Government warnings, travel bans, visa requirements, vaccinations, money, cultural acceptance and how not to land yourself in prison; these are things you need to know before you leave home. My middle-age brain needs an easy reference, so this post is as much for me as it is for you.
In this post I’m only going to cover the first leg of my journey: Iceland, UK, Greece, Egypt and Tanzania. I apologize for the length, but I feel the information is helpful.
What is okay for me, may not be for you. Currently Egypt and Greece warning colors are orange. I will not say that you’ll be perfectly safe, but I will say, nowadays there’s nut-jobs everywhere. I booked this journey in January, and since then, there has been two attacks in England. And to be honest, that actually has caused me more concern than Egypt.
Honestly, why can’t we all just get along!?
Airline Travel Ban
If you travel from the Middle East or North African countries inbound to the USA or UK, please be aware there is an electronics travel ban. Anything larger than a cell phone (laptop, tablet, camera, gaming devices) has to go in your checked-in luggage. If you are transitioning from any of the listed countries below before reaching the USA, you still need to check your electronics. Camera lenses remove and take in your carry-on and secure the rest as best as possible.
- DOH – Doha International, Qatar
- DXB – Dubai International, United Arab Emirates
- AUH – Abu Dhabi International, United Arab Emirates
- AMM – Queen Alia International, Amman, Jordan
- CAI – Cairo International, Egypt
- IST – Ataturk International, Istanbul, Turkey
- JED – King Abdulaziz, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
- RUH – King Khalid International, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
- KWI – Kuwait International, Farwaniya, Kuwait
- CAS – Mohammed V International, Casablanca
Tourist Visa and Staying Out of Prison
Embassy websites urge you to file for your visa before you depart. This can cause a problem. A visa is active from the date it is issued and some have a short lifespan. If you are not leaving right away or you’re planning a long stay, it might be expired before arrival or shortly after. Most countries it’s easy to apply upon arrival, but there are always exceptions to every rule. I don’t have any plans at the moment to go to Australia or New Zealand, but let me note here, they are rule breakers, it’s a must to apply before you depart.
Egypt: U.S Citizens can obtain a renewable single-entry for 30 days for $25 (USD) and multi-entry is just $35 upon arrival. Unless you are traveling from Israel then it’s recommended to apply before arrival. Right now the Taba border crossing is open. If you don’t apply before the crossing, never fear, passage may still be granted with a letter from your travel agency allowing you to visit for 14-30 days. The Gaza border is currently closed.
*HIV/AIDS testing is required to obtain a work or residence visa.
Obey Egyptian law:
- It is unlawful to bring a drone into Egypt.
- No photos can be taken of bridges, canals (including Suez Canal), train stations, government buildings, embassies and military personnel
- You can be arrested for using binoculars near an airport
- PDA (public display of affection) is illegal – I read of a couple who was sentenced to prison for six months for kissing in public, that was a total honeymoon spoiler.
Greece: Being part of the Schengen Agreement, stays for up to 90 days do not require applying for a visa (from various countries). Just make sure your passport has blank pages and is valid for 6 months after your departure date.
Obey the Greeks
- Photography of military installations and personnel is prohibited
Iceland: Schengen Agreement is in effect, you need to count your stay here as part of your 90 days within 180 while traveling throughout Europe.
- Just your normal laws – Icelanders are so chill (Ha, yes – a play on words)
Tanzania: Visa upon arrival is normal and it’s good for one year, and obtainable at the kiosk before the customs office. Your visa is good for a year, but you must leave the country after 90 day’s before re-entry. The cost is $50 USD if not American…. $100 if you are – bring crisp newly distributed bills (2009 is the newest printed $100 bills.)
- Even if you are paying to volunteer you need a work visa
- It’s $200 USD for a work visa
Obey Tz Laws
- It’s forbidden to photograph military installations and personnel, hospitals, schools, bridges, industrial sites and airports
- Do not look directly at members of the opposite sex – while not against the law, it could land you in trouble
- PDA is not acceptable, keep your hands and lips to yourself in public
- Homosexual activity is illegal and is punishable by long prison sentences – if you are homosexual, for your sake, pretend it’s 1950 and act straight
United Kingdom of Great Britain
Thankfully the UK is not part of the Schengen Agreement. You can be a tourist for under 90 days without a visa or up to six months with one. Make sure your passport is valid for six months after your departure date. If you plan to work, even volunteer, you have to apply for a work visa. If you plan on getting married (I’m not, no thank you) that requires a special visa.
Obey Brit Laws
- Having any part of a gun on you will land you behind bars
- Pocket knives, blades, mace, pepper spray will get you locked up too
- In-flight crimes will get you tossed in the slammer – watch your alcohol intake
- Do not take photographs of security-related equipment in public, such as CCTV cameras, it’s prohibited
- Flash photography is illegal on rail platforms
- No legal restrictions for LGBTI travelers
- PDA is not against the law, but it’s not displayed – the British are a bunch of very proper people. Keep your hands and lips to yourself in public
If the bad guys are not enough to scare you to stay home, insects and disease might do it after you read this list.
I’m not a fan of having poison put into my body intentionally, but for the sake of staying healthy abroad and being allowed into some countries, I’ve been injected to protect me from dang near everything, with the exception of the rabies vaccination.
Some of them, like Hep A and B, are given in a series over a six month period. If you’re not paying attention to the calendar you might be in for a rude awakening. Something that my son and I discovered recently for his upcoming trip. Yes, even those of us who travel often forget important things. In my defense, I’ve been a little pre-occupied with my own stuff. Colton, my son, already had his Hep B series and I was thinking that the two Hep A shots were given in a couple of weeks span, wrong. You receive your second dose six months after the first… DOH!
The good news is that with one dose of Hep A you’re 95% protected.
Here is a quick reference on travel vaccinations. By the way, I didn’t list Influenza, because that’s a given everywhere in the world.
Egypt: Hep A, Typhoid, Hep B, Rabies (or don’t pet any animals – domestic or stray – even a scratch has to be taken seriously)
- Avian Flu has been confirmed in humans – do not eat poultry and avoid poultry farms or where bird secretions may occur
- Zika – use normal insect precautions
Greece: Hep A – for adventurous dietary habits or prolonged stays, Rabies (if you want to pet all those community cats), Hep B
- Avaian Flu – no confirmed human cases, but an outbreak has been reported in domestic poultry in the Western Macedonia Region
Iceland: just the normals – cavers might want to get a Rabies vaccination
Tanzania: Malaria (tablets), Hep A, Typhoid, Influenza, Hep B, Cholera, TDP, Varicella (unless you had chicken pox as a kid) Rabies
- Yellow Fever is not required (except if coming from some countries – ie: Kenya) but consider getting – especially if you are going to Kenya, where it’s a requirement, or staying near the TZ/Kenya border (like in Arusha and Moshi)
- ** Don’t forget to get your prescription for Traveler’s Diarrhea – the odds are high you’ll need it, along with Imodium AD
- TseTse flies like Deet and they absolutely love blue (and bright colors/dark colors too)- the flies cause what is known as Sleeping Sickness – Oil of lemon eucalyptus helps along with not using perfume smelling products. I’m taking Lush’s Copperhead , blended with fresh coffee and a hint of vanilla. Even though it’s a shampoo I’ll use it on my body too. Bathing at night will also help reduce attracting TseTse. Good news, the flies are not active at night, but then you have the mosquitos to deal with so bring Deet.
- Zika – use normal insect precautions
United Kingdom: just the normals – cavers might want to get a Rabies vaccination
Not Causing Cultural Taboo
Sure you can wear what you do at home, but do you want to stand out, or worse, offend the locals.
EGYPT – this is a muslim country – cover yourself up out of respect! I had to sign a contract for my apartment agreeing to dress conservative.
- For women, showing your collarbone is not acceptable – no tank tops
- Shorts and above knee skirts are not acceptable – mid-calf to ankle is appropriate
- cover your hair with a scarf (hijab) when entering a mosque
- Women avoid eye contact with men on the streets
- Flip-flops are considered shower shoes – to fit in wear sandals with a strap
- Greeks wear black
- Ladies, cover your shoulders when entering a church
- Offer a firm handshake to everyone present when greeting and departing
- “No” is indicated by a slight upward movement of the chin. “Yes” is indicated with a downward nod
- Avoid an open palm to someones face (as in, indicating ‘stop’)
- The “Ok” sign (gesture with thumb and index finger circle) is NOT okay to use
- Winking is a friendly gesture, don’t go jumping to conclusions
- PDA is acceptable, hey they’re Greek, they don’t mind showing affection
- Refrain from enthusiastic compliments about possessions, the owner will feel compelled to give that item to you
- Avoid wearing shorts in public
- Flip-flops are a flop outside the bathroom
- Remove shoes before entering mosque and some homes
- During Ramadan, do not eat, drink, smoke in public during daylight hours – except in hotels or restaurants
- Don’t display anger – if you’re pissed off, don’t show it
- Use your right hand with food or handing an item to someone
- Give a “high-five” with some part of your right arm – not your hand
- Use the Continental manner for eating – hold your fork in left hand, knife in right
- Mind your manners – it’s a good rule no matter what country
Show Me The Money
Iceland: Icelandic Krona (ISK).
- Even though the country is part of the Schengen, they don’t use euros.
- Tipping is not necessary, a service charge is included in bill, but rounding up is appreciated
United Kingdom: Great British Pound (GBP)
- Tipping is usually included in the bill. If not, tip between 10-15 percent of the bill
Greece: Euro (EUR)
Egypt: Egyptian Pound (EGP)
- It is illegal to purchase EGP outside the country (For those of you, like myself, this is a tad stressful. I like some pocket-money upon arrival)
Tanzania: Tanzanian Shilling (TZS)
- It is illegal to purchase TZS outside the country
- Thankfully, USD is accepted side-by-side TZS and USD is the currency needed to pay for your visa – even if you are not American. $100 and $50 bills can be exchanged at banks and have a better exchange rate than lower bills.
I purchased a prepaid debit card from Travelex that arrived by mail two days later (you can also get overnight for $10 more). The nice thing about the card is you buy your currency at the rate given, so if it goes up you save money (downside if the rate goes down your screwed). This card is best used to get money out of the ATM or making small purchases at stores, due to no fee charges. If you are traveling between the USA, UK and EU countries you can upload the three currencies all on one card.
Okay, your turn……
Do you have some helpful tips on how not to be eaten alive by tse or mozzy’s or a being a cultural disaster?