Which travel documents will you need when going to Europe? Will you need a Passport, Visa or a Passport Card? In this article we will discuss each type of travel document and who needs it and when.
Passports: You probably think of needing a passport when considering traveling outside of the country. But just what is a passport? It is commonly a small booklet that is issued by the country you are a citizen of. It confirms your identity, with a photo and sometimes, biometric information, and your nationality.
Having a passport is not an automatic guarantee that you will be allowed entry to a country. The country you are attempting to enter may place restrictions on who they allow into their country. There may be diplomatic tensions between two countries, they may not allow people with criminal records or they may require a visa in addition to the passport. Always check with your travel agent or passport office prior to traveling to make sure you will be able to enter the country you are visiting.
Your passport should be current and not about to expire. Some countries may require the passport to be valid for at least 6 months past the date of your visit. You will also need to make sure you have at least 2 to 4 blank visa/stamp pages. Your passport will be stamped at most borders as you enter and exit a country.
Passport cards are not valid for travel by air and therefore cannot be used for European Travel.
Visas: A Visa is a document (or stamp in your passport) that is issued by the country you are visiting granting you authorization to enter their country. There are usually restrictions to the amount of time you can visit and what you can do while you are there. Some countries may also require an exit Visa which allows you to leave their country.
Visas are not required for most European travel. However it is very important that you check with your travel agent or the appropriate government website. Penalties for not having the proper paperwork or overstaying a Visa can be harsh, up to and including incarceration.
Visas are can be issued when you arrive at your destination or it is more likely that you have to apply for your Visa prior to leaving for your trip. You may need to submit such information as why you are visiting, where you will be staying, their travel itinerary and reservations. It is wise to have copies of this information with you also as you travel throughout the country. You may also be required to have a transit Visa.
While you will not be able to use your drivers license to drive (you may need an International Driving Permit), it always wise to have it (or a copy) with you as an additional form of identification.
Always have a copy of your travel documents photocopied and kept somewhere safe while you are traveling. If your documents become lost or damaged you will need these copies to help in getting replacements.
Taking time to have all your paperwork in order before you leave for your trip will help in making your experience enjoyable and stress free.