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TRAVEL SIMPLIFIED: THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN VISAS, RECIPROCITY FEES AND TOURIST CARDS

VISAS VS RECIPROCITY FEES VS TOURIST CARDS

Here's a quick guideline and summary for you to understand the difference between visas, reciprocity fees and tourist cards before you book your travels. You don't want to be in a position where your bags are all packed, only to find out that you can't fly at the airport because need a VISA. Or that your budget is suddenly through the roof because you have to pay $160USD in visa fees. To find out if the country you are visiting needs a visa, tourist card or fee click HERE on my Countries page. You can click on each country to see more information. 

VISA (some countries, not all require a visa)-

A visa is a document that states a noncitizen's entry has been approved for a certain amount of time and/or visits. Visitors can NOT enter said country prior to entry date on the visa. Each country has different restrictions, so not all will require one and fees will differ depending on what country you are a citizen of. Generally, you'll have to visit the embassy to fulfill paperwork before your trip and show proof of your flight, address of where you are staying, income and include a passport picture and money order to pay for the fee. Sometimes you have to make appointments weeks in advance, and the visa will be sent to you in the weeks afterwards. Brazilian visas are notoriously hard to get and you will need to leave your passport with the embassy for a few days. 

**For the sake of this article, I am talking about tourist visas for American citizens. There are also student, business and other sorts of visas that you could apply for. Cuba, for example does not accept tourist visas from US citizens, but you could always apply to for a journalist visa to get in.

RECIPROCITY FEE -

 (Bear with me this can get a bit heady here) A fee charged by a country to visitors that is in direct response to the charges that the passport holder's country charges the other country's citizens to enter. Argentina's $160USD reciprocity fee for US citizens is equal to the USA charging Argentineans a $160USD visa fee to enter the US. The difference between the visa and the reciprocity fee is that you can pay for the fee online or at the airport upon arrival instead of having to visit the embassy. 

TOURIST CARD -

Simply a small tax fee that you have to pay upon arrival. There is no need to go to the embassy, one can purchase these online, at the border at the airport or it may come included. Mexico charges American tourists $20USD for a tourist card that is generally included in your flight cost or can be paid at the border crossing. 

DEPARTURE TAX -

A small fee the country will charge you that is usually included in your flight ticket or paid at the airport. 

*Generally, if you are on a layover and staying in the airport, you will NOT need to get a visa or pay any of the fees as mentioned above. 

Questions? Comment below! If it all makes sense to  you then in the words of my third grade teacher, Mr. Morano..."Got it, Get it? Goooooooooood."

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QUITE POSSIBLY THE MOST PATHETIC, OPTIMISTIC LETTER EVER WRITTEN

Paris, France

Within seconds of arriving at our AIRBNB in Paris, I had lost my phone. It was a brand spanking new Iphone 6 with no insurance. Call it a matter of ego, I had gone through my entire college career with the same student ID, despite being broken in half and having a barely discernible photo of myself. I thought of myself as incapable of losing anything important. 

I had always been extra careful with my cell phone during my travels. Warnings from my parents and other travelers had cautioned me about getting your phone stolen, and I heeded their advice almost to a fault.  I slept with it on my body and kept it cradled in an inner pocket at all times while walking. I whispered sweet nothings to it at nighttime. As a solo traveler, your phone is your world. It's your camera, your contact with your friends and family when your lonely, your GPS, your distraction when you are waiting at the terminal, your form of research, your choice of food, your best friend. I was entirely too heartbroken when I left it in a cab and lost it at no fault to anyone but my own.

Without a receipt or a taxicab number, I had no way of getting in touch with my cab driver. My only course of action to take was to use my FIND MY IPHONE app and write him a message in French with my friend Justine's number for a contact. He reached out to Justine and left a voicemail, so in my eagerness, I wrote him a note of gratitude that you can see below. I imagined him returning to the apartment we arrived at and blasting a boom box in his arms, "Madame! I found your mobile!" He would shout, and I'd slam open the window in gratitude and cry with elation.

None of that happened.

Not even remotely.

He left no number in the voicemail so I was never able to get in touch with him. Justine's phone, being in France, had little to no service and missed the call entirely. I rewrote my FOUND MY IPHONE message to include my email. No response. Instead, a little while later I got CATFISHED worse than a fat kid in Iowa. They hit me with a false ICLOUD email saying that my phone had been located. It took my APPLE ID password and released the phone from my account so that it could be unlocked. 

I ended up having no phone for the remainder of my trip as I traveled solo through Paris, Rome, Amsterdam and Greece for well over a month. Joke's actually on you Cabbie guy - my sense of direction has gotten so much better now!  RIP IPhone6. You left me so soon.

Thanks to Google Translate I was able to write in French:

Hello Mister,

 I wanted to thank you from the bottom of my heart for returning my phone. I've been traveling for two months by myself and each photo means so much to me. You have no idea how thankful I am. Please let me know if you are ever in New York, you will have a friend in me.

                                                                                                                                            Thanks,

                                                                                                                                            Chau Mui

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14 BACKPACKERS WALK INTO A BAR IN PARIS

Paris, France

Parisian Nights. Beer Goggles.

Everyone had warned me about the French. I had heard horror stories from fellow travelers of being scolded by store clerks for not pronouncing French words right. 

"They're going to be so rude",  "Make sure you learn some French." and "Good luck loser", were some of the main staples I heard amongst the common room in my hostel.

So it was here, in Paris, that on my very last night, I found myself leading 14 fellow backpackers from my hostel to a bar that I had walked by earlier that day. I thought myself lucky to have gotten away without meeting any of the aforementioned "rude" Parisians, but I had this nagging feeling that they were waiting to pounce. We had a pre game at the hostel that night, and before embarking on where to go, I shouted out to the crowd that I saw an amazing bar earlier that day and would lead everyone there.

You'd be surprised to find how little of your memory sticks around after about two bottles of wine. 

We walked down random, uninhabited side streets, getting deeper and deeper into the city for about twenty minutes. I could feel the alcohol wearing off the group and the crowd getting impatient with me. They were starting to question where the bar was.

I couldn't TELL everyone that I was lost and had no idea where I was going. I wasn't about to admit I was lost to a group of drunk travelers looking to get more drunk.  I figured, as long as we just kept walking we'd eventually find a bar that was open. At this point, ANY bar would suffice.

Finally, in the distance, like a mirage,  I saw a bright red light in the distance that said BAR.

"Here it is!" I shouted triumphantly.

It was a tiny, local bar playing quiet jazz with no more than 6 people inside.  Small, quaint + dimly lit, the bar was not fit for a group of our size. Our rambunctious group crammed into the tiny bar like a fat kid into a water slide. The Parisians inside watched our group with bewilderment. They stared at us and whispered in French about us, mesmerized by our large, loud and drunk ways. A lady walked up to me - one of the group of three in the corner who sat silently judging us.

Here it is, I thought to myself. Here's the whole French persona I was thinking about. I turned the rings on my fingers around in case I had to throw down. She came up to me and said, "Excuse me. I could not help but hear that you are all speaking English. It's a very local bar, we never see foreigners in here. We want to welcome you to our neighborhood!" 

She later on told me that she was born in the apartment across the street, grew up in the apartment across the street, and still lives across the street. Another fellow lived right upstairs and invited us to airbnb his apartment next time we came to Paris. 

And it was here that we were able to meet some real Parisians. On a random street, that I don't even remember the name of the place - but it was the perfect ending to France for me. Locals buying us shots - some mixed cocktail that I couldn't tell but resembled a murky green Absinthe. 

At 5AM that day, my lovely roommates woke me up to make sure I made my bus to the airport and send me off. 

Suffice to say, I'm happy that I was proven wrong. Parisians are lovely.

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