Visas for South America

Crossing the Continent

Borders and Visas for South America

RealWorld Guide to Visas for South America

Many of our holidays take you across multiple borders in South America, so it pays to make sure your documentation is in order. Happily this isn't a difficult matter, but read on for our advice.

If you have a UK passport (or any other EU passport) then the situation with visas for South America is very simple: you do not need a visa to visit any country in South America as a tourist. However, you should make sure that:

  • Your passport must have 6 months' validity remaining on the date of entry to each country.
  • You should have at least one blank page for each country you will visit.

In practice it's rare for either of these criteria to pose a problem at borders in South America, but you may not be allowed to board your flight here in the UK if your passport doesn't meet these conditions, so it's as well to make sure.

In many countries in South America, for example in Chile, you usually won't require a visa to travel, but you are given a 'Tourist Card' on arrival which you have to fill in and complete. It's important to keep this with you as you have to submit it when you leave the country, and if you lose it you'll have to pay for a new one.

If you need to renew your passport but want to get your holiday in South America booked, don't worry: we can book everything on your existing passport and then change the details when you get your new passport. You just need to make sure that they return your old passport to you, and take that with you as well.

Flying via the United States

Many people fly to South America via the US, but if you are flying on this route you should be aware that uniquely in the world, when you transit via the US, you actually have to clear immigration and customs. This means that you have technically entered the US and therefore either need a visa or (if you are eligible) registered for the ESTA programme - formerly known as the Visa Waiver.

Almost all UK passport holders will qualify for the ESTA, so you just need to apply online. It is valid for two years and costs £15. It's a bit of a pain, especially when you almost certainly don't need visas for South America itself, but since you've got it, you could always arrange a stopover in Miami or New York on the way back?