My Trip To Australia Was Almost Ruined Because of This Simple Mistake

For those of you that read the blog regularly or know me personally, you know I just returned from an awesome almost two week vacation in Australia, where I visited both Sydney and Melbourne, both fantastic cities.

Right now, I’m about halfway through my review of the trip, and you can read the segments I’ve published so far below:

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Review: British Airways Galleries First Lounge, JFK
Review: Qantas 747 Business Class, JFK-LAX
Review: Qantas First Lounge, LAX
Review: Qantas 747 Business Class, LAX-BNE
Review: Qantas Business Lounge, Brisbane Airport
Review: Qantas Domestic Business Class, BNE-MEL
Review: Park Hyatt Melbourne
Review: Qantas Club, Melbourne Airport

2015-05-28 16.13.19

2 days before departing on my trip, I had an epiphany while lying in bed:

Do I need a visa to visit Australia?

Oh, crap. I hadn’t even thought about this when I booked the trip. Suddenly, it was two days prior and I was scheduled to fly halfway across the world. Crap.

I’m not sure why this dawned on me, but I suspect it’s because I travel so much to Europe that I had just forgotten about even inquiring about a visa.

Luckily, the Australian’s have a genius concept – the Electronic Travel Authority:

An Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) provides authorisation to travel to and enter Australia and is electronically linked to your passport. It is for short term stays for tourism or business visitor activities.

Whew! Thankfully, I started pecking away at their website, and found out travelers from Brunei – Darussalam, Canada, Hong Kong (SAR PRC), Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Korea, Rep of (South) and the United States were eligible. $20 AUD later, and after entering some biographical details, I had an electronic Visa to Australia.

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I had fears running through my head before knowing about this:

  • What if I would have to mail away for a visa?
  • What if I had to undergo an interview for the visa (thank God I live in Washington DC!)
  • What if a visa wasn’t able to be produced prior to leaving in two days?

It was a lesson for me for sure – always check to see the visa and entry requirements of the country I am visiting. Luckily, when I visit the United Arab Emirates next month over July 4th weekend, I don’t need a visa. 🙂 “US citizens with a US passport that is valid for more than six months do not need to obtain a visa prior to entry to the UAE if the duration of their visit will be less than one month. This includes US citizens with visas or entry stamps from other countries in their passports.”

Have you ever entered a country without the necessary paperwork by accident?

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  1. Steven R says

    Good advice. Always check, and remember that policies/rules/laws change so it’s best to get the latest information about visas. Also, make sure your passport has enough space for your trip’s entry/exit stamps. A trip to the South Pacific via China was almost ruined as my passport had only blank adendum pages left – my fault for not looking carefully to see that. Thankfully, an understanding official put the stamp there. Had I done my research I would have found that Shanghai Pudong requires you to go through immigration just to connect internationally, meaning you get stamped in and out without even leaving the terminal. Calgary Airport, Canada is the same, so it’s important to see if your international transiting airport requires such cumbersome formalities which unnecessarily eats up your passport visa pages.. When travelling through Asia I prefer above all Tokyo Narita, one of the easiest, most stressless airports – globally – for international connections.

  2. says

    How is it a cumbersome formality? You are entering a foreign country, even if only at the airport, so why should you be exempt from customs. Nodifferent than transiting the U.S. – you still need to clear customs. Plus if you have GOES, it isn’t an issue as you can use the Nexus machine in Canada.

    • TravisTraveller says

      RE: Steven R. Did the post imply that he should be exempt from customs? No. Had you correctly read and comprehended the post you would discern the salient point, viz. that not all airports in this world require immigration/custom formalites when connecting internationally.

  3. Bill Granoff says

    U.S. Citizen that departed BKK to ADL via KUL without a visa a few weeks ago. MH staff at the airport processed the e-visa for me in 5 minutes and there was no charge.

  4. says

    When I arrived in Melbourne, Australia in 2003 flying First Class on British Airways, the immigration officer greeted me with “You don’t have a visa. That will be a $5,000 fine.” At 3am I thought I would drop dead on the spot. The immigration officer looked at my worried face, and said, “Oh don’t worry! British Airways has to pay the $5,000 fine for not processing your electronic visa before your arrival.”


    • says

      I’m going to do a post on that separately, but it was 62,500 AAdvantage miles each way. The Park Hyatt Melbourne was a points and cash rate and the Park Hyatt Sydney was all points (30K a night).

  5. william says

    i once met a man and his daughter who didn’t have enough pages on his pass port and had to stay overnight in the airport until the US Embassy in Johanesberg opened on Monday morning to get extra pages put into the passport.

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