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."