African Visas 101: Introduction to African Visas
Visa is important document, without which you can not enter the country, if it is obligatory for you to have it. Check out the ministry of foreign affairs if you need visa, where and how can you apply for it, how long does it take to be issued, how many photos do you need etc.
Usually you can do it through the postal service, i.e. sending all the requirement documents to the nearest embassy of the country you are travelling to. In some cases you only need to make an application online (and sometimes pay for visa fee) and then get the visa at the airport/border.
In some countries in Africa, there is a possibility to get visa on arrival (VOA). But it also depends on what is your nationality. VOA is the easiest, the quickest and usually the cheapest option. Visa fees differentiate between countries, the most common price is 50$, rarely less and sometimes (much) more (for example for DR Congo, Mali, Nigeria etc.).
Single vs. Multiple Entry Visa
If you are planning to visit only one country in Africa then single entry would be enough. But if you consider going to another country and coming back, then make sure you will tell the officer for multiple entry visa. Price could be either double either cheaper than buying single entry visa twice.
Expiry Date of Visa
When applying, make sure that you choose the appropriate duration of stay. If you are not sure how long will you actually stay in a country, is better to write down 90 days or three months, which is usually the maximum length of stay. If you want to stay more than three months, you will probably have to extend your visa after this time, or, you can also visit the neighbouring country and then come back – if there is an option of VOA, of course!
When applying for visas, make sure you follow photo instructions. Some countries have specific requirements about background color, for example: photo for Kenyan visa must have white background, some other countries require blue background. Do not forget to take a few passport photos with you, as you may need them. Usually they demand for up to four photos, so it is better to keep more of them with you specially when you plan to apply for visa from Africa.
Fill in a Form
While applying for visas, you will be asked to fill in a form. Beside your personal data, there will also be questions such as the place you will visit and exact address where will you stay. You can simply copy one address from your guidebook, in all cases is just a formality. In the form, there is always also a visa type that you have to choose. I would advise you to choose a tourist visa even if tourism will not be main activity there. (For example, if you will do a research there, you may get some complications so it is better to pretend you are a tourist.)
Applying for Visa in Another African Country
Let’s say you are going to Ghana and you want to visit Burkina Faso as well. Since you have to apply for both visas in advance in your country (or in the country which is responsible to obtain visa for citizens of your country), it may take you a lot of time and cost more money to do so.
So, what you can do is to get a visa for the first country of your visit – Ghana. When arriving to Accra, Ghana’s capital, go to the Burkina Faso Embassy to apply for visa for Burkina Faso. But this option is not always possible, so again you have to make sure about it before you leave your country.
It is best to contact embassy closest to your country in written form and in case the option for applying from Africa is available, have also printed mail with you when actually applying for visa from African country.
Some countries in Africa require transit visa even if you only change flight in that country. This type of visa would also be relevant (again only in some countries!) if you only transit the country in few days, usually up to 72 hours. According to our travel experience transit visas need proof of onward flight to next destination.
Visa Touristique d’Entente (VTE)
Covers following five countries in West Africa: Côte d’Ivoire, Benin, Burkina Faso, Niger, Togo.
First you need visa for one of mentioned countries and once you enter the country you can apply for Visa Touristique d’Entente and then freely move between those five countries. Without a doubt worth buying it if you consider traveling to more than two of those countries as you will save quite a lot of money plus some of your time.
Negative side of VTE is that there is no constant rule about getting it. Some time you may not be able to get it in Niger, another time you may be denied in Côte d’Ivoire etc. But, according to the latest information, you can get it in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. Visa fee: approximately 40$.
The East Africa Tourist Visa EATV
East African Visa was launched in 2014 with aim to ease travel to tourists who plan visiting more countries in one trip. East African Visa visa covers multiple entries between Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda. Downside is that duration of stay can not be longer than 90 days as visa is not extendable. Visa fee: 100$.
Good to Know About African Visas
- Always make a photocopy of your visa, not only of your passport. If you are unlucky and your passport gets robbed or lost, you will be thankful that you made a photocopies of both, passport and visa, since you will (hopefully) not be demanded to get and for a new one.
- Try to get all the information about a visa in time. Sometimes it may take few weeks to receive it.
- Sometimes you will need to show a return ticket when applying for a visa.
- Visa costs depend on nationality of the applicant.
- Many African immigration websites are getting up to date with modern times and have (finally) enabled online visa application process. (for example Rwanda, Kenya, Senegal, Nigeria for certain nationalities, DR Congo)