Planning A Cruise? Don’t Get Caught Out By Visa Requirements

Despite the UK having one of the strongest passports in the world, there are still countries which require a UK passport holder to obtain a pre-travel visa or travel authorisation to visit. With changes to travel requirements post-Brexit likely, and trips stopping at more destinations than ever, the likelihood of requiring at least one visa for a cruise is increasing.

In this article

What We’ll Cover

  • When and why visas are required for cruises

  • How to find out where you will need a visa for

  • Which changes may effect your visa requirements

Why would a visa be required for a cruise ship?

Many travellers are unaware that visas can be required to visit a destination, even if you are enjoying a cruise holiday. In some instances, a visa is required even if you are not disembarking the ship, and merely entering their national waters, such as China. If you fall foul of a mistake like this, you could be refused entry to the ship and lose out on your holiday.

With some cruises lasting up to 120 days and calling at over 35 destinations, it is important to check each of country’s guidelines individually as they will all differ. You will also need to bear in mind that the nationality of each person in your party can affect the visa requirements, so you’ll need to take this into consideration also.

There are some situations where a ship visa can be in place, for example if you’re travelling to Russia. If you are booked onto an excursion in St. Petersburg you will be able to disembark the ship as part of your organised group and will be covered by a group visa. This could be organised through the cruise liner, or through a third party tour agency, just be sure to check that the visa is included. If you wish to explore on your own however, a full personal tourist visa must be obtained before you travel.

Are visas included in the cost of the cruise?

Usually, you will need to arrange your own travel visas for your trip. Unless your holiday package specifically states that travel visa costs are included, it’s safe to assume that it’s your responsibility to check your own personal requirements and apply for the necessary travel documents.

Even if the costs are included with your package, you will be required to complete some paperwork to process your applications.

Your travel agent may recommend a visa agent to help you, but you are not obliged to use any individual company. As long as your visas are processed correctly, you can apply for these yourself directly to each respective Embassy or, if you wish to have support throughout the processes, choose an agent to help.

How can I find out if I need visas for my cruise destinations?

To check whether you will require any pre-travel visas or authorisations before you travel, you will need to know:

  • Your full itinerary (all destinations and length of time at each stop)
  • Dates of travel
  • The passport type of all members of your party
  • The nationality of all members of your party
  • The dates of birth of all members of your party

You will then need to check each destination country’s requirements for each member of your party. There can be differences in travel documentation based on whether you are travelling by air or sea, so ensure you are checking the correct guidelines for your needs.

For example, UK citizens can obtain an e-visa for India, but only if they are arriving at certain ports. If they are landing at a non-designated port, then they will need to obtain a full visa.  

Many consulates will not allow visa applications until 3 months before you arrive in that country. This can cause issues if you are going on a 4-month cruise! However, we only usually see these kind of guidelines with electronic visa processes, so it is simply a case of working out when to complete each application.

Will visa requirements change for cruises?

As a result of Brexit, changes will be made to how UK passport holders travel around Europe. This is due to the new ETIAS (European Travel Information and Authorization System). It’s possible that UK citizens will need to obtain pre-travel authorisation before setting sail into European waters.

With many EU destinations being popular with British holiday makers, from the Fjords of Norway to river cruises along the Danube, these applications will likely be commonplace in the near future. How near? Well, the EU officials have recently confirmed to SchengenVisaInfo that the go-live date for ETIAS has been postponed to May 2025.

key takeaways

Key Takeaways

When it comes to cruising, the visa requirements can often feel confusing. It’s important to find out if any visas are required for each destination you will be stopping at, even if you don’t plan on leaving the ship. Remember to check the regulations for everyone in your party if there is more than one citizenship involved. Some cruise holidays can offer group visas which cover some of your stops, so make sure you find out what is and isn’t included in your package.

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Ashraf Vachhiat
Ashraf Vachhiat

Ashraf is the Marketing Technologist at Vital Consular, which means he handles all the technicalities involved in bringing this blog to life! He also enjoys creating in-depth articles around current affairs which impact the travel and relocation industry. In his free time, Ashraf relishes travelling as much as possible, and is always looking for quirky spots to take some great photos.

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