As Americans begin planning for travel abroad, one of the first things they should do is determine if any destination on their itinerary requires a visa, which is official permission to enter that country. Some countries require visas, some don’t. Some countries issue visas upon arrival while others require a visa to be obtained in advance. The best way to determine visa status is to check with the embassy, either by phone or on the web.

China, Land of Ancient History

The People’s Republic of China requires visitors to obtain visas in advance, though it recently began allowing visa-free stays of up to 72 hours in Beijing and Shanghai for stopovers on international connections. China’s visa requirements change periodically and may vary from consulate to consulate. China does not accept applications by mail, so travelers can either hand-deliver applications to the nearest consulate or use a visa service.

The Middle Kingdom oozes history from the Great Wall to Xi’an’s Terra Cotta Warriors, from Peking Man to centuries’ old Buddhist cave art. Stunning scenery, such as karst formations near Guilin, and great cuisine like Peking duck also contribute to a memorable travel experience. For better travel experience you can choose trivago deals.

Australia, Land Down Under

Australia is a popular destination with American travelers partly because the official language is English and partly because it’s a scenic country filled with wide-open spaces, as well as exotic animals such as the feisty kangaroo and the cuddly koala bear.

Australia is one of the easiest countries from which to get a visa. Travelers complete an online application and get their visas within minutes. If attachments are required, such as a copy of the applicant’s passport ID page, the embassy’s website gives detailed instructions on how to submit them. A credit card is required to pay the visa fees; an extra charge is required if the applicant wants a visa label physically inserted in his passport.

Kenya, Home of Big Cats

Kenya allows Americans to get their visas upon arrival at the airport, though it is recommended visas be obtained prior to leaving for this African country. Getting a visa at the airport can be time-consuming, not to mention expensive if the visitor is denied entry because he cannot provide proof of yellow fever immunization or does not have at least two blank pages in his passport.

Visitors usually spend a day or two in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, to rest from the long journey before heading out on safari to see wild animals such as lions, tigers, and elephants in their native habitat.

Brazil, Home of the Amazon

Brazil is a country of contrasts. In the north, the Amazon River runs through rain forests, much of it uninhabited, on its way to the Atlantic Ocean. Further south is the exotic Rio de Janeiro, the most visited city in the southern hemisphere because it gave the world the samba, the Bossa Nova, and Carnival. Brazil’s visa application process is a little more complicated than most countries. Airport visas are not an option; all paperwork must be completed prior to arrival in Brazil.

Additional requirements apply to visitors under the age of 18, so if you are traveling with children be sure to check the nearest embassy or consulate before departure. Depending on where the applicant lives, copies of documents must be notarized; sometimes letters of invitation are required. The Atlanta consulate requires this letter to be written in Portuguese, Brazil’s official language.

To help make sure your travels go as smoothly as possible, find out before your trip starts what documents you need to enter each country on your itinerary.