Traveling in East Africa can be the experience of a lifetime, but organizing visas and travel documents can be daunting. East African countries require U.S. citizens to obtain a tourist visa in order to enter, and although Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, and Uganda have similar visa processes, it is important to understand the country-specific requirements before you depart.
Passport validity is the first step to ensuring you don’t encounter any unwanted surprises at the border post. One’s passport must be valid for at least 6 months beyond the time of entry and you should have at least two consecutive blank pages per country you are visiting available in your passport. If your visa is not valid or does not have the appropriate number of consecutive blank pages, border officials can turn you away.
With that in mind, here are some general visa guidelines to follow for East African countries:
Visa Requirements to visit East Africa
All East African countries require US travelers to obtain tourist visas to visit, but the visa rules and regulations vary between countries. That said, securing your visa doesn’t need to be stressful! We recommend planning early, and securing your travel visas before your date of departure, even if the country you are traveling to allows visa purchases at the border.
Kenya: A 90-day tourist visa can be purchased via the Kenyan E-Visa website. A Kenyan E-Visa is valid for 3 months prior to arrival and usually takes less than a week to process.
Rwanda: As of January 2018, nationals of all countries will be issued a 30-day tourist visa upon arrival. The $50 USD charge can be paid for with U.S. Currency (only bills printed within last 15 years), Rwandan Francs, or with Visa or MasterCard credit cards. It is also possible to obtain an eVisa in advance of your visit.
Tanzania: Tanzania Tourist Visas can be obtained in 2 ways. 1) Visa upon landing. This can be obtained once you land in Tanzania. You’ll need to fill out a tourist card and pay $100 per visa at the airport (all US dollar bills MUST be dated within the last 15 years.) 2) You can obtain your visa in advance through the Tanzanian Embassy. Travelers can find applications for a tourist visa on the Tanzania Embassy website, and must fill them out before traveling to Tanzania. The completed application form must be sent to the embassy in Washington D.C. along with 2 passport sized photos, flight details, visa fees ($100 USD), and a copy of a valid passport. It should be noted that volunteering on a tourist visa is strictly prohibited.
Uganda: A tourist visa must be obtained online before entering the country via the Ugandan Immigration Control website.
Travelers who require multiple entries into Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda can obtain an East African Tourist Visa for $101 USD, valid for 90 days. Please note, you should apply for this visa through the agency of the first country you will visit during your travels.
It is always good practice to keep multiple photocopies of your travel documents and passports, stored in different locations, in case anything gets lost or stolen. It is also advised to send a copy of your documents to a trusted friend or family member in case of emergency. Uploading your documents to your phone, tablet, computer, or email can also allow you to access them in case your photocopies get lost or damaged.
Applying for a visa does not have to be an intimidating process. Most countries have developed streamlined processes so that you spend less time at customs and more time enjoying all that the country has to offer.
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