African Tourism: How to get the East African Tourist Visa
The idea of a single regional East Africa Tourist Visa is to make it easier and more financially attractive for tourists to visit the whole region. You should be able to visit three countries on a single trip – or so the theory goes. If you enjoy cross-border travel tips and stories, you might enjoy No hurry in Africa – the bus from Kigali to Kampala and The real ‘boda boda’ – Nagawa travels sidesaddle into Kenya.
You will find details about the different East Africa Tourist Visa application processes for Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda. Although the three countries share a tourist visa, the application processes differ, according to the country where you start your East African travels.
Without an East Africa Tourist Visa, you will currently spend a minimum of $180 to visit the three countries: Kenya ($50) + Rwanda ($30) + Uganda ($100). These fees are ‘single entry’ only, meaning that a return visit to any of these countries means paying the visa fee again. Originally launched in 2013, implementation has been on the slow side but is now being sped up across the region. The East Africa Tourism Visa is commonly available, although a few challenges remain.
“The holder of the East Africa Tourist Visa shall enter from the country that issued the visa and move within the two other countries without applying for another visa or paying for another visa fee.”
• Which countries does the East Africa Tourist Visa cover?
Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda – with more countries joining in the future.
• How much is the East Africa Tourist Visa?
EATV is free of charge to foreign residents / expats (with valid work permits) in the three countries: Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda.
Foreign residents and citizens of the three countries need to travel with a valid passport or National ID or Student ID and request an Interstate Pass at the border.
• How long is the East Africa Tourist Visa valid for?
• Is there a limit to the number of times you can visit each country?
No. The East Africa Tourist Visa is a multiple entry visa.
According to Carmen Nibigira, Regional Coordinator, East Africa Tourism Platform, the East Africa Tourist Visa entitles the traveller to 90 days uninterrupted travel in and out of the three participating countries. It is even possible to leave and reenter the EATV visa zone, without incurring additional visa charges, provided that the visa still remains within the 90 day period.
• Can I extend my East Africa Tourist Visa?
No. You cannot extend the East Africa Tourist Visa. To get a new EATV, you need to exit the region and apply for a new one, as detailed below.
• Can I work on an East Africa Tourist Visa?
Official line: “Work is prohibited.”
Sample of an East Africa Tourist Visa
• How to apply for the East Africa Tourist Visa
It’s important to note that the process for purchasing the East Africa Tourist Visa differs according to the country you travel to first.
“For any questions, contact the diplomatic missions of the Republic of Kenya, Republic of Rwanda and Republic of Uganda before you travel.”
• How do I apply for the East Africa Tourist Visa if I’m entering Kenya first?
If Kenya is your first point of entry, contact your local Kenyan embassy for details on how to purchase your East Africa Tourist Visa before you start your trip. Alternatively, buy your East Africa Tourist Visa upon arrival in Nairobi or Mombasa. Pick up the form when you arrive at the airport and pay in US dollars.
eCitizen is Kenya’s Department of Immigration Services online portal for visa applications. Currently this is for single entry visas and transit visas only (NOT the EATV). According to the website (May 2016) “East Africa Tourist Visa – Coming Soon.”
For further clarification before you travel to Kenya, you might want to call one of these telephone numbers at Kenya’s Immigration Customer Care: visa queries: +254 707 657 945 and general queries: +254 020 2222 022.
In November 2015, a friend flew from London to Nairobi. He had registered with the e-portal to purchase a visa, but could not see the option for purchasing an EATV one. (Even in June 2016, it still is not clear how or where you purchase an East Africa Tourist Visa when arriving in Kenya). My friend took the gamble that he would be able to buy the EATV upon arrival at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) in Nairobi. Luckily it worked out okay, but she did have to queue up at immigration for a long time to purchase her EATV. It’s not an ideal way to travel – (worrying if you will get a visa or not when you land…)
The Muzungu’s recommendation: since the application process is still unclear, apply for an East Africa Tourist Visa at your nearest Kenyan Embassy, before you travel. (Note: this is an external site so I can’t confirm all the info is uptodate).
• How do I apply for the East Africa Tourist Visa if I’m entering Rwanda first?
If Rwanda is your first point of entry, use the Rwanda Online Visa Application System to apply for the Class T12 East Africa Tourist Visa. Under “Type of Visa” select “East Africa Tourist Visa.”
Here you will find an online application form and all the guidance necessary to apply for an East Africa Tourist Visa.
The Muzungu’s recommendation: if you have any flexibility in your itinerary, enter the East Africa Tourist Visa zone via Rwanda. They have the simplest application process with the best guidelines.
• How do I apply for the East Africa Tourist Visa if I’m entering Uganda first?
If Uganda is your first point of entry, you can request your East Africa Tourist Visa at your local Ugandan embassy. (Note: this is an external site so I can’t confirm all the info is uptodate).
You can also purchase your East Africa Tourist Visa in US dollars cash upon arrival at Entebbe International Airport, but see note below.
The Uganda Electronic Visa/Permit Application System is due to be launched June 1st 2016. You can use this system for purchasing your East Africa Tourist Visa, apparently. [Despite the online announcement, this system was not live on publication date of this article, June 4th 2016].
The Muzungu’s recommendation: At Entebbe International Airport, immigration may insist you provide a copy of ‘an itinerary proving onward travel in East Africa.’ Strictly speaking, this is not a requirement of the East Africa Tourist Visa. However, you are advised to bring an itinerary with you, if you have one, or they may deny you an EATV (and simply issue you with a single entry Uganda tourist visa).
• What is an Interstate Pass and how do I apply for it?
Citizens of Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda can now travel between the three countries with ID cards instead of passports. No visas are needed and there is no charge.
Expatriates with valid work permits can also travel with the ‘Interstate Pass,’ without needing to pay for a visa. Woop, woop!
In both cases, nationals and expats are simply given an Interstate Pass document when they show their ID/passport and exit one of the three countries. This is free of charge and issued at the border.
• Which other countries will join the East Africa Tourist Visa?
It has been announced that Tanzania has joined the East Africa Tourist Visa but there is no information available online (June 2016).
Sadly, very few people are travelling to Burundi currently because of the political situation. We hope life in Burundi improves quickly and that we can welcome them to the EATV party before too long.
One day, we hope…
• The East Africa Tourist Visa. What is the situation on the ground?
(What the tour operators may not tell you)
You can only get the EATV when you FIRST enter the EATV zone, either in advance online (Rwanda) or at an embassy / diplomatic mission / on arrival at the airport (Uganda and Kenya).
There are currently four points of entry for the East Africa Tourist Visa:
1. Uganda – Entebbe International Airport
2. Rwanda – Kigali International Airport
3. Kenya – Nairobi, Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA)
4. Kenya – Mombasa, Moi International Airport and the Port of Mombasa.
The fact that you can only get an East Africa Tourist Visa when you first enter the EATV countries is a bit of a drawback for some people who may arrive in one country, without having made firm travel plans. It’s quite common for travellers to arrive without an itinerary. Someone may come to Uganda to track the gorillas, for example, and decide they want to travel to the Kenyan coast next.
Visas issued for specific countries can only be used for that particular country.
Notes from friends and family regarding the East Africa Tourist Visa
In its current form, the EATV is not as flexible as it could be, particularly for backpackers and budget travelers who make up their travel plans as they go along. Currently (June 2016), you would have to pay $100 to enter Uganda, $50 to enter Kenya and then another $100 to return to Uganda to get your flight home.
I know people who have arrived in Uganda on a single country tourist visa but who have then decided they want to travel within East Africa. My friends’ experience is that when you are travelling by road, the situation is even less clear:
• Cyanika border (Rwanda / Uganda). You cannot get an EATV when you cross into Rwanda by road.
• Busia border (Uganda / Kenya). You cannot get an EATV when you cross into Kenya by road, nor returning to Rwanda at the same border post.
Remember: At Entebbe International Airport, immigration may ask you to provide a copy of ‘an itinerary proving onward travel in East Africa.’ Strictly speaking, this is not a requirement of the East Africa Tourist Visa. However, you are advised to bring one with you, if you have one.