Archive for December, 2010

Get a Russian Visa for a Second Christmas

Friday, December 31st, 2010

Christmas always seems to go by too fast, doesn’t it? If you’d like to extend the holiday season, consider applying for a Russian visa. As Gadling reported earlier today, Russia celebrates Christmas about 2 weeks later than the United States, on January 7th.

Gift-giving, however, happens tonight, as back when Russia was communist giving gifts on Christmas was officially frowned on.

How festive is the Christmas season in Russia? Contrary to what you might expect, it’s actually quite festive, as Gadling’s Meg Nesterov discovered:

“I arrived in Moscow last Friday (western Christmas Eve) to find the capital freezing but festive, with New Year’s yolki (trees) decorated all over the city and various versions of Ded Moroz walking the streets, and now in St. Petersburg, locals are rushing home with Champagne and Charlie Brown-like trees under their arms. Nearly every public square has a large decorated tree and every store has elaborate holiday displays.”

If you want to head to Russia to bask in the Christmas spirit for just a little bit longer, you will need a Russian visa. Unfortunately, the process of getting said visa might be enough to wipe the holiday cheer from your heart, especially if you try to obtain one on your own. The Department of State notes that “Russian visa requirements are highly complex, and U.S. citizens must take care that they do not unintentionally violate entry and exit regulations.”

Here’s what you’ll need to get a visa if you plan on entering Russia as a tourist:

  • Your passport.
  • A completed visa application form
  • 1 passport photo
  • A copy of your airline tickets or a copy of your itinerary showing your flight number and the dates that you’ll be in Russia.
  • A tourist invitation from a Russian travel agency or hotel that can serve as your visa sponsor. The hotel or travel agency must be registered with the Russian government.

When applying for a Russian visa, a visa agency like RushMyTravelVisa can be a tremendous help. When you submit your application through us, you get personal assistance from a dedicated visa specialist. Your caseworker will answer any questions you might have and review your paperwork to catch common mistakes that could delay your visa. Then, we expedite your visa application with the appropriate Russian Embassy or consulate for the fastest possible processing.

Apply for your Russian visa today!

2011 Destinations: Get a Bangladesh Visa for a Frugal Adventure

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

Since it’s almost New Year’s Eve, I thought it’d be a good idea to spend the next few days looking at different destinations that travel experts have recommended for 2011. First, let’s take a look at Bangladesh, a country that is definitely under-utilized by tourists at the moment.

The folks over at Lonely Planet recently recommended Bangladesh as one of their top value destinations for 2011, so if you’re not yet feeling the economic recovery, this Southeast Asian country might be a good choice for you. According to Lonely Planet, you can eat quite well for less than a dollar a meal and get a decent night’s sleep in a hotel room for less than $10.

Bangladesh features a menu of activities worthy of even the most seasoned adventure traveler: hiking through dense jungles in one of the country’s many national parks, stalking tigers in the Sundarbans (or joining the local honey gatherers, called maualis, on a dangerous jaunt into the forest), canoeing and whale watching. If you’d prefer something a little less active, hang out on the beaches at Cox’s Bazaar or contemplate the silence of an ancient temple.

To visit Bangladesh, you’ll need a Bangladesh visa. Technically, you should be able to get one when you land, but don’t count on it. The US Department of State notes that “Travelers may encounter delays in airport visa issuance or refused entry if they do not have visas prior to arrival. Additionally, if issued, landing permit validity is usually limited to a maximum of 15 days.”

So, it’s best to get your visa before you leave. Here’s what you’ll need to get one:

  • Your US passport
  • 1 Bangladesh visa application form
  • 1 passport photo
  • Roundtrip airline tickets or itinerary. If you are traveling by land, you’ll need a letter explaining when and where you will be entering and leaving the country.

Also, keep in mind that parts of Bangladesh are experiencing unrest and may not be safe for tourists. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t go, of course, but you should educate yourself about the security situation in different regions and plan your trip accordingly. The Department of State’s Consular Information page on Bangladesh (referenced above) will help.

RushMyTravelVisa can help you get a Bangladesh visa quickly and easily. We’ll help you with the paperwork and expedite your application with the Department of State for the fastest possible processing.

Apply for your Bangladesh visa today!

Chinese Visa Requirements to Tour the Tea Horse Road

Sunday, December 26th, 2010

The Silk Road may get all the glory, but there’s another, lesser-known Chinese trade route that’s no less interesting to explore. The “Tea-Horse Road”  once carried tea from China to Tibet, where the Chinese traded it for tough Tibetan horses.

The original trail was incredibly difficult and rough, and yet Chinese tea porters made the journey with packs of tea on their backs that weighed more than they did.  National Geographic travel writer Mark Jenkins recently traveled what remains of the  Tea Horse road, and found some elderly Chinese porters who were willing to talk about their days hauling tea. The traditional tea porter song that they sang for him illustrates how hard the work was:

Seven steps up, you have to rest.

Eight steps down, you have to rest.

Eleven steps flat, you have to rest.

You are stupid, if you don’t rest.

Nowadays, most of the trail itself is gone, either paved or left to fall to ruin. However, the places where the road once stopped are interesting enough to make a Tea Horse Road itinerary more than worthwhile.  Potential tea horse road destinations could include the tropical rainforests of Xishuangbanna; Pu’er, the home of highly esteemed Pu’er tea; laid-back Dali; and Llhasa in Tibet.  Several Chinese tour operators run Tea Horse Road-themed tours; hitch a ride with them or create your own itinerary.

To travel the Tea Horse road, you’ll need a valid passport and a Chinese visa.  You must apply for your Chinese visa and have it hand before you leave the United States. If you’re traveling as a tourist, see Chinese Visa Requirements for Tourists for more details.

Also, keep in mind that you need a permit to visit Tibet and even then will only be allowed in certain areas. In addition, if your itinerary takes you through other countries on the way to China, you may need visas for those countries as well.

RushMyTravelVisa can research your itinerary to ensure you have the correct paperwork. Plus, we’ll help you apply for any visas you may need and expedite them with the appropriate embassy or consulate for the fastest possible processing.

Apply for your Chinese visa today!

Get a Brazil Visa to See the Oldest Rock Art in South America

Sunday, December 26th, 2010

This week’s featured UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of Brazil’s most significant archaeological treasures. Serra da Capivara National Park is home to numerous examples of amazing rock art that dates back to the Ice Age. In fact, one rock shelter has some paintings that date back to 26,000-22,000 BC, making it the oldest known rock art in South America. At over 25,000 years of age, some of the rock art in Serra de Capivara makes the famous cave paintings in Lascaux, France (painted “only” 17,300 years ago) look like modern art.

Serra da Capivara’s main draw may be the rock art, but it’s also notable for its unique plant and animal life. Some species are not found anywhere else outside of the park boundaries.

UNESCO granted World Heritage status to the park in 1991, calling it an “outstanding testimony to one of the oldest human communities of South America.”

Guided tours of the park are available and hotels are located nearby. If you’re interested in going, this article has in-depth information about how to get there and how to book a tour.

To visit Serra da Capivara, you’ll need not only a valid passport but also a Brazil visa. Brazil visa requirements are notoriously complex. Here’s a brief overview of what you’ll need to get a tourist visa:

  • A valid passport with an expiration date that’s at least 6 months in the future and at least 2 blank visa pages in the back. Before you submit your Brazil visa application, get a passport renewal or add pages as necessary.
  • One completed Brazil visa application form
  • 2 passport-sized photos
  • A copy of your itinerary verifying the dates you plan to enter and leave Brazil.
  • A clean copy of your driver’s license or state-issued ID card.
  • If you will be visiting friends or relatives, you also need a letter from your hosts.

To enter Brazil, you may also need a yellow fever vaccination. Vaccines are required of travelers who have been to any of the following countries in the past 3 months (90 days): Angola, Bolivia, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ecuador, French Guiana, Gabon, Ghana, Gambia, Republic of Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Peru, Sierra Leone, Sudan or Venezuela.

Why stumble through the Brazil visa system on your own? RushMyTravelVisa can guide you through it step by step. We’ll help you with the paperwork and expedite your application with the appropriate embassy or consulate for the fastest possible processing.

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Nepal Visa Requirements to See the Temple of Boudhanath Stupa

Saturday, December 25th, 2010

Boudhanath Stupa is one of the most beautiful and impressive Buddhist temples in Nepal. Towering over the country’s capital Kathmandu, it is one of the city’s chief tourist attractions. It’s easy to see why — the glistening white dome is topped with a gold canopy and surrounded by innumerable brightly colored, fluttering prayer flags for an amazing visual impact.

According to legend, the stupa is the final resting place of an important sage called Kāṣyapa. There are several interesting legends describing how it was built. In one, recounted on the NileGuidance blog, an old woman petitioned the ruler of the area for land to build a temple to house the remains of the sage. The king granted her “as much land as a buffalo skin could cover,” so she cut the buffalo skin into thin strips and used the strips to encircle the area where the stupa now stands.

Per Wikipedia, another story is that after the old woman was granted permission to proceed building the temple, the scale and grandeur of the construction made nearby wealthy noblemen uneasy. They went to the king and said “if such a poor old dame were allowed to complete building such a stupendous tower, they themselves would have to dedicated a temple as great as a mountain, and so they decided to ask the King to disallow the further progress of the work.” The King refused, saying that he could not take back permission once he had already granted it. That is why the temple’s name literally means “Have finished giving the order to proceed with.”

Go during the Tibetan New Year, in February or March, to witness the Losar festival, which according to Sacred Destinations is the largest festival in Nepal.

To visit Nepal, American citizens need both a valid passport and a visa. You can get a visa on arrival, but of course you’ll get through the immigration line faster if you apply ahead of time, before you leave the US. No matter where you apply, to get a Nepal visa you need the following documents:

  • One Nepal visa application
  • One passport photo
  • The appropriate visa fees for your desired length of stay. A 15-day multiple entry visa is $25, a one-month visa is $40, and a three-month multiple entry visa is $100.

RushMyTravelVisa makes getting your Nepal visa a breeze. We walk you through the paperwork and expedite your visa application for the fastest possible processing. If you plan to stop in other countries along the way, we’ll also research your itinerary to ensure you have all the visas you need to make it to and Nepal and back. Let us help you get your Nepal visa today!

Get a Mozambique Visa to See Elephants in the Maputo Special Reserve

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

Famous for its elephants, Mozambique’s Maputo Special Reserve also provides shelter for herds of zebra and antelope, plus crocodiles, hippos, and many different types of exotic birds. N0w, the World Bank is investing in a new, community-owned project to build an eco-resort in the park. That means that if the lodge is successful, the community as a whole will benefit. It should provide local people with a new source of income as well as providing them with an incentive to take care of the park and its wildlife.

It will also make the park much more attractive to tourists; as this article on Getaway.co.za notes, currently “accommodation is also a bit wild and rugged. With bathroom facilities being relatively non-existent, camping is not for the faint-hearted. Most camping sites provide you with little else besides a cleared area, with your major pro being wonderful beach access.”

To visit Mozambique, US visitors need both a passport and a visa. In theory, you can get a visa on arrival in Mozambique; however, the US Department of State strongly recommends you get your visa beforehand.

Before you apply for a Mozambique visa, check your passport. The expiration date needs to be at least 6 months further in the future than the date you plan to enter Mozambique. You need at least 1 completely pristine page in the back of your passport if you’re applying before you leave the US. If you plan on taking your chances and applying for a visa at the border, you need 3 blank pages.

You’ll also need:

  • 1 completed copy of the Mozambique visa application
  • 2 passport-sized photos
  • A copy of your hotel reservations
  • If you’re visiting a friend or family in Mozambique, you’ll need a letter of invitation that clearly states your first and last name along with your address.
  • Payment of the appropriate visa fees. Contact the Mozambique Embassy or your visa agency for the precise amounts.

You don’t need a yellow fever vaccination to get your visa, but you will need one to enter the country. Don’t forget to bring your International Certificate of Vaccination for yellow fever with you and keep it with you as you travel. If you arrive in Mozambique without it, they will revaccinate you and charge you $50 for the privilege.

No matter where you’re going in Africa, RushMyTravelVisa can review your itinerary and help you get the visas you need quickly and easily.

Let us help you apply for your Mozambique visa today!

Travel Visa Requirements for the “Banana Pancake Trail”

Sunday, December 19th, 2010

If you’ve considered a trip to Asia, particularly a long-term backpacking trip, you’ve probably heard the term “banana pancake trail” thrown about. You might have thought to yourself, “Hey, I like pancakes. I like bananas. Where do I sign up?”

It’s not really that simple-the banana pancake trail doesn’t really have a beginning, end or set route. It’s not a backpacking trail per se, though you’ll certainly meet lots of backpackers on it. The term “banana pancake trail” is simply used to designate areas of Asia that get a lot of young Western tourists, usually backpackers. The name comes from the banana pancakes that are often served at guesthouses serving this clientele.

That said, there are definitely cities and towns that are indisputably part of the banana pancake trail. Whether you’ll want to visit or not depends on the type of traveler you are; if your goal is to see places that are untouched by tourism you may be better off elsewhere. Here’s a list of some of the most popular stops, along with the travel visa requirements for each:

India

If you’re planning on traveling to India and you have a hankering for banana pancakes check out Goa, Pushkar and Varanasi. See Indian Visa Requirements for Tourists for details on visa requirements.

Vietnam

Halong Bay, Hoi An, and Hanoi in Vietnam are popular backpacker stops. As with India, Vietnam requires American tourists to get visas in advance; see Vietnam Visa Requirements for Tourists for details.

Thailand

In Thailand, the following regions are known for being great places to hang out and party, if that’s your bag:

  • Bangkok, especially Khao San Road
  • Pai
  • Ko Pha Ngan, known for its notorious full-moon party
  • Ko Phi Phi

Laos

In Laos, you can follow your breakfast of banana pancakes with a day of river tubing in Vang Vieng. You can either get your visa on arrival or before you enter the country- see Laos Visa Requirements for Tourists for details.

Cambodia

In Cambodia, Sihanoukville and Siem Reap (near the famous temples of Angkor Wat) are the main banana pancake trail stops. See Cambodian Visa Requirements for Tourists for more details on visas.

Malaysia

Penang, the Perhentian Islands and Melaka are popular “banana pancake trail” stops in Malaysia. You do not need a visa for stays of 90 days or less.

Indonesia

Lake Toba, Yogyakarta, Mount Bromo and the islands of Bali, Lombok and Gili Trawangan are all great places to feast on banana pancakes before going sightseeing. You can apply for a visa on advance or get one on arrival- see Indonesian Visa Requirements for Tourists for details.

China

Banana pancakes have been sighted in China in Dali, Lijiang, and Yangshuo. You’ll need to get a visa in advance to enter China. See Chinese Visa Requirements for Tourists.

No matter where you’re going, RushMyTravelVisa can help you get the travel visas you need to get there. We’ll research your itinerary and help you with the paperwork, then expedite your visa for the fastest possible processing!

Madagascar Visa Requirements for Tourists

Saturday, December 18th, 2010

Tucked away off the coast of Africa, Madagascar doesn’t make it on many American tourists’ life lists — at least not yet. That may change as the country more fully develops its eco-tourism industry, assuming logging companies and assorted other extractive industries don’t “harvest” all of Madagascar’s pristine rainforests first.

Right now, while it’s somewhat difficult to get around the country, there’s enough of a tourist infrastructure to make it doable as long as you’re willing to deal with occasional inconveniences like delayed flights and rough roads, and more than enough gorgeous wilderness and exotic wildlife to make it worth your while.

In a recent article, New York Times’ travel writer Jeffery Gettleman explained the charms of Madagascar:

“Cut off from the mainland 160 million years ago, Madagascar is host to some of the rarest and most unusual flora and fauna in the world. There are hissing cockroaches, giant jumping rats, pygmy chameleons, moths as big as dinner plates, along with various kinds of lemurs. You’ll see odd, wavy plants growing out of the desert that look as if they belong underwater. In fact, there is so much uncharted life here that scientists are constantly discovering more…And there are also beaches, really good ones.”

Lemurs, beaches and a pirate graveyard? I’m in!

Before you go to Madagascar, you’ll need to do 2 things (not counting making travel reservations, packing, etc). First, check your passport. It must have an expiration date that’s at least 6 months after you plan on entering the country, plus at least one blank page in the back. Before your trip, renew your passport or add passport pages as necessary.

Second, do yourself a favor and get a visa ahead of time. Madagascar visas are available at the airport, but you should expect substantial delays. Mr. Gettleman of the New York Times described an excruciating wait at passport control, and offered the following advice to fellow travelers: “Get the visa ahead of time, even though Madagascar gives free tourist visas at the airport. We saw other tourists who had done this; they breezed right through.”

For instructions on how to get a Madagascar tourist visa, check out the instructions at the Madagascar Embassy’s website. Keep in mind that you may have connections in other countries and that they may also require you to have a visa. RushMyTravelVisa can research your itinerary and assist you in getting any transit visas you may need for your trip.

Need help getting a visa? Contact our visa experts today!

Get a Vietnamese Visa to Visit the My Son Sanctuary

Saturday, December 18th, 2010

This week’s featured UNESCO World Heritage is the ruined stronghold of an ancient Vietnamese kingdom. The My Son Sanctuary is the former religious center of the Champa kingdom. Pirates and traders, the Cham people ruled much of the Vietnamese coastline from the 7th century AD to the 15th century, dealing in spices, ivory and aloe. They were frequently at war with their neighbors, the Khmer people of Cambodia and the Viet of Vietnam.

The Champa kingdom was Hindu, and for centuries, Champa rulers built temples in the sheltered valley of My Son. Centuries worth of weather and heavy bombing of the area during the Vietnam War has taken its toll on the ancient temples, but the ruins are still quite impressive. Stick to the designated paths if you visit; land mines and unexploded ordnance remain a problem in the surrounding area.

UNESCO calls the My Son sanctuary “an exceptional example of cultural interchange, with the introduction the Hindu architecture of the Indian sub-continent into South-East Asia.”

To visit Vietnam and see the temples, you will need a Vietnamese visa. Vietnam doesn’t do visas on arrival, so you must apply in advance and have your Vietnamese visa with you when you get to the airport.

To get a Vietnamese tourist visa, you need the following documents:

  • Your US passport
  • A completed Vietnamese visa application
  • A recent passport photo, taken within the past 6 months.

Also, depending on your itinerary, you may need to apply for a multiple-entry visa rather than the single-entry Vietnamese visa that is typically issued. If you plan to travel to Laos after Vietnam, you’ll need a Vietnamese visa that is permanently attached to your passport. Detachable visas are removed as you exit Vietnam, but not having a Vietnamese visa in your passport can cause you to be denied entry to Laos.

RushMyTravelVisa can make getting a Vietnamese visa fast and hassle-free. Your visa specialist will answer your questions, help you with the paperwork and submit your application to the appropriate embassy or consulate for the fastest possible processing.

Need a Vietnamese visa? Let us help!

    Chinese Visa Requirements to Chill in Dali

    Thursday, December 16th, 2010

    A favorite haunt of backpackers, hippies and other bohemian types, Dali is like China’s answer to Goa, the “hippie mecca” of India. Centuries ago, this small city was the capital of the kingdom of the Bai, one of China’s many ethnic minorities. They still live here today, and if you visit the shores of Lake Erhai on one side of the town, you can watch Bai fishermen catch fish the traditional way, with specially trained water birds called cormorants. However, these days the Bai are joined by a blend of young Chinese students, artists, musicians and hippified Westerners, all in Dali to chill out and enjoy the city’s laid-back, artsy  vibe.

    On the Western side of the city, the Cangshan mountains provide a stunning backdrop and endless opportunities for exploration. According to the Guardian, if you go into the mountains you’ll find “esoteric temples, guesthouse retreats, hot springs and even a secret monastery of kung fu monks.”

    One item that you’ll need to get your hands on before you visit is a Chinese tourist visa, or “L” visa. Without the visa, you won’t even be allowed to leave the United States. Here’s what you need to get the visa:

    • One completed Chinese visa application
    • Your US passport,. You’ll need at least one blank page in the back for the visa, and your passport must have an expiration date at least 6 months in the future. Before you apply for your Chinese visa, add passport pages or renew your passport if necessary.
    • A copy of your passport’s information page. This is the page that has your name, birthday and other personal information on it.
    • On the application, glue or staple one recent passport photo.

    If you are leaving within the next 7 days, include a copy of your travel itinerary. This will allow your Chinese visa to be expedited.

    RushMyTravelVisa can make getting a Chinese visa a much faster and less stressful experience. When you apply through us, your visa specialist will assist you with your application and answer any questions you might have, so you don’t have to worry about making a mistake that could delay your application. Then, we deliver your Chinese visa application to the appropriate embassy or consulate for the fastest possible processing.

    Apply for your Chinese visa today!