Visas are arguably one of the most confusing areas of international travel. Organising them comes with plenty of questions. Should you book online? Should you pay for it on arrival? Is the cost too much or too little? How do you know if it’s real?
Unfortunately, for countries that require visitors to purchase a visa, failure to present it upon arrival means you won’t be able to enter the country.
To make it easier for travellers, there are now a large number of visa agents and websites aimed at taking care of the nitty gritty. However, while many of the sites are perfectly legitimate, there can be horror stories too.
One unlucky couple from the UK heading to Uzbekistan were charged $538 for one visa that should have only cost them only $27, reports The Independent. They were reportedly directed to a scam visa agent through their travel firm.
The retired couple said the cost of their visas ended up raising the price of their budget holiday by 11 per cent.
Bruce Morris, 76, said he and his wife felt ripped off by their travel firm for recommending a scam agency. He added: “We noticed the exorbitant fees and did most of the work ourselves.”
The couple were caught with additional, unnecessary fees that ended up hiking up the price 120 per cent. These fees included replacement passports coverage and next day delivery service.
Visa scam sites are a real problem for plenty of travellers, even experienced ones, and it's happening in countries all over the world. One user on the travel advice forum, TripAdvisor, suffered the same fate when attempting to purchase a Canadian visa.
Worryingly, they also said that the scam site was the first one to pop up in their Google search for Canadian visas.
The Australian Government has warned travellers to take care when purchasing visas online and to do sufficient research prior to making any commitments.
The Government’s travel advice site, SmartTraveller, said the best way to prevent this from happening is to confirm the price of the visa and the correct site to purchase it from with your official list of entry/exit requirements for each country.
SmartTraveller also added: “Only apply through links or organisations recommended by the diplomatic or consular mission of the country you are going to visit.”