Guide to eTAs and Visas

Tips & guides

20 March 2018

Going on holiday from the UK to the EU is as simple as flashing your passport, but you need to plan ahead if you're going further afield (even if it is just a beach holiday in Turkey).

This is because most countries around the world need you to apply for a visa to visit them. Some you have to apply for well in advance, whereas others stamp you in when you arrive. Here's everything you need to know about travelling to these countries.

First things first: where to find visa information

The UK government keeps its Foreign Travel Advice hub up-to-date with entry requirements for every country, as well as other handy information like local laws, customs and things to be wary of while visiting.

Countries change their entry requirements all the time. For example, Canada has recently added a requirement for British passport holders to apply for an electronic travel authorisation (eTA) before visiting. The USA has a visa waiver program (VWP) allowing the majority of British citizens to visit the country for less than 90 days without applying for a visa. If you're planning on heading stateside for a flying visit, such as a ski holiday in Montana, you'll still need to apply for the VWP in advance using ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization).

When to apply for a visa or eTA

This varies depending on the type of visa you're after, and which country you're visiting. As always, it's best to be prepared. Try to apply for your visa at least a month before you travel (this is a good time to sort out your travel insurance too).

How to apply for a visa or eTA

Again, it differs. While a lot of countries allow you to apply for your visa online, some need you to pop into (or send your passport to) their embassy before you travel. In these cases it's good to give yourself extra time in case anything goes wrong.

If you're planning a round the world trip, it's possible to get visas from embassies in other parts of the world. You'll meet a lot of British, American and Australian travellers in the Vietnamese embassy in Bangkok, for example.

In other cases, you don't have to prepare at all. Some countries, like the United Arab Emirates, offer visas on arrival. They don't have an eTA like the USA and Canada, they simply stamp your passport when you arrive. Make sure you do plenty of research before you book your flights.

How to apply for a visa or eTA

Visas on arrival usually cost money, and although some immigration desks will be able to accept credit cards others won't. It's unlikely you'll reach a cash machine before passing through immigration, so make sure you have some of the local currency to hand. You can find the costs of visas on arrival either on the government's travel hub or on the website of the consulate of the country you're visiting.

The US dollar is pretty universally accepted, so even if you're travelling around Southeast Asia it's a good idea to bring some dollars with you for visas.

Another thing to think about is landing cards, which you'll usually need to fill in when you cross the border into a new country. These get handed out in-flight, or after boarding if you're taking a cross-border bus. Travelling with a pen or pencil lets you fill these in quickly, and will make you very popular with people who don't have one.