a phone number or email. You can call or email them asking for specific visa information.
06. Travel blogs from your country
More and more travelers from developing countries are venturing into world travel. There are quite a few blogs out there that have excellent information on the visa requirements for specific nationalities. Here are a few examples
For India nationals – https://bkpk.me/
For Philippines nationals – http://iamaileen.com
Lonely Planet’s Thorntree forum is another great resource for visa related questions and information. Go to a specific country forum and search for “visa requirements”. For example, here are the results when you search for “visa requirements” in Mexico forum.
08. Google search
Do a simple search on Google to see if it pops up any relevant information. Consulate websites and blogs usually show up in the search results. Try different search string variations depending on your country and the country you are planning to travel.
For example, if you hold an India passport and are planning to travel to Mexico, follow the below search string variations for accurate search results.
- Mexico visa requirements
- Mexico visa requirements for Indian citizens
- Mexico visa requirements for Indian passport holders
- Mexico visa requirements for Indian citizens in UK
- Mexico visa requirements for Indian citizens with US visa
09. Tourism website of the foreign country
Pretty much every country these days have their own tourism website. They usually have a section dedicated to visa requirements. For example, here is the visa section of Colombia Tourism website.
10. Embassy website of your country in the foreign country
Do a quick search on the embassy website of your country in the foreign country. For example, here is a news article on Embassy of India in Colombia website on Indian nationals not needing a visa if they hold a valid US visa.
11. Consulate website of the foreign country in other cities
First, look up for visa information on the consulate website of the foreign country in your city. Then, do a quick lookup on consulate websites of the foreign country in other cities or countries.
Some countries do not maintain a centralized source of information. Information varies from consulate to consulate and sometimes you may not find all the information on just one consulate website.
For example, the Consulate of Costa Rica in Washington DC does not mention anything about permanent residents in European Union. Where as the Consulate of Costa Rica in Toronto says that passport holders with permanent residency in any country of European Union do not need a visa to enter Costa Rica.
Wikipedia has accurate and up to date visa information for most nationalities. For example, here is the Wikipedia page on visa requirements for Indian nationals.
13. Project Visa
Project Visa is a database of visa requirements. It has reliable information on visa requirements for most countries. Do a quick search here as well to confirm your visa requirements.
14. Visa Map
Visa Map also maintains a database of visa requirements for most nationals. The website seems to be down and it’s not being maintained anymore.
15. Facebook Groups
There are quite a few Facebook groups for specific visas and countries. FB group Visa Talk is a good place for overall visa advice for any country. Thai Visa Advice for Thai visa specific information.
Do a quick search in such Facebook groups for visa requirements or ask any specific questions you may have.