Travel to the United States without a Visa using ESTA

Guest post by Josh Hobson and Sophie Jones

Applying for a visa can be a lot of work.

Traveling to the United States can be a chaotic experience. When planning a holiday, there is so much to consider, including where to go, where to stay, when to go, which airline to fly with, and applying for visas. Fortunately, one of those considerations can now be taken off that list for many travelers. You guessed it. It’s the visa. Now, citizens of more than three dozen countries can travel to the United States without one under the Visa Waiver Programme (VWP).

What is VWP?

The VWP was created to boost tourism into the United States, helping to decrease wait times at airports. Through the program, travelers from any of the participating countries can enter the United States without a visa. They need only complete an electronic system for travel authorization (ESTA) application.

What is ESTA?

ESTA was launched by the US government and is ideal for anyone entering the United States by boat or plane for a short stay. Simply complete the online application available through the US Department of Homeland Security website at least 72 hours prior to departure. If you’re traveling with a group, you can submit an ESTA application for up to 50 people.

Simple and Cheap

An ESTA, unlike a visa, is very easy to obtain. Applications are completed solely online, the applicant will receive a response within minutesalthough some cases may take up to 72 hours. Not only is the ESTA a time saver,  it’s also cost-effective, at a mere $14. A trip to the embassy to file paperwork—not to mention the costly fees and long wait time—are a thing of the past. Bare in mind that to apply for an ESTA, you must hold an electronic passport.

Who Can Apply?

You may be wondering who can apply for the ESTA. There are 38 countries that are eligible for the ESTA program,  including Spain, the United Kingdom, France, Malta, and Chile. The program is intended for tourists, businesspeople, and those with a flight that connects through the United States.

Basic Needs

Anyone entering the United States under this program can remain in the country for up to 90 days before they have to leave. The ESTA is valid for 2 years and holders can enter the US as many times as they like during that period.

Important Information that You Must Consider

Even if your ESTA is approved, you are not 100 percent guaranteed entry into the United States. Officials at the border have the ultimate say about who can enter the country. Your application may be rejected. If so, you must apply for a conventional visa.

For more useful information about ESTA, check out this video

Author bio: Josh Hobson and Sophie Jones are students in Liverpool. They created www.estaform.org  to provide awareness about this wonderful program. Reason? Josh was stranded in Mexico one summer when his visa expired. Luckily, someone explained the ESTA program to him, and he was allowed back into the country. Who knows, maybe it’ll save you, too.

Brazil Travel: Know Before You Go

There are a few things you should know before planning a trip to Brazil.

 

I thought traveling to Brazil would be as simple as booking an airfare and getting on a plane. I quickly realized there is much more to it than meets the eye. Here are four things you should know before planning a trip to Brazil.

1. Astronomical Airfares

Expect to pay a pretty penny for your flights into Brazil. In fact, it could set you back more than a grand, depending on where you’re flying in from and the time of year. I got an amazing deal on a cruise, which was great since I had to spend every extra dime I saved on a high-priced airfare. The worst part? It’s three flights and 30 hours of flight time each way.

2. Difficult Documentation

You will need a visa to travel to Brazil. And it, too, will come at great expense and a lot of legwork. In addition to your passport, you’ll need to provide a bank statement, tax information, a letter of employment, photos, proof of your travel itinerary, a letter to the embassy, and more. It took me several weeks to gather all of the information. You’ll need to either send your package directly to the embassy or hire a third-party to do it for you. While there is even more expense involved in hiring a third-party, it’s well worth it. The company will vet all of your information to be sure it’s accurate and handle all the details on your behalf. With courier and processing fees, you could may more than $200.

3. Expensive Excursions

If you’re planning to take tours or cruise ship shore excursions in Brazil, they won’t come cheap. Many day trips cost significantly upwards of $100. Half-day trips come in a bit lower, but really comprehensive tours can even cost more than $300 depending on the area.

4. Seasons Change

Brazil is located in the southern hemisphere. And while this may seem obvious to most, it’s easy to forget that the seasons are reversed for those of us from North America or Europe. So , if you’re hoping to take advantage of the summer months, you’ll want to head to Brazil in January or February. This is actually ideal if you’re from the northern hemisphere and looking for a winter escape.

Do you have other advice for people traveling to Brazil? Share your ideas with the Wanderlust Wayfarer Facebook group.

Know Before You Go: Tips for the Savvy Traveler

There’s much more to planning the perfect trip than booking airfares and accommodations. Here’s what you need to know before you go to make sure everything goes off without a hitch.

 

Just this past week, I was chatting with a fellow traveler onboard a cruise ship. As he was talking about his pending travel plans abroad, it quickly became clear he wasn’t aware of some of the things he needed to take care of before stepping foot outside the country. These are just a few of the things you need to know before you go on your next trip.

Travel Documents

By now it’s pretty common knowledge that you need a passport to enter another country. But that’s not always enough. While our great country has travel agreements with many nations, you may need a travel visa as well. You can check with the US Department of State – Bureau of Consular Affairs to find out if the place you’re planning to visit requires any special travel documents in order to enter.

Avoiding Illness

It’s always a good idea to keep up to date on your immunizations. If you’re an avid traveler, it may be more of a necessity than you know. Some countries require you to be immunized against specific diseases and provide proof upon arrival. For a list of recommended and required immunizations, you can check the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention Traveler’s Health site. For the basics, like rubella or tetanus, your family doctor can likely take care of them for you. For less common vaccines, such as yellow fever, you many need to visit a special travel clinic. You can find a listing of local clinics on the CDC Traveler’s Health site.

Money Matters

Financial institutions may lock down access to your credit cards and bank accounts if they don’t know you plan on being out of town. The last thing you need is to be without money in a foreign place. Most banks and credit card companies have pretty sophisticated technology these days. They have ways to monitor your accounts for unusual activity. But it’s a good idea to check if the companies you use require a travel notification when you plan on leaving your hometown. Usually, you can find an online link where you can provide the details of your travels. Or you may need to make a quick phone call.

Consular Contacts

Sometimes unfortunate events occur. We don’t usually plan for them in advance. But things happen. If you find yourself in a sticky situation—a lost passport, act of nature, health scare, local state of emergency, or even an arrest—you need to know who to call for help. Always have the contact information for the local embassy or consulate handy. They know how to get you the help you need when you need it.

Safety Considerations

No one wants to focus on the negative before going on an adventure. But it’s just good common sense to know the potential dangers before you leave home. For everything from petty crimes, such as pickpocketing, to possible terrorist threats, you can find the latest travel warnings and alerts online. It’s a good idea to check them out before you book in case anything raises a red flag for you. We all have different thresholds, so what seems like the norm to you, may be a deal breaker for someone else. And because we live in an ever-changing world, check again before you leave the country to be sure you have the most current information.

Ensure You’re Insured

It’s the little details that fall through the cracks. Travel insurance is often one of them. It’s highly unlikely you’ll get so sick you need to be hospitalized or that your luggage will completely disappear off the planet, but you never know. If you break your leg the week before you’re planning to hike Machu Picchu, you’ll be thankful you spent the few extra bucks for cancellation insurance. Or what if you knock out a tooth when you trip and fall on one of those cobblestone streets in Europe? A trip to the dentist is extremely costly if you don’t have proper coverage.

These are a smattering of things you should know before you go on any vacation. If you’ve got others to add to the list, share them on the Wanderlust Wayfarer Facebook or Twitter pages.