As i write this post, i am sitting in a cafe in Genova, Italy, feeling absolute exhausted having been subjected to some passport related harassment early in the morning. I am convinced that, even though i have visited 75 countries, I might still not be considered a genuine traveller in “Western Europe” because of my passport. Of course, this will never stop me from travelling as widely as possible and breaking as many barriers as possible. If anything, it is making me write this whole post about Visa related tips and tricks so that we can form an army of legitimate travellers who try to prove the racists wrong- that we don’t in fact want to illegally live in their countries, but simply want to visit it. Here are 8 visa related tips that you can use to travel with your not so highly ranked passport.
1. Go to countries that offer visa on arrival or visa free access to you. So according to the passportindex.org, the Afghan passport allows the least amount of mobility in the world, however, even with that, you can travel to 26 countries without a visa or be able to get a visa on arrival. So i highly recommend to start with those. If you are Bangladeshi, start with Nepal, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Bhutan.
2. Do your visa research, use wikipedia to find which countries allow your visa free access/visa on arrival and then verify this information by checking the embassy websites and contacting the embassies explaining your situation. Like I was confirmed by the embassy of Serbia in Nigeria (where I was living) that I will be able to visit Montenegro (pictured right) with a Schengen Visa.
3. Once you have racked up a few stamps in your passport, try to apply for easier visas, such as Malaysia, India, Philippines (pictured left), Kenya or so on. This will help you explore places which are easier for you to access visa wise and help you build your case as a traveller. I think a big part of why the Italian immigration officer just let me through was because he saw that in my 8 month old passport, there are stamps from 3 continents and countless countries.
4. When you apply for a Schengen Visa for the first time, make sure you have a legitimate itinerary that you stick to. I know this is hard to do, but please make sure the itinerary you apply for is the one you stick to because it makes it much easier for you to apply every subsequent time and eventually get a multiple entry Schengen visa.
5. Apply for Visas that will help you travel to a lot more countries. As mentioned previously, a UK visa will take you a long way, allowing you access to almost the entire Balkans, Turkey (pictured right) and even Mexico! Plus a UK tourist visa is almost always multiple entry and for 6 months. But again, make very sure that you are legitimately going there for tourism or visiting family.
6. When it comes to applying for visas, try, in as many cases as possible, to get multiple entry visas. It usually establishes you as more trustworthy for other countries and helps you become a more credible candidate for a visa.
7. Be very careful about which visa you take to ensure that you don’t block yourself for other visas. When I was living in Azerbaijan, all i wanted to do was visit Iran, its like one of my life long dreams. But given that I am Bangladeshi and was about to move to Germany, I knew the kind of harassment I would be prone to whenever I was travelling. So I did not eventually end up going. Some visas make it a little difficult for you to go to other places. For example, if you have an Israeli stamp or visa, you will likely not be allowed into many countries, including Bangladesh, Pakistan, Indonesia etc. I have heard that a Kosovar stamp (pictured left) can cause issues with visiting Serbia and many tourists have been refused entry because of it.
8. This one is for the privileged one of us: if you can opt for it, study in a country that offers you the option to travel to other countries. I studied in the UK and did and exchange in the Netherlands, same with Ireland and Germany. I saved all my money and poured it into backing packing across Europe. I can now say proudly that I have been to every Schengen, EU, Balkan and EEA country. 🙂
I hope this post has been useful and informative for you! If you can think of any topics you want me to write about please be sure to email me on : [email protected]. And if you like this article, please show a sister some love, head over to instagram and follow my page: @maliharoundtheworld:D
Maliha Fairooz is a 27-year-old Bangladeshi solo traveller, who has travelled to 83 countries, on a Bangladeshi passport. Through her blog www.maliharoundtheworld.com, she shares her experience of travelling as a brown, Muslim, Bangladeshi woman while simultaneously encouraging a culture of travel amongst Bangladeshi youth.