Thursday, July 25, 2024

The world’s most expensive visas for UK holidaymakers

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Other steep fees include the newly tourist-focused Saudi Arabia, at £108, and India, at £127. China charges UK residents a minimum of £151. And countries that the FCDO specifically warns against travelling to, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo and Iran, have similarly high prices, at £135 and £185 respectively. Conversely, most South and Central American countries allow visa-free travel for between a month and 90 days. 

That isn’t to say it is necessarily easy to acquire these visas. While most embassies now offer electronic versions – negating the need for an in-person visit – their websites can be difficult to navigate or hard to verify their authenticity. Others, such as Turkmenistan, require visitors to present a “letter of introduction” as part of the application process.

Then there is the risk of visa purchasing websites, purporting to be an official source of border documentation, which often mimic the style of the real visa websites and upcharge potential travellers: providing them with the visa, while also adding service fees for themselves. Countries that see very few British travellers are not, understandably, set up to facilitate such requests.

People visiting Guinea-Bissau, for example, require a visa unless they live in one of the 14 surrounding west African nations, but information on how to acquire one as a UK visitor is scarce (one estimate, however, has the cost at £207, making it the most expensive in the world for British travellers). 

There are, of course, reciprocal schemes for inbound tourists. Holidaymakers from the European Union, the US, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, South Korea and Singapore are able to visit the UK visa-free.

Those who are not exempt – including places such as India, China, South Africa, Saudi Arabia and Thailand are charged £115 for a standard visitor visa, which allows entry into the country for a maximum of six months.

The high cost has been slammed by industry experts: in 2022, when the charge rose 5 per cent to £100, a spokesperson for UKInbound called the charges “uncompetitive” and “incredibly detrimental economic impact on the UK inbound tourism sector.” Since then, the cost has only increased. 

It is out of step with the cost of travelling to Europe more generally, although the Schengen area fee rose on June 11 from €80 (£68) to €90 (£76). The European Commission cited rising inflation within its member states as the cause.

Travellers from South Africa, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and China, then, should brace for changes; those who are entitled to 90 days in the Schengen area, like the US, Canada, Australia and the UK remain exempt. Regardless of one’s country of origin, it pays to check for surprising visa fees before travel. 

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