Are up a traveler between the ages of 14 to 70? You may find yourself providing your fingerprints upon entry to China next time you visit.

In an effort to strengthen national security, China will be asking foreign visitors to provide their fingerprints upon entry. According to a story in the South China Morning Post, the information will be stored for official use. It was not stated if the fingerprints would be shared with other agencies. The new system is designed to be efficient and the Ministry said no unnecessary delays should be experienced by travelers.

The current exceptions are for foreigners traveling on diplomatic passports and visas. At this time those travelers will not be required to provide their fingerprints. China cited the program they are utilizing is already active in other countries. For example, the U.S. has been collecting fingerprints from foreign nationals since 2004.

The first fingerprints will be collected through Beijing’s Shenzhen Airport the last week of February. The process is then scheduled to roll out across the nation to all entry points into China.

We’ll give you a hint. It’s exotic, has beautiful beaches and is a mere 90 miles away from the coast of the United States.

If you guessed, Cuba, you’re right!

Cuba According to data put together from the travel insurance company, Allianz, Cuba was a major destination for Valentine’s Day 2017.

The company looked at data from some 18,000 trips purchased for two people the weekend before Valentine’s Day, or departing between February 10-12 and returning February 13.

Cancun continues to rank as the top destination, but for the first time Cuba has entered the list and exceptions are it will continue to climb in popularity. The reason is flights are affordable, accommodations are budget-friendly, and the travel visas are easy to acquire. Visitors still have to meet one of the 12 pre-approved reasons to set forth by the Department of the Treasury. A few of the reasons are doing charity work, visiting family members, or performing religious functions.

U.S. travelers require a passport and visa to enter the country, talk to us and we can expedite both!

Happy Valentine’s Day! Ever wondered what the top 10 most romantic cities to visit with your favorite person might be? Here’s our list.

paris

1. Paris, France
Yes, of course Paris. Does any city evoke more feelings of romance? Walking along the Seine, hand in hand in a museum, and of course a kiss at the Eiffle Tower.

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2.  Florence, Italy
Another city that oozes romance. Charming cobblestone streets, the food, and the history are enough to make any lovers want to share a romantic moment.

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3. Prague, the Czech Republic
This is a beautiful place to visit with a rich history. The nights are especially beautiful. Great places for lovers to visit are the Vtlava River, see the Charles Bridge, or ride the cable car to Petrin Gardens and explore the mirror maze together.

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4. Buenos Aires, Argentina
Go to where the romantic dance the Tango was born. Buenos Aires offers up history, gorgeous architecture and gardens and tree-lined boulevards to enjoy hand-in-hand.

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5. Kyoto, Japan
Love castles, history, and cherry blossoms? Kyoto is the destination city for you and your lover. This beautiful area will give experiences like sleeping in a traditional ryokan and take in a quiet and contemplative Philosopher’s Stroll.

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6. Bruges, Belgium
Love the romance of the canals but dislike the crowds of Venice? Check out Bruges. You get all the romance of a canal ride without all the tourists. Another destination that is a must-see for lovers, Minnewater Water, where the swans glide on the aptly named, Lake of Love.

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7. Bath, England
Looking for somewhere to propose and make it official? Bath, England actually has their city listed as a place to propose on their website!

 

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Have you ever lost your passport? It’s a sinking feeling, to say the least. A search we just did on Facebook showed 34,000 active mentions of the phrase, that’s a lot of discussion about lost passports on social media.

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If you lose your passport or believe it has been stolen, it should be reported immediately to protect your identity. Your missing passport will be rendered invalid for travel. You can do this by calling the U.S. Department of State at (877) 487-2778 or (888-874-7793 for TTY). You can also complete a Statement Regarding a Lost of Stolen U.S. Passport Book And/Or Card (Form DS-64), sign the statement, and mail it to the address on the form. You will need to fill out this form to get a new passport whether or not you reported your passport lost via a phone call.

Replacing your passport is a simple process Texas Tower can expedite for you.  Just go to the Department of State and complete the DS-11 form online. Then print the passport application but do not sign.

Next, you will need to print a copy of the DS-11 Passport form. Again, do not sign this form either. This copy will be included with your Texas Tower order

stolen-passportThen you will need to fill out a DS-64 form which is a Statement for a Lost or Stolen Passport. Print one copy and sign in black ink only. The original must be included in the sealed enveloped you take to the Passport Deputy (also known as your local Post Office). The copy you just made will go on the outside with your Texas Tower authorization form.

Passport Photos
Now you need to get two recent passport-quality photos taken. We recommend that you have these pictures taken by a facility familiar with passport photo requirements such as Walgreens, CVS, or Kinko’s.
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Proof of Identity
To get your passport reissued you will need to provide proof of U.S. citizenship and identification. You can provide proof of citizenship using one of the following documents:

  • Original U.S.-issued birth certificate
  • Original U.S. Naturalization Document
  • An expired U.S. passport that was issued for 10 years

Proof of identification can be in the form of a state-issued or federal issued I.D. You will need to make a clear back and front copy. Examples of I.D. can be

  • a valid state drivers license,
  • military I.D., or
  • government I.D.
  • The identification used must have been issued more than 6 months ago.

Need to get your passport reissued faster?
Use a flight itinerary or company letter requesting rush service. We can help you with a sample letter to meet the requirements of the passport office.

Last, because you are using our service to expedite the reissue of your passport, you will need to include anAuthorization for Texas Tower to act on your behalf. Please make two copies and place one inside the envelope to be sealed by the Passport Deputy and one on the outside.

Take your documents to your local post office to be witnessed, signed, and sealed. Do not open this envelope once sealed.

Need help finding a passport agency deputy?
You can find a complete list of local agencies at http://iafdb.travel.state.gov.
Be aware the Passport Agency Deputy will charge an execution fee of $25 for witnessing your document signing and sealing of your envelope.

Once completed, mail or overnight your sealed envelope, copies for Texas Tower, and payment (See fees at the bottom of this page) to:
Texas Tower Passports & Visas
2020 Montrose Blvd. Suite 400
Houston, TX 77006
Phone (713) 874-1420

A member of our staff will handle your order, and you can track the status of your passport reissue in real-time.

Spring Break 2017

Are you heading to Cuba for Spring Break? It’s only 90 miles from the U.S. so it’s as fast and easy to get to as Mexico. And equally as exotic and warm. If you’re wondering where to stay, we have five suggestions for you.

Varadero is located in the NW coast of Cuba and is a great landing spot for Spring Breakers. One of the most popular hotels here is the BelleVue Puntarena. This hotel is usually booked and stays busy. The elevators can be slow, but unless you’re staying on one of the higher up floors, it won’t be an issue.

Iberostar Laguna Azul is another gem to keep in mind if you’re visiting Varadero for Spring Break. Like many hotels in Varadero, this hotel is currently undergoing renovations and updating, but it shouldn’t affect your stay.

Cayo Coco is another popular destination for Spring Breakers, and here are two great hotels to stay at. Hotel Playa Coco is a beach front with easy access to the ocean. Numerous activities are available and the food is rated highly. Memories Caribe Beach Resort is larger than Hotel Playa Coco and just as busy.  If you arrive at night, the pathways to the rooms are not lighted, just follow whoever is delivering your luggage and you should have no issues getting to your room.

Bravo Caracol located in Santa Lucia is moderately priced and has a reputation for great food and entertainment. Also located on a beautiful white sands beach, you may wish Spring Break lasted a little longer.

Make sure your passport and travel visa are ready to go, and if they aren’t – talk to us!

 

Ghana Tourism- 7 Places to Check Out
Thinking about visiting Ghana? This African nation is a must-see. ghanamap

Visitors hear the word, “Akwaaba” frequently traveling through the streets and all over the country. The basic meaning is “Welcome” but it is used to spread the warm, welcoming feeling Ghana is known for.

kakumparkKakum National Park
Love the forest? Love birding? If walking under a natural canopy of trees is included in your idea of a beautiful view, don’t miss visiting this national park. It covers 375 square kilometres and is a frequent destination for nature enthusiasts.

capecoastCape Coast Castle
Cape Coast Castle is a reminder of a sad history in Ghana of slavery. When gold was discovered, so much in the area it’s where the name “Gold Coast” came from. European traders built the castle to help protect it and enslaved Africans to work at the castle. This is one of roughly “slave castles” located on the Gold Coast.

nationalmuseumghanaNational Museum of Ghana
There are six national museums in Ghana, this is the largest and oldest located in the capital city of Accra. Definitely worth your time to go visit.

molenationalparkMole National Park
What was once a small game reserve in 1957, is now the largest national park in Ghana. Experience tours where you can photograph wildlife in their natural habitat. Elephants are a frequent sight.

elminacastleElmina Castle
History buffs will appreciate a tour of this castle built in 1492 by the Portuguese. It originally served as a trading post and slave trading station. If you want to read more about this castle, at Ancient Origins.

busuaBusua
Want to kick back and enjoy a beautiful beach view? Busua is the destination for you. An interesting side-note, if you have ever wanted to surf, Busua is home to most of the avid surfers in Ghana. Get some pro-tips!

voltalakeLake Volta
This lake was formed by the contained water of the Akosombo Dam. There is quiet fishing, lakeside fun, and friendly people abound. If the beach isn’t your thing, but you enjoy fishing check out Lake Volta.

nzuleloNzulezo
This is known as “The Village on Stilts” and indeed, every building is up on stilts or built on platforms over the water of Lake Tadane.  There are waterfalls nearby, abundant fishing, and quiet, lakeside enjoyment for travelers.

Entry to Ghana for United States travelers requires a visa and a passport. If you’d rather spend time planning your trip than visiting the embassy and dealing with paperwork, let us do the legwork for you. It starts here at Ghana Visa.

How to Travel Internationally With Only One BagDo you over-pack when you travel? One goal to aspire to when you travel internationally is to pack everything you need in a single bag. Believe it or not, it can be done.

We put together a collection of sites that did the work for you and put together checklists for cutting through the things you may not need and put together a travel bag of everything you will need.

OneBag Packing List Screenshot.
OneBag Packing List Screenshot.

This is a very thoroughly done checklist. There are some items that may be off the allowed list if you’re flying,  work around it and you have a great jumping off point for developing your own “must haves” for your next international trip.

 


Intrepid Travel Checklist
Intrepid Travel Checklist

Intrepid Travel put together their version of the concentrated packing list for travel. They go one step further and also recommend getting an International Driver’s License, which is something we highly recommend as well. No driver’s test is required. The requirements to meet are to be over 18-years of age and possess a valid driver’s license.  Then you can be the captain of your own vehicle when you travel overseas. You can learn more about getting an International Driver’s License through Texas Tower.


 

How to Pack for a Year of Travel in One Carry-On - Condé Nast Traveler.
How to Pack for a Year of Travel in One Carry-On – Condé Nast Traveler.

Condé Nast has put together a great article that tells how to pack a single bag for a year’s worth of travel. It’s definitely an interesting read.

So there you have it. Three great destinations to learn how to pack what you need for a trip and actually have what you need instead of  giving yourself the job of carrying extra shoes, clothes, and items you didn’t actually need anyway!

Make 2017 the year you set a goal to travel lighter!

How to Get Your Personal Papers OrganizedHave you ever heard one of the basic laws of time management? It’s the number one thing you should do to get a grip on your day. Basically, any task you’re doing will expand to fill the time you’ve allotted to it. If you decided to get rid of clothes that you no longer wear, clean our your garage, or hunker down and get that budget going on paper you have been thinking about: you must send a beginning time and end time to complete a task or you can wind up wasting time. If you set a beginning time and ending time – you’ll tend to work more efficiently and see accomplishments which is motivating to do it again.

Now, there are a lot of great sites that will give you tips on how to clean your kitchen in 10 minutes or how to get your day organized so you do more work and have more family time. We are going to tackle a project that you generally don’t think about until you need it: personal paperwork.

If there’s a fire, natural disaster, or simply need to travel or move your residence – your personal paperwork should be easy to find for all family members when you need it quickly.

Don’t get discouraged or feel overwhelmed
Before you start, set a starting and ending time to get organized. Also, designate times when you won’t be bothered, this includes turning off your cell phone, signing out of social networks, and don’t stop to check email. Depending on how much searching you need to do to pull your important personal paperwork together.

Designate a place for all your personal paperwork
This means getting a small fire-proof safe, lock box, or other type of filing system you deem reliable for your own needs.

What goes in?
Your passport, your birth certificate, passports and birth certificates for family members, rental or mortgage papers, insurance, and photos of your residence for insurance purposes.
You can also include warranties, large purchase receipts, and medical records for yourself and the family.

how-to-get-your-sao-tome-and-principe-visa-1What if some paperwork can’t be found?
Things get lost or damaged in moves. It happens. You can get copies of your social security cards if you cannot find them. Your insurance company is usually happy to send you anything missing paperwork. And if you need a copy of your birth certificate or you have discovered your passport is set to expire, we can assist you with passport renewal and birth certificate acquisition.

Smart tip : have an extra copy of your birth certificate and one for every family member in a safe place.

Once you get organized, whenever you are given a document, decide immediately if it needs to be placed with your other important paperwork. This will enable you to always be on top of your personal paperwork.