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Visa Fees and Departure Taxes

As you are probably aware, many countries require a visa to enter. Sometimes the visas are free and issued upon arrival in the country. This tends to be the case with the more first world countries (New Zealand, South Africa, Thailand).

Some countries require you to get your visa before you arrive and they generally charge you a nice big fee to do so. Australia – $20 (you can buy on the internet). China – $170 and Vietnam – $150 require a visit to an embassy.

I have and have heard a couple theories on this. One is that they know that they CAN charge you this much and the other is that they charge this much in retaliation for how much the US charges their citizens to come to the US. In fact, as a US citizen you will always pay more than somebody else from say, Europe.

Some countries charge you for the Visa but will grant it on arrival usually for a small fee (almost always paid in US dollars – around $20-30). Apparently countries like Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, Tanzania all prefer our currency to their own. In fact all the ATMs we used in Cambodia issued US Dollars.

And while a lot of these countries charge to get in, some also charge to leave. The wonderful Departure tax made an appearance most recently in Zanzibar, Tanzania. After paying $100 USD to get INTO the country, they also realized that they could also charge us another $25 to get OUT of the country. Of cuorse all of it payable only in USD. And of course we did not expect the tax and were not prepared. We carry around $100/per person emergency money but had already spent it on the island of few ATMs. And of course there were no ATMs near the tiny airport.

All we had were South African Rand and we only had 600 of those (8 rand to the dollar) for the 30 USD tax. It was just barely enough as we got a horrible rate of conversion to take our Rand to Tanzanian Shillings and then onto USD. I think we lost about 40 percent on the conversion and I was pissed. I might have (see also: did) spoken an obscenity to the conservative Muslim moneychanging girl behind the counter, but it was ridiculous.

It could have been worse. We could have been like our friends BJ and Erica who were literally digging through their luggage for quarters and dimes to come up with the 60 bucks.

But I always wonder what the punnishment would be for failure to pay the departure tax. Do they just kick you out of the country?


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