Latitude: 17° 46.8330’ S
Longitude: 11° 31.5789’ E
The next stop for the G Expedition is Angola, which is the first real country we visit which will require visas for everyone.
Traveling to West Africa with a boat full of people from multiple countries is a giant immigration nightmare. Most of the countries we will be visiting require a visa for all visitors and some of the countries have a reputation for being some of the most expensive and difficult to get in the world. Our next stop in Angola has a reputation for being one of the hardest countries to enter if you don’t live in Africa.
One of the benefits of traveling by ship is that the visa process is easier and cheaper than it would be if you were to travel to all these countries individually. I spoke with the ship’s bursar Lawrence, who is responsible for dealing with all the paperwork for the visas for all the ship’s passengers. Here is some information which he shared with me about the visa process and what passengers need to know.
Countries the Ship Needs to Process Visas For
The majority of the passengers come from just a few countries (USA, Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand) which have similar visa requirements for each country we visit. The countries which require visas are:
- Republic of Congo
- Sao Tome and Principe
- Sierra Leone
- The Gambia
The Most Difficult Visas to Process
The most difficult visas are for Angola, Republic of Congo and Benin. Much of this is paperwork which is done off the ship by the agents for the Expedition. An additional paperwork problem is the requirements for the ship to even dock. Angola required a complete inventory of everything on the ship, down to the paper clips.
The Cost of All the Visas
The current fee per passenger is $726 for all visas. That covers up everything up to The Gambia. They have yet to get a final confirmation on the price for there yet. One of the benefits of traveling by ship is that you can get a discount on visas by traveling with a group. There is also a significant savings in terms of time. To get an Angolan visa on your own, it requires an embassy visit, photo and a bunch of paperwork. Multiply sending in visas for every country on this trip, and it would be extremely time consuming.
Amount of time process paperwork
On ship, the staff spends 1-3 hours per country filling out paperwork. They also fill out the embarkation cards for the passengers. All you have to do is sign the card and they will fill out all the vital information.
The immigration processing usually takes place on the ship. Immigration staff will board the ship with their stamps to process everyone at the main desk. Some countries require every person to meet the immigration official individually and some do not.
Prior to the trip, it was suggested we have 15 empty pages in our passport. I only had 9 so I had to make a special trip to the US Consulate in Cape Town to get extra pages put in my passport. Even though my passport is still valid for 4 years, I’ll have to get a new passport this summer, as I have gone beyond the maximum number of extra pages allowed.
The logistical issues with traveling to West Africa by ship still exist, but it is significantly easier than trying to do it by land or by air. There is a slight group discount and a large time and hassle discount in having the ship process the visa requests.
Next stop: Lobito, Angola