Americans enjoy a powerful passport and plenty of benefits that make travel easy, but that doesn’t mean entry to every country comes cheap. Tourist visas to some countries add a relatively hefty financial burden to the trip-planning and budgeting processes for hopeful visitors.
Travel is always worth the expense, but make sure to leave some extra room in your budget if you’re an American planning to visit these countries. And keep in mind that these prices aren’t the same for all nationalities; visa issuances involve a decent bit of politics and delicate foreign relations, so what costs an American an arm and a leg may be priced lower for someone from a different country.
1. Russia: $270+
Visiting the iconic Red Square or skinny dipping in Lake Baikal is no easy undertaking. A tourist visa to Russia is among the most difficult travel visas for Americans to obtain, and its high price only makes it more challenging to acquire. The Consular Division of the Embassy reserves the right to request from applicants things like a statement from the employer regarding the preceding year’s wages, medical insurance, and even a certificate on the makeup of the applicant’s family.
What makes the price so high is the fact that, according to the Russian Embassy, “US citizens shall as a rule be issued multiple-entry business, private, humanitarian, and tourist visas that are valid for three years (36 months) from the date of issue of the visa” — and while single-entry visas start at just $90, multiple-entry visas start at $270 (and go up to $540 if you require a quick turnaround time).
2. The Democratic Republic of Congo: $200
If your bucket list activities include observing wild mountain gorillas in the historic Virunga National Park or trekking Mount Sabyinyo, a dormant volcano, it’s going to cost you. A tourist visa to the Democratic Republic of the Congo costs $200 for Americans. Visa applications must be submitted several weeks prior to departure as “no Congolese visa will be issued at any port of entry,” according to the Embassy of the Republic of Congo. However, the tourist visa grants Americans access for 180 days and allows multiple entries, so it makes for a good excuse to explore other parts of Africa on the same trip.
3. Afghanistan: $195
Make sure to set aside an extra $195 if you hope to check out the Buddhas of Bamiyan, the Gardens of Babur, or the awe-inspiring Blue Mosque in Afghanistan: With a $160 visa fee and $35 processing fee, tourist visas for Americans don’t come cheap. Moreover, your signed and notarized visa application plus all necessary documents must be delivered to the Afghan Consulate in New York City, Beverly Hills, or Washington, DC. Once approved, the visa does grant access for a 30-day stay, so make sure to set aside ample time for the trip.
4. Nigeria: $180
The striking landscape and natural wonders of Nigeria are a siren’s call to many an adventurous traveler, but be aware of the steep price of a tourist visa as you plan your visit. While trying to see the face in Zuma Rock or wandering the enchanting sacred forest of Osun-Osogbo is more than worth it, be aware of the semi-challenging visa acquisition process before you depart.
Requirements for obtaining a tourist visa for Nigeria include submitting documents like a letter of invitation from a host who accepts full responsibility for you (plus the data page of your host’s passport) and evidence of funds to cover your stay in Nigeria — plus, the $180 fee is non-refundable (as are most visa application fees).
5. Algeria: $160
Algeria is one of the largest countries in northern Africa, yet many travelers would have a hard time pinpointing it on a map. Plan a trip to see the country’s highlights — like the Notre-Dame d’Afrique basilica or the ruins of an 11th-century fortress at Beni Hammad Fort — but know that getting there will cost you a small chunk of change. In order to consider a tourist visa application, the Algerian Embassy requires both an invitation letter (a hotel reservation, or a letter signed and legalized at a local city hall from your host in Algeria) and a USPS money order for $160.
6. Bangladesh: $160
The bustling and historically significant country of Bangladesh appeals to a variety of curious travelers, not least for attractions like the 17th-century Lalbagh Fort or the paradisiacal St. Martin’s Island. However, the hefty $160 visa fee must be factored into your budget, and keep in mind that Bangladesh does not allow online applications from all countries. Even if you complete the process online, according to the Department of Immigration & Passports, you’ll need to print your application and pay a visit to the nearest visa office or Bangladesh Mission to file your paperwork.
7. Sierra Leone: $160
If you dream of visiting the remote Banana Islands or the Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary in Sierra Leone, make sure to include the $160 visa fee as you tally up the total cost of your trip. And don’t procrastinate: If you want to receive your visa the same day, that’ll be an extra $50 in expediting fees.
According to the Embassy of Sierra Leone, one of the requirements for anyone wishing to travel to the country is a copy of their itinerary or a round-trip ticket — and “In some instances, the consular office will invite applicants for [an] interview.” In addition, your paperwork must be mailed via USPS Priority Express, and visa payments are only accepted in the form of a money order or cashiers check (no cash or personal checks accepted).