Visa & Immunization Issues

Visa and Immunization Requirements

So you’re finally making the trek back to Moscow to visit long lost relatives, going shopping in Shanghai, or even prowling the picturesque city of Prague after graduation. Chances are, you’re going to need a visa. Heading to Africa for the Peace Corps, or kayaking in Brazil’s rainforest? You’ll probably need a few shots too. Here’s the lowdown on what to expect when traveling abroad. Every time you head outside the U.S. you’re going to need a passport (even travel to our border countries, Canada and Mexico, will soon require a passport). But what countries require visas and how do you get one? While we’re not going to list every country that requires a visa and what kind of visa they require, we will give you an idea of what to expect depending on your destination. Make sure to visit the Department of State’s website for the most current visa requirements: You can also use this site to find the contact information for most foreign embassies.

  • Western Europe: Nationals of the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the European Union are not required to obtain a visa for visits of 90 days or less.
  • Non EU Eastern Europe and the Middle East: Most of these countries will require a visa for travel of any kind.
  • Asia: Some countries in Asia will require a visa, while some will not. Touristy Thailand and Japan, for example, do not require visas from US citizens, EU residents, Australia and New Zealand citizens for visits of less than 30-90 days.
  • Africa: With the exception of heavily traveled South Africa, Morocco and Mauritius, most African countries require a visa for entry.
  • Australia and New Zealand: A visa is needed for travel to Australia, although an Electronic Travel Authority visa is acceptable and can be handled by your travel agent. New Zealand does not require a visa for entry.
  • Central and South America: Most countries do not require a visa for entry; however, if you are traveling to Brazil you will need a visa.

Obtaining a Visa

If you are traveling to a country that requires a visa, the most common way to obtain your visa is to visit the nearest embassy or foreign consular representative. If, however, you live in Idaho and the nearest embassy is in Los Angeles you don’t have to hop on a plane just to get your visa. Some embassies allow you to mail in your visa application (give yourself plenty of time to process the visa). For countries, such as China, that will not accept a mail-in application, there are companies dedicated to handling your visa application in your absence (for a fee, of course). Check out websites such as for the cost and timelines associated with expediting your visa.

Some countries will allow you to obtain your visa once you reach the airport, but make sure you verify this before you hit the road to avoid a quick return home.


For travel to certain regions, once you’ve got your passport and visa handled, immunizations and vaccinations are the next big hurdle. Check with your local healthcare provider before you travel to get the complete list of vaccines and immunizations you will need. If you are traveling to a region that requires immunizations or vaccinations, make sure your appointment is set for at least four weeks before you travel.

The big three are Hepatitis A, Typhoid and Yellow Fever (in some cases you will actually be required to show proof of vaccination against Yellow Fever). If you are traveling to a region that is susceptible to these diseases, you’ll need to get some shots. The regions that you’ll most need to worry about are Africa, parts of Central and South America and parts of the Caribbean. Also keep in mind that some parts of Asia will require a Japanese Encephalitis vaccination.

The other main diseases and infections that you should consider are those carried by insects, such as Malaria and Dengue Fever, those carried by food and water, such as E Coli and Cholera, and those carried by person to person contact, such as Hepatitis B and HIV/AIDS. You can help protect yourself by taking antimalarial pills (the type of pill will vary by region), always wearing insect that contains DEET, making sure your food and water are clean and sanitary and practicing safe sex if you decide to hook up with the locals.

For a more detailed list if immunizations and vaccinations by country, visit the Center for Disease Control at