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7 Surprising Countries Where U.S. Citizens Need an Advance Visa

When it comes to international travel, U.S. passports are gold. In 2014, holders of a United States passport could travel to 174 countries and territories with no need for an advance visa—either because none was necessary, or it could be acquired on arrival.

Of course there are exceptions to this easy-traveling rule. Many countries in Africa require an advance visa, and you won’t be shocked to learn that you need to do more to enter places like Iran, China, and Russia than simply turn up on the doorstep.

But some of the exceptions are kind of surprising—though you could argue that’s as much to do with our preconceptions and prejudices as anything else. Regardless, here are seven countries that require a bit more legwork than you might have thought.

1. Brazil
Technically, Brazil is the only country in South America where U.S. citizens need to obtain a tourist visa in advance of arrival. Apply at your nearest Brazilian embassy or consulate at least a month before your trip (it shouldn’t take that long, but it’s good to be safe). Visas cannot be acquired at the airport, and travelers without one will be denied entry. And that immigration form that gets stamped when you arrive? You’ll need to turn it back in when you leave the country. Don’t lose it.
More info from the U.S. Department of State.

2. Argentina
Argentina is a tricky one, because you actually don’t need a visa for visits of up to 90 days. But you do need to pay a $160 reciprocity fee (online, via credit card) before arriving in Argentina, and you’ll need to hand over the receipt when you get there. The fee is good for 10 years and multiple entries, so print out more than one copy of the receipt.
More info.

3. Bolivia
Bolivia is another potential pitfall. You can get your visa on the border; it’s just the stuff you need to have with you that complicates matters: application form, photograph, evidence of hotel reservation (or an invitation letter in Spanish), round-trip ticket, proof of sufficient funds, and yellow fever certificate! All that, plus you need to pay the fee—currently $135 but subject to change—in cash.
More info.

4. India
Indian bureaucracy is legendary, and the visa application process is no exception. Regulations change frequently, so check with your embassy in plenty of time. At the moment, U.S. citizens can get a visa on arrival in India—provided they have applied online for electronic travel authorization at least four days in advance of their trip. Otherwise, no dice. This visa covers tourism trips of up to 30 days. If you want to stay longer than that, or if you’re mixing in some business, you’ll have to apply for the correct visa well in advance at an Indian embassy or consulate.
More info.

5. Vietnam
Pretty straightforward: Before arriving in Vietnam, you need to have a visa, a visa approval letter from a travel agent, or an exemption doc (unlikely). You need to make sure your visa is valid for the activities you will be doing (e.g. charity work), and if you need a multi-entry visa you’ll probably need to specifically request it.
More info.

6. Qatar
You can purchase a visa valid for 30 days on arrival at Doha International Airport. However, if you enter via any other route, you’ll need to get a visa in advance from an embassy, consulate, or online.
More info.

7. Lebanon
You can get a one-month visa at any port of entry to Lebanon. So why is the country on this list? Well, if your passport contains any Israeli visas or entry/exit stamps, there’s a good chance you’ll be refused entry to Lebanon. (Same goes for some other countries in the Middle East and North Africa.) One way you can get around it is to request Israeli officials stamp a piece of paper rather than your passport. They probably will, though I have heard a few reports to the contrary. But then again, the Lebanese ban on entry is inconsistently enforced, too, so you could just take your chances.
More info.

Photo by hjl/Flickr

It’s getting easier and easier to visit some countries—such as Cuba! Check our guide on what to know if you’re thinking of going there.