15 May 2017

Reddit Travel Rants, No. 6: Clueless about the "VISA"

I find it unfathomable that some travelers just think they can buy a ticket and just fly to a destination. I suppose some first-world travelers are just so privileged that they don't need to worry about documentation that they need to procure before heading out. I guess they just think that all they need is a passport and a ticket, and they can board that plane to a foreign country. As someone who holds a passport from a third-world country, I find that bizarre.

So when they realize that they need to have documentation before they can enter a country, they panic. "Oh, I didn't realize I need a visa to go to Russia!" "Oh I didn't realize I can only stay in France for 90 days!"

The thing I find surprising is that most of these people are Americans, and I am sure they don't expect foreigners to simply show up at American airports and be let in without any documentation whatsoever. Even Europeans who have visa-free entry to the USA need to pre-register in the system before being able to board the flight.

Oh, and one other thing, when they realize that they need a visa, they sometimes ask "How can I get a VISA?" As if this document is an acronym of some sort.

I have a theory. I think because the USA is such a large country, that there's a higher probability that whenever someone travels, it would be domestic, then people really don't know these issues regarding paperwork involved in entering a foreign country. Compare that to Europe, where countries are smaller, and in some places, you won't be able to go driving within a few hours before hitting an international border. So whenever people travel, it is more often the case that people would need some form of official documentation, like a passport and a visa.

So yeah, I can see where the ignorance comes from.


  1. Many Europeans (well, Western Europe citizens) don't realize visas are a thing because they grew up in the Schengen Area.

    1. Zhu,

      That might be a growing trend nowadays. But I think it is still less compared to the American attitude. After all, even Europeans need to register on ESTA before going to the USA. In any case, I think there's a higher likelihood that one would expect it is okay to simply show up at the border and be let in if one is American. Of course, a proper empirical research is needed to prove this.