When it comes to international travel, U.S. passports are gold. In 2017, 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 five countries that require a bit more legwork than you might have thought.
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.
Bolivia is another potential pitfall. As of May 2015, travelers are encouraged to get their Bolivian visa prior to travel, but in certain circumstances 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 $160 but subject to change—in cash.
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 60 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.
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. Until January 31, 2019, U.S. passport holders can take advantage of an e-visa pilot program: Go online to apply for a 30-day, one-entry visa to enter and exit Vietnam through 28 designated international border gates, including all international airports.
You can purchase a visa valid for 30 days on arrival at Doha International Airport. And if you're a passenger of Qatar Airways and you have a layover between 5 and 96 hours there, you can easily apply on their website for a Qatar Transit Visa to make the most of your stop.