Over the weekend, I found myself getting into the nitty-gritty travel details tied to entrance requirements for the first few countries on my itinerary. Since the only information I had researched previously on this topic came from the first edition of Rough Guide's First-Time Around the World (published in 2003), I quickly found entrance requirements and fees had changed in most places.
New Zealand doesn't require a Visa for Americans, however from their government website, they appear strict about having proof of onward travel (such as a paid airline ticket, not just proof of funds like a bank statement). As a result, my first plane ticket will be from Washington, DC to Australia, via New Zealand.
When I hit up Australia's Visa and Immigration site, I quickly found that you can apply for an Electronic Travel Authority online, which is like an electronic Visa. There is no charge for the ETA/Visa, however it does require a $20 processing fee. The ETA lets you stay for up to three months, within a 12 month period of the date it is granted. It looked so easy, I just took care of it in a matter of minutes.
Basically, if you are a passport-holder from an approved country (like the USA), you fill out the online form with your passport info, give them a credit card, and they (in my case) instantly approve you and keep your data on record for future access by travel agencies and/or immigration/customs agents.
Knocking of Indonesia was as easy as scrolling through the dedicated BootsnAll Bali forum. As it turns out, Americans can get a 30-day Visa on arrival (VOA). I saw conflicting information regarding cost, however I believe $25 is about right.
Being that I was on a roll, I headed over to the Asia forum on BootsnAll, and quickly found that Americans can get a free Visa on arrival, good for up to 30 days. A Tourist Visa can be acquired for $25; good for up to 60 days.
Feeling good, I started to delve into the requirements of Nepal, Tibet (which I treat as an independent country, though China claims it as her own), and China. I quickly found how complicated and convoluted the information becomes once you start dealing with a politically delicate area like Tibet. I will save what I found, and the implications, for a future post.