As you’re well aware I travel a lot for work, and travel quite a bit for play too. I need my passport regularly for work and can’t afford sending it off to an embassy for x-amount of days to have a schengen or similar visa approved. SO, I am always looking for visa-free countries or places issuing a visa-on-arrival. I’ve summarised a few countries I have been to that don’t require pre-trip visa issuance, complete with a little review on each, if you don’t have the time/interest/budget to deal with fussy embassies. Personally for me any kind of advanced administrative preparation is the bane of my existence.
I’ve listed my top three, all very different and nicely spread across 3 continents where people speak English but still have a very different culture you can lose yourself in. Included are some of my favourite pictures either of me or taken by me in each destination. Out of the thirty-something cities I have travelled to worldwide, these are definitely in my top 7 because they’re each so special in their own right, and not just a matter of easy-visa access!THE PARADISE: Mahe Island, Seychelles
The island getaway of sun, sea and sand! Island-hop by boat or do a sunset cruise, swim/snorkel with tropical fish in turquoise water that’s the perfect balance between warm and refreshing. Enjoy all day//all night/all year warm weather. Hike through the mountains discovering rock-lined waterfalls and enjoy diving into their fresh water. The greenest forestry and mountains are the background of this paradise no matter where you are on the island.Languages spoken
: English and CreoleCurrency
: Seychelle Rupees, R1 = 1,31 SCRGetting around
: Cabs or car rental. The latter proves to be the best value for money as cabs are really expensive. Also, the island is so small that the roads don’t even have names! The maps you’re given simply have symbols and names of landmarks; think of it as an exciting hunt for the island’s many treasures. In any case it’s pretty much impossible to get lost.Eating
: Creole cuisine consists mostly of fresh seafood. Otherwise food can be pretty expensive especially in hotels (an average of 50 Euros per person, per meal), and this is again where car rental comes in handy so you can explore more reasonable places on the island.What I loved about it
: It’s easy to navigate and there wasn’t anything too touristy I wanted to do or see. I just wanted to relax and get away from the rest of the world and this was perfect for that.VISA
1. Glamourously by the beach – this comes standard if you’re staying at a resort of course / 2. Palm trees and the greenest mountains
THE EUROPEAN GEM: Istanbul, Turkey
A city rich in history, old European architecture meets Eastern and Asian influence. The only city in the world to be situated across two continents respectively, stand on one continent overlooking the Bosphorus at the other continent perfectly in sight just a kilometre or two ahead of you. Visit Topkappi Palace, stroll its grounds and enjoy it’s views. Visit its museum that holds the Prophets’ swords and other possessions. See the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and shop at the Grand Bazaar which holds thousands of stalls. The city is huge, with a population of about 20 million, take numerous ferries to different parts of it or just enjoy the ride for an evening out.Languages spoken:
Turkish and EnglishCurrency
: Turkish Lira/ Euros, 1 Turkish Lira = R4,98 / 1 Euro = R11,62Getting around
: Trams, Cabs and trains/subway – all pretty safe, cabs are a bit pricey. And as I mentioned before, the ferries.Eating
: Turkish and Kurdish cuisine, but because it’s Europe expect a bit of everything for everyone. I loved that food was halal almost everywhere.What I loved about it:
Backpack missions on foot and getting lost in a history that forms a strong part of my heritage and my religion’s heritage. Cobbled roads and old buildings, the Grand Bazaar was a market filled with treasures, getting to see Prophet Mohamad’s possessions in Topkappi Palace, praying in the Blue Mosque. The overall energy of the district was just amazing, however not loud. I can’t really explain it in writing but I can only tell you that a trip there is worth it. I stayed in the Old District so the best tourist attractions were all in walking distance from my hotel.VISA:
Free 30-day visa issued on arrival for South Africans.
1. View of Asia while standing in Europe! / 2. Beautiful mosque juxtapposed with European architecture. I loved the combo.
THE BEST OF THE FAR EAST: Hong Kong
A new home for thousands of expats, where fashion, Disney Land and modern architecture is set against a backdrop of lush green mountains, an old culture, temples, islands and big city lights.
Take a cable car that sneaks you into a deep valley hidden between emerald mountains to the biggest Buddha in the world. Travel up the old tram to Victoria Peak and watch the Light Show illuminate all the buildings in the city in different colours. Shop high end, shop at outlet malls or shop at markets. Island-hop by ferry, visit temples and choose to immerse yourself in the very Cosmopolitan side, the very historical/oriental side, or both. Everything is easily accessible as signs/symbols are always written in both English and Chinese, and everyone speaks English too if you’re needing some help. Be prepared to see some effortlessly stylish folk and people who love their designer handbags and sneakers (see Sneaker Street).Languages spoken
: English and ChineseCurrency
: Hong Kong Dollars, R1 = $0,87 HKDGetting around
: The MRT trains/subway are impeccably clean, punctual, safe and ridiculously easy to use. Cabs are also reasonably priced.Eating
: Because of the diversity of the expats living there, there’s a little bit of something for everyone. I must mention I bought the best sushi I ever had in the tiniest shop in Mong Kok – 8 pieces for about R25.
VISA: 30-day visa issued on arrival.
1. View of Hong Kong City from Victoria Peak, at the daily 8pm Light Show/ 2. En route to Big Buddha, this was my view from the cable car.
Other popular destinations that don’t require visa prep:
Most of South America
Thailand (Bangkok, Phuket)
Egypt (Cairo, Alexandria)
Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur)
Indonesia (Bali, Jakarta)
Maldives… You’re welcome!