My experience traveling central and south america with US visa

This post shares my experience traveling the Caribbean, Colombia (South America) and Central America (Panama and Costa Rica) using by USA Visa. The experience was largely smooth but it helps to read this and prepare well if you're heading to this part of the world.

There're dozens of countries in Central and South American region- these aren't too popular with Indian tourists due to various reasons like distance, cost of travel and probably not being attractive enough to travel from India. If you're visiting USA you might get cheaper flights to some of these destinations- like 100-300 USD round trip, making the trip viable.
Bahamas:
Bamahas was my first stop outside of US on this trip. Arrived at Nassau airport via FLL. I was given only 7 days of visa on arrival- it was adequate for me as I had planned for 3 days only, but if you're planning longer, you may need to check.

Bogota, Colombia
My second visit to South America- previous one was to Chile about 8 years ago. Chile was a direct travel via Dubai and Brazil and with stamped visa. No VOA at Chile for Indians irrespective of US visa. As I arrived in Bogota I was attended by a junior immigration officer- who processed me with help from a senior. However after stamping he referred my case to his supervisor for final approval. The supervisor scanned my passport and visa with special lens to ensure it is not fake, asked few extra questions and let me through once satisfied.

Panama City, Panama
After stamping my passport was again referred to a document examiner- after some 5 minutes of waiting, my passport was returned and I could proceed.

Costa Rica
Lots of questions asked but cleared after answering them, without secondary inspection. One more quick questioning by a different officer near exit and I was out.

The additional precautions immigration officers take is fully understandable. I am not complaining at all. This route- Colombia-Panama-Costa Rica- Mexico is often used by smugglers and illegal human traffickers to try to enter USA, so officers are always extra cautious to ensure documents are genuine.

Because not many Indians visit this part of the world and there's language problem, they are using extra caution to avoid mistakes.

Check-in counter experience:
I had carried print outs of TIMATIC explaining that I am eligible to enter above countries with my USA visa-but there was no need for it. Check-in counter staff were fully aware Indian nationals can visit these countries with USA visa so didn't ask for anything extra.

Need for a stamped visa: It is important you should have a US visa stamped on your passport and valid for another 6 months minimum. Many of my friends who are living and working in the US but have their stamped visa expired (extension application in process) are unable to travel out of the country for the fear that re-entry may not be allowed)

Southwest didn't let me do web check-in from Nassau to FLL and San Jose to FLL- had to check in at airport
JetBlue didn't let me check in online for FLL-BOG, but could check-in using kiosk in airport

Customs experience:
Didn't face any issue/inspection. I just had one backpack anyway. Did declare that I had food (pickles) but most didn't care, just had to scan my bag through the X-ray and I was out.

Experience exiting US:
Absolutely no problem. They don't care much about outgoing passengers.

Some tips:
Language will be a problem. Though most immigration officers, check-in staff can manage good English but still will help to carry printout/screenshots of translated sentences such as

  • I am visiting on vacation
  • I am arriving from -origin city- , plan to stay for  'X' days and will return to -next city
  • I have US visa

3 comments:

  1. Didn't know that Indians having US visa can visit many countries by VOA like this. Can you publish the entire list of such countries? Thanks

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There're several countries around the world that you can visit with US visa- Philippines, Peru, Bahamas, Colombia, Costa Rica, Panama, Mexico, UAE, Muscat, Taiwan and many more. You can google for now, will try to publish a list soon. Chile is the newest country to the list.

      Delete

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