Once you know your route, you need to identify what visa requirements are for each country. Depending on your nationality, most countries might not require a visa at all or will grant you one upon arrival. For ones that require a visa prior to arrival, its best done before you start your trip rather than during the middle of it.
Best Method to Verify Visa Requirements
- Go to PassportIndex.org
- Select “Compare” at the top right
- In the “Compare to:” field, select your nationality
- If you have multiple passports, you can add them as one might allow you visa free while the other has a requirement.
- Now scan the country list to see what requirement is posted.
- This method is quick, easy, and up-to-date for the most part. It is always best to check with the travel requirements with each country directly.
- Take caution when it claims “visa on arrival”. Some countries may only grant this through the airport as they do not have infrastructure at remote borders. I was turned down in Paraguay as the visas cannot be issued at the border.
Applying for a Visa
Should you find that one of the countries you are going to requires a visa prior to arrival, you will need visit the nearest Consulate/Embassy to submit for a visa. While some countries allow for you to submit for a visa through mail, others might require you to appear in person to request it (Venezuela did for me). Read up the process on the countries tourism section, or if you are using a US passport you can look at the State Department Website.
It is also possible to use a 3rd party, for an additional cost, to assist you in applying for a visa or rushing any passport requests. I have past experience with using It’s Easy Passport & Visa services, in which they were costly, but very quick. Review other 3rd party options and be aware that they might not be able to do everything for you. But if you can, save the money and do the extra work to get it without help. It is possible.
Passport Considerations and Requesting a Second Passport
Prior to the start of your trip, review your passport to ensure it will not expire during your trip, months after you plan to finish your trip, and that it has plenty of space for stamps. Generally each page allows for 4 stamps, which you typically receive an entry and exit stamp per country. Therefore, in theory, you can visit 2 countries per page. While you might be only going to 17 countries, you might cross in and out of the same country multiple times (Mainly between Chile and Argentina).
If you plan on actively traveling with your passport and need to still apply for visas, it is possible, for US Citizens at least, to apply for a second passport. I achieved this by speaking with the Consulate services in Sao Paulo, Brazil, though it should be possible to do so in the US. This is a limited 2-year passport, that costs the same as your primary passport, which requires you to provide a letter of justification for a 2nd passport. The consulate affairs officer will interview you to ensure it is an appropriate request. I explained that I will be traveling in Europe soon and need to have a passport to pass borders and another one to request future visas (some countries do not let you apply several months in advance).
Carnet Documentation for your Vehicle
While it was not used within South America, it is still not a bad document to have as you might need it riding into Europe or other parts of the world. A “Carnet” is essentially a passport for your vehicle showing where it is coming from, where it is going, and where it will end up at. It is important that you register the Carnet in the country you own the vehicle and plan on returning it to. Failure to do so could elicit fines. In my case this is becoming something I require for entering some remote countries in Asia and Africa. To apply for a Carnet in the United States, click here.