It’s not every day that I find myself liking promotional videos, but this video seems to be an exception. Sponsored by Bhutan‘s board of tourism, this video pairs dramatic music and beautiful Bhutan footage. The end result is a gorgeous video featuring hiking, rafting and wildlife that makes me want to look into flights to Bhutan immediately. If you’ve been to Bhutan, tell us about your experience in the comments. Be sure to point us in the direction of any fantastic photos or videos while you’re at it.
Expatify.com asked the question, “Where would you be the safest if World War III broke out tomorrow?” The answers arrived in a post titled “10 Best Places to Live for Avoiding World Conflict.” Irrelevant as it may seem to you, the claws of conflict affect a revolving roster of nations. The knowledge of where not to go because of conflict, or better yet, where to go to avoid it, can be useful if you’re planning to live, or even just spend some time, abroad. According to this article, countries that make the safety cut are: Switzerland, Costa Rica, Papua New Guinea, Canada, Seychelles, Finland, Tuvalu, Iceland, Bhutan, and New Zealand. Most of these choices make sense to me, based on what I know, but the undeniably gorgeous Seychelles seems like a somewhat uncertain choice. News stories covering the Somali pirates swarming the Seychelles area are prevalent. To be fair, I’m not convinced Somali pirates are a current threat for World War III. What are your thoughts? Where would you move in order to be as far removed from world conflict as possible?
We live in an increasingly borderless world and we have access to many countries that were closed (or non-existent) 20 years ago. As reported earlier this week, Americans are especially lucky with access to 169 countries visa free. Still, there are still many countries that Americans need advance visas to visit. Visa applications and processing services can cost several hundreds of dollars and take a lot of time and energy to obtain, so figure in that into your travel planning but don’t let it discourage you from visiting.
Nearly all countries in Africa, the Caribbean, Central America, Western Europe, and the Middle East will give you a visa free or for a fee on arrival. See below for our guide to countries you will need to apply for advance visas, along with fees, useful information and links to consular websites.
- China: US citizens pay $130 for tourist visas, single- or multiple-entry up to 24 months from date of application. Keep in mind a trip to Hong Kong or Macau counts as an exit from China, so plan on a multiple-entry visa if you’ll be in and out. You’ll need to send your actual passport in for processing and ideally plan 1-2 months in advance of travel.
- India: Fees from visa contractor Travisa start at $50 and visas can be valid for up to 10 years, but note that you must have a gap of at least 2 months between entries.
- Vietnam: Single-entry visas start at $70 and multiple-entry visas are valid for up to one year. Another option for Americans is a single-entry visa on arrival, apply online and pay another stamping fee at the airport.
- North Korea: Not an easy one for Americans as there are no consular relations between the two countries, but it is possible if you go through a specialist travel agency such as New Korea Tours and realize you’ll be visiting only on a highly-restricted and guided group tour. Note that you’ll have to go through China, requiring another visa of course!
- See also: Afghanistan, Bhutan, Pakistan
- Russia: Russian visa rules are quite strict and complicated, so you’ll need to have a solid itinerary set up before you apply as visas are valid for specific dates and not extendable. You’ll need a sponsorship for your visa, typically provided by your hotel or tour operator for a small fee, and you’ll register your visas once in the country. Fees start at $140 and applications should now be filled out online. Tourist visas are generally only valid for two weeks and even if you are just traveling through Russia, you’ll need a transit visa.
- Belarus: Similar to Russian rules, a letter of invitation must be provided from an official travel agency in order to get a visa. You also have to show proof of medical insurance and financial means (about $15 USD/day, can be demonstrated with credit cards or paid travel arrangements). Tourist visas start at $140 and $100 for transit visas. Gadling writer Alex Robertson Textor is currently planning a trip, stay tuned for his report next month.
- Azerbaijan: The country changed its visa policy last year, and now Americans must obtain an advance visa. You’ll need an invitation from an Azerbaijan travel agency, then a tourist visa costs $20 and takes 10 business days to process. Transit visas don’t require an invitation letter but should still be obtained in advance of travel.
- See also: Turkmenistan
- Australia: Getting a tourist visa is simple and cheap ($20). Apply online at any point in advance and you’ll be verified at the airport. Valid for as many entries as needed for 12 months from date of application.
- Brazil: Tourist visas are $140 plus $20 if you apply by mail or through an agency. If you are self-employed or jobless, you’ll need to provide a bank account balance, and all applications should include a copy of your round trip tickets or other travel itinerary.
- Iran: There’s a current travel warning from the US state department, but Rick Steves is a fan of the country and several reputable travel agencies provide tours for Americans. The US consulate notes that some Americans with visas have been turned away, so your best bet is to visit with a group.
- See also: Nigeria, Paraguay, Saudi Arabia, Suriname
The good news for expats, students studying abroad, and other foreigners with residency is that many countries will allow you to apply in a country other than your home country for a visa. For example, I traveled to Russia from Turkey, getting my visa from a travel agency in Istanbul without sending my passport back to the US. Always check the US state department website for the latest visa information and entry requirements.
Photo courtesy Flickr user Thomas Claveirole.
An group of three American climbers have traveled to the Kashmir mountain range this summer, where they will attempt to become the first team to successfully summit Saser Kangri II, the second highest unclimbed peak in the world. The mountain, which stands 24,665 feet in height, is located in a very remote region of northern India that is only accessible during the summer months.
The team consists of climbers Freddie Wilkinson, Mark Richey and Steve Swenson, all of whom are very experienced high altitude mountaineers. Richey and Swenson made an attempt on Saser Kangri II back in 2009, reaching as high as 22,500 feet before turning back due to bad weather. They’ve decided to return to the mountain to finish off what they started, and asked Wilkinson to tag along for the climb.
Saser Kangri II is the second of four summits on the Saser Kangri massif, and as mentioned above, is the second highest unclimbed peak in the world. The highest unclimbed peak is a mountain named Gangkhar Puensum, which is located inside Bhutan, and is 24,836 feet in height. Many of the inhabitants of Bhutan believe that the tallest mountains in their country are sacred ground, and as a result, the government has banned mountaineering on any peak above 6000 meters or roughly 19,685 feet. In other words, no one can climb Gangkhar Puensum, so mountaineers looking for the next big challenge give Saser Kangri a try instead.
The team set out for India earlier in the week, and it will take them a number of days just to trek into Base Camp, located at about 17,000 feet on the mountain. Over the next few weeks, they’ll be scouting the route they hope to take to the summit, while slowly acclimatizing to the altitude. If everything goes as scheduled, they’ll be making their attempt at the summit in early August, and with a little luck, become the first men to stand on the top of the mountain.
[Photo courtesy of Steve Swenson]
Rupert Grey and his wife Jan are preparing to make an epic road trip this September. The kind of road trip that we all dream about during which we leave our normal, mundane, lives behind in favor of the open road and untold adventures. In this case, our two intrepid travelers will begin their journey in Bangladesh and eventually end up back in their native England, covering thousands of miles in between. But Rupert and Jan aren’t content with just making that journey in just any old vehicle, which is why they’ll be driving their classic 1936 Rolls Royce along the way.
While the start of their adventure is still a few months off, the couple are making preparations for what will likely be a fantastic journey. They will be shipping their car to Chittagong, Bangladesh, where they will set out to drive through Bhutan, Nepal, and India before arriving at the Arabian Sea. From there, they’ll board a ship bound for Iran, where they’ll once again hit the open road, crossing into Turkey and eventually Europe, before returning back to the U.K.
Intrigued by this unique road trip, an independent film company hopes to make a documentary of Rupert and Jan’s journey. Rover Films is currently seeking funding for the project, and have already tentatively named their film A Sense of Adventure. You can check out the teaser trailer for it below.
Reading about this story left me to wondering. If you could take any road trip in any vehicle, where would you go and what would you drive? For me personally, I’d love to go from Cairo, Egypt to Cape Town, South Africa, in a classic Land Rover Defender. Say circa 1985 or so.
How about you?
[Photo credit: Rover Films]