If you are planning a trip to America you’ll need to check on US Visas –  so don’t get caught out!  Start researching visa requirements well before travel.

If you could pick any destination in the U.S. where would you go?  Las Vegas for the glitter, excitement and entertainment? California for beach, sun, movie stars and theme parks? A tour of the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Monument Valley, Yellowstone or another national park?  New York for shopping, sightseeing and nightlife? Florida for golf, beaches, Disney and theme parks?  Colorado for mountains, lakes, ranches and spectacular scenery?  If you are like most travellers you will need several trips to get your fill of all that America has to offer!

With so much invested in your trip you’ll want it to go smoothly.  The number one priority is to make sure you have your visa sorted out well in advance.  If there is any reason you may have trouble obtaining a visa then start the process much sooner.   The ESTA rules (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) require that you register online at least 72 hours before travel, but  it’s always safer to take care of these matters as soon as possible.  They do charge a fee, which is currently $14 (around £8).

Many travellers are unaware that failing to register for ESTA means risking refusal of entry into the US.  It also means potentially losing all the money you have paid out, such as for airfares, hotels, car rentals, attractions.  Check your travel insurance policy because, as far as we are aware, travel insurance companies do not generally cover losses associated with your failure to obtain necessary visas (for any destination).  Potentially a very costly mistake!

Before you book your holiday start by checking that all members of your party have valid passports.  The US and many other countries require that you have at least six months validity on your passport, and some countries also insist on a specified number of blank pages.

Before travelling to any country research your destination and check the visa rules and laws and customs well in advance. You could start with our Travel Guide to the US and follow the link to the Foreign Office (FCO) for the latest travel advice, as well as their excellent explanation of ESTA, FAQ section and link to register for ESTA.   Once you have your US Visa you can relax knowing you won’t get caught out, refused boarding by your airline, or turned away at the US border.  Get it right and you’ll be well on your way to having a nice day!

Flickr cc: o Palsson (Las Vegas)

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