Visas have long presented a real barrier to ease of travel in many African countries. They can be pricey and require tedious forms.
And for those planning to visit multiple countries, it can mean weeks of shuffling a passport from one consulate to another — or facing longer queues at each border crossing.
Talk of visa reform is finally becoming reality in Eastern Africa. Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda have just introduced the East Africa Tourist Visa, which allows multiple entries among the three countries for a period of 90 days for $100.
“It’s really a big time-saver. You can get them on arrival, but you typically have to stand in a longer line,” said Dan Saperstein of Hippo Creek Safaris — not a pleasant prospect after at least a dozen hours of travel. The new visa should instead allow visitors to “arrive and relax,” he said.
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Saperstein said that he will be recommending the visa for clients planning trips for the summer season — say, a trek to see mountain gorillas in Rwanda, followed by a safari in Kenya. (The U.S. State Department recently updated its travel warning for Kenya, saying that risk in the country varies by region.)
The practice of charging relatively high fees for each border crossing was somewhat penny-wise but pound-foolish, and was believed to have had a prohibitive impact on tourism.
The new model is similar to the popular Schengen visa used in Europe.
Applications should be submitted to the consulate of the country where initial entry will be made. Single-entry visas are still available at a lesser cost for those with an itinerary for just one country.
(Find country-by-country travel advice at the U.S. State Department website, travel.state.gov)