Preparing for your safari: Visa requirements for US citizens traveling to Africa
by Liz Sumner Brandt
U.S. citizens will need entry visas for many of their African safari destinations. Visas for Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and Zambia are the most common visas that are obtained by safari-goers. South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Namibia do NOT require advance visas for U.S. passport holders (you do receive an ‘entry visa’ as a stamp in your passport upon arrival).
For some of the countries above, the process of obtaining a visa is now electronic, so you can do everything online. Tanzania still requires you to submit your passport via the mail to Washington, D.C.
Many countries will allow you to obtain a visa upon arrival at your destination international airport, but lines can be long and tedious, so we highly recommend doing it in advance whenever possible.
Preparing your required visa information – electronic applications
IMPORTANT: files need to be an acceptable size. For most e-visas, you will be uploading image files of the necessary information. The main hurdle that guests encounter is that the e-visa websites only accept relatively small file sizes: each image file needs to be less than 250KB. In most cases, if you take a picture of your passport page with a smartphone, or use a scanner, the resulting file size will be a few megabytes (MB). Therefore, you will need to “shrink down” your original image files using an image-editing utility. If this seems daunting, please email your image files to Completely Unique Safaris and we will happily do it for you! If you would like to do this on your own, see these simple instructions on using Pixlr Editor online to reduce your file size.
You will need to have:
1. At least 2 blank pages (back to back) per country available in your passport (see note at end on obtaining multiple visas)
2. At least 6 months remaining validity beyond your dates of travel
3. An image of your main passport page. You can use a smartphone or a scanner, just don’t cut off any part of the page.
4. A standard passport-sized photo. No need to go to a passport agency. You can use your smartphone to do this – just be sure the background is white and the lighting doesn’t create shadows across your face. Crop the image using your phone to look like a passport photo.
5. Your flight itinerary showing arrival into the country and departure out of it, even if departure is to another African country. Can be in PDF form.
6. Your overall travel itinerary. This is provided to you by Completely Unique Safaris. Can be in PDF form.
7. The contact information of your main contact in Africa. This is provided to you by Completely Unique Safaris.
8. For Uganda and sometimes other countries, depending on itinerary: an image of your Yellow Fever card showing date that your vaccine was administered.
How to obtain your KENYA visa / e-visa:
IMPORTANT: There are a number of fraudulent websites that look like the Republic of Kenya’s e-visa site. Please use this website ONLY: http://evisa.go.ke/evisa.html
1) Create an account at the evisa website
2) Follow the processes for a single-entry tourist visa, or a transit visa if you are only traveling through Nairobi with an overnight stopover.
3) You will be able to pay online using a credit card and the visa will be issued to your online account. You can download and print from the website.
How to obtain your UGANDA visa / e-visa:
1) Visit the Uganda immigration e-visa site: https://visas.immigration.go.ug/
2) Follow the processes for a single-entry tourist visa.
3) You will be able to pay online using a credit card ($51.50) and you will receive a confirmation of payment and confirmation that your application was successfully submitted. Please take down your application number as you can use this to check on the progress of your application.
4) You will receive an email when your application is approved. Return to the website using the link provided to download your visa. Our experience with processing time is usually 3 – 5 business days, except if there is a holiday season (Christmas, Easter) in which case, it may take a little longer.
How to obtain your ZAMBIA visa / e-visa:
1) Visit the Zambia e-visa site: https://evisa.zambiaimmigration.gov.zm/#/
2) Follow the processes for a single-entry tourist visa.
3) The Zambia e-visa process DOES NOT accept online payments. You will receive confirmation of your application and will submit your advance approval at the border upon arrival.
How to obtain your ZIMBABWE visa:
Surprise! Zimbabwe will issue your visa upon arrival. Please have your flight and travel itinerary, your local contact / place you are staying in Zimbabwe, and your passport of course. No need to pack an extra passport photo!
Preparing your required visa information – applications by mail
Tanzania requires visitors to mail their application to the Tanzanian embassy in Washington, D.C. In our experience, the visa handling is very prompt and applications have typically been processed within 1 week of their receipt of your application and returned the following week.
How to obtain your TANZANIA visa:
What had already been a fairly lengthy and tedious process, has recently been made even more difficult for travelers seeking to obtain their visas at Kilimanjaro Airport. This now involves queuing for a Government Control number, queuing to pay for this at the bank, and then queuing for Immigration to check and issue the visa. This process can easily take in excess of 2 hours, something which we would prefer our guests to not have to endure.
WE THEREFORE STRONGLY RECOMMEND THAT TRAVELERS GOING TO TANZANIA APPLY FOR THEIR TANZANIA VISAS ONLINE AT www.immigration.go.tz e-services. The online process asks for more information than in the case of a visa being requested on arrival, but it is easy to follow the online steps. Visas are then typically issued within 2-3 weeks. Tourists need to plan for this well in advance, to avoid disappointment and delays.
IMPORTANT: Please have sufficient passport pages if you are traveling to multiple countries. For example, if you are issued a Tanzanian visa in advance, it will take up an entire passport page. If you plan to stop by Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe during your travels, the Zimbabwean visa will also use up an entire passport page. When you depart Africa, your final immigration official will look for a remaining spot or full page to stamp — getting caught without spare room for another stamp can sometimes be troublesome or lead to a penalty (fee)!