China is one of the top ten travel visas that we process the most. We put together a page of the common questions we get from applicants. If you have a question we haven’t covered in this blog post, just contact our office at 713-874-1420 or write us at info@texastower.net.

Is a passport required for entry to China?
Yes. Your passport will need to have a minimum of six months validity remaining. Passports with less will result in deportation from China.

I heard about a 10-year Visa for China, how does that work?
Exactly like a regular travel visa, it’s just valid for ten years. It’s a good thing for individuals who travel frequently to Hong Kong or Macau, allowing for multiple entries to China.

Is a valid visa required to exit China?
Yes. You need to leave China before the expiration date on your travel visa.

Is China a country I can obtain a visa at on arrival?
No. You must have a visa prior to arriving in China.

Are vaccinations required?
China does not require vaccinations for U.S. citizens entering the country. Be aware that influenza, typhoid, measles, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and tuberculosis are prevalent and travelers should get boosters against all these conditions prior to visiting China. Talk to your personal physicians about the vaccinations you need several weeks before your trip to China.

Does the State Department recommend any safety precautions?
While violent crime isn’t common in China, they do advise being aware of your surroundings at all times when traveling in China. Also “110” is the Chinese version of “911.” However, be advised very few English-speaking individuals staff their emergency lines.

What is the “Tourist Tea” scam?
Young Chinese individuals invite tourists out for tea then stick them with a huge bill.

I heard about a phone scam on travelers in China, how does that work?
The State Department has reported that individuals traveling in China have received phone calls in the hotel rooms that they need to wire money immediately to a police officer to avoid arrest for a supposed crime. The State Department advises any U.S. citizen receiving a call like this to immediately contact the local Public Security Bureau (PSB) to verify the caller’s identity.

What are “Black Cabs?”
These are mostly encountered at airports. Black cabs are essentially unlicensed, un-metered taxi cabs. The State Department advises that travelers always have the driver remove any bags from the trunk of the taxi before paying.

How can I avoid counterfeit currency in China?
Counterfeit currency is an on-going issue in China. The State Department advises that travelers use small bills and only use ATMs at trusted financial institutions.

What types of travel visas does Texas Tower process?
We can obtain both business and tourist visas for China.

What forms do I need for a China Visa?
We have a dedicated page for that, you can begin the process here using our handy list of documents you will need to get your China visa.

Cuba has been open for tourism for a while now, and we wanted to share some of the most common questions we get from individuals seeking their travel visas. Cuba has some unique requirements for issuing travel visas, and outsourcing the task can definitely free up your time to plan your time in Cuba.

What are the U.S. passport requirements for Americans visiting Cuba?
Your passport must be valid at the time of entry, and two pages are required for entry/exit stamps.

Will I need a tourist visa to visit Cuba?
Yes. Although, technically tourist travel to Cuba remains prohibited. Your travel must fall into one of 12 categories of authorized travel. We can help you with that.

Are any vaccinations required to visit Cuba?
Currently, no vaccinations are required, but Hepatitis A is often recommended as water and foods may be contaminated. Dengue fever and the Zika virus are also prevalent.

Is it true U.S. credit cards don’t work in Cuba?
It’s true. U.S. credit and debit cards do not work in Cuba. You will need to bring cash to cover your stay. The Cuban government will require tourists to declare any amounts over $5000 USD. Another point to note is that the Cuban government charges a 10% fee for all conversations from U.S. dollars, excluding electronic transactions or cash conversions in other currencies. When exchanging currency, use the state-run offices known as CADECAs.

Can I bring Cuban pesos back to the U.S.?
It’s probably better not to try. Travelers may only export the equivalent of 5,000 USD in any currency other than the Cuban convertible pesos (CUC). Anyone wishing to export more than this amount must demonstrate evidence that the currency was acquired legitimately from a Cuban bank. (Source: U.S. State Department)

Is Cuba safe?
Cuba is relatively stable and characterized by a strong military and police presence. According to the State Department, the U.S. government rates the threat of crime in Cuba as medium. With the recent influx of tourists to the island, there has been an increase in the number of property crimes, as well as violent crimes. Crimes of opportunity, such as purse snatchings and car break-ins, are on the rise. Overall, Cuba is a safe place to visit, but caution needs to be exercised as in any country you are visiting.

If you’re heading to Cuba and still need to renew/obtain your U.S. passport and travel visa, talk to us – we can make the process fast and easy.

What You Need to Know Before Applying for Your Ghana Travel VisaPlanning a trip outside the U.S.? Did you know that makes you part of around five percent of Americans who travel internationally each year? If you’re a first-time traveler overseas, we have some tips to make it easier.

Tip #1 – You will need a passport.
Actually, all signs point to travelers within the United States needing a passport by 2020, but you’re traveling outside the United States now and you will need a passport to exit and enter the U.S. when you return. You will also need to show a certified copy of your birth certificate to obtain your passport. Outsource the task of getting a passport and spend your time planning your trip and deciding if you really need to include that 15th pair of shoes. Once you get your passport, it will be good for ten years. When you get your passport photo taken, get a few extra copies. Sometimes random countries will ask you for one at the border or you might need one for a visa (more on visas in a moment).

Tip #2 – Will You Need a Travel Visa?
Not every country requires a travel visa for entry. This is where the process gets extra fun, every country has their own rules, regulations, and process for obtaining a visa for entry. It also usually requires a trip to the consulate or embassy. This is a good task to outsource.

#3 Research Your Destination
In many countries, people in the cities do not drive at all. Public transportation, taxis, private buses, ride-sharing and other ways to get around make even renting a car unnecessary for a lot of destinations. Look up where you’re going and learn the basic customs, hot spots, places to avoid, and whether a Hepatitis A vaccination is recommended to avoid getting sick from the food or water.
Tip #4 Where To Stay
A hotel isn’t your only option. Check out couchsurfing.org or AirBnB.com to get in a local’s home and really get a feel for the place you’re visiting (maybe even make some new friends) get insider tips on cool places to go and save money.
Tip #5 Learn How the Money Works
In the present, if you don’t have a credit card with a chip, ask your card issuer for one and you’ll likely get it. Most chipped cards won’t come with outrageous fees for using it abroad. Ask your credit card issuer what their fees are to avoid surprises on your statement when you get back.

Using a credit card is excellent security against fraudulent transactions. However, not all businesses will take cards so it’s a good idea to carry a little local currency with you.

Figure out the exchange rate ahead of time so you aren’t trying to do constantly calculate prices. For example, if you are in Iceland and you know 600 Krona is roughly equal to five dollars U.S., you can have a rough and ready point of reference for figuring out how much to spend and keep on you.
Tip #6 Avoid Roaming Fees
When you board your flight, switch off your mobile data. WiFi is available pretty much everywhere, use that to upload your travel photo to Instagram instead of your phone’s data and you’ll save money.

Tip #7 Learn a Little of the Local Language
Most places you visit will have people who speak English. However, it is polite to at least learn how to say, “Do you speak English?” and a few other phrases in the local language. You might be met with grins and laughs for trying, but most people are happy to help if you try.

Tip #8 – Know the Basics to Pack
Here is a complete list of the basics you need to pack: a toothbrush, toothpaste, your passport, your phone, and your credit card. Anything else you might want can be acquired where you’re going.

You can make life easier for yourself by packing clean undies for a week if your stay is longer wash them in a sink with whatever soap is handy, and hang up to dry. Wool socks won’t heat up your feet and never gather a smell.

For clothing, dress nice and for the weather (again research your destination) and you won’t need more than two pairs of shoes for most trips.

And that’s the basics for having a great time on your first jaunt outside the U.S.

Halloween is almost here, want to know where to go for the best scare? How about a mummy museum in Mexico? An island of ghosts in Japan? Lonely Planet teamed up with Great Big Story, a production company that produces microdocumentaries for social, digital, and theatrical release. Here are a few of their most frightening choices.

Doll Island – South of Mexico City, in the canals of Xochimilcoa, a man said a young tourist died outside of his home and her spirit returned to scare him. For protection, he began hanging dolls he found around his island home. In 2001, the owner of the island drowned the same way the tourist did. His grand-nephew took over as caretaker.

Hotel Palmyra – amazingly through the wars and turmoil that has embroiled this area of the world, this hotel has been standing in Lebanon since 1874. There are Roman ruins right outside the front door.

Shengshen Island, China – a place where nature has reclaimed a once-thriving fishing village.

Mummy Museum in Guanajuato, Mexico isn’t meant to be a scary place. It is a collection of naturally well-preserved bodies from a Cholera outbreak in the 1800s.

Those are just three destinations around the world. What’s your favorite Halloween destination?

how to get your nigeria travel visa fastGetting a travel visa to Nigeria through Texas Tower is simple. Just read the requirements for the type of visa you need. Fill out the forms (we give you the links) and then send your paperwork to us. We’ll begin processing your request immediately upon receipt and deliver your travel visa back to you quickly.

Here are some common questions about Nigeria Travel Visas

Do you U.S. citizens require a visa for business travel to Nigeria?
Yes. Both tourism and business travel require a travel visa for entry.

Can the Nigeria visa application be completed online?
Yes, you can find the link here

Is it true you need a major credit card to apply for a Nigerian visa?
While many visas do not require it, Nigeria requires that a partial consular fee payment is made at the time of application using a major credit card.

Is it a necessity for applicants to have a Google or Yahoo account to fill out the application?
Yes. A Google or Yahoo account is required to properly enter the data input portion of the site. You should allow 30 minutes to complete. If you do not wish to do this, Texas Tower can complete this online step for you for a nominal fee.

Will I need to submit photos with my Nigerian visa application?
Yes, you will be required to submit two passport-type photos.

How many blank pages do I need in my passport?
Your passport with 6 months validity beyond trip completion and one blank visa page are the minimum requirements. If you need extra pages in your passport, you can no longer add pages. You will need to renew your passport.

If you have any questions about your Nigerian visa or passport-related questions, just contact our office at 713-874-1420 and we will be happy to assist you.

tips for traveling southeast asia from texas tower
Mainland Southeast Asia includes Cambodia. Laos. Myanmar (Burma) Peninsular Malaysia. Thailand. Vietnam. When visiting these countries, although each one is different, there are things to avoid doing in each country that will make your trip even better.

Know Your Spice Limit
Just because you love spicy salsa and can handle hot food in the states, spicy is a whole other level of hotness in these countries. Even if you order food without spice it might still make your eyes water. Boiled egg or a side of boiled rice will help cool the heat in your mouth down. Also, check out the street food, sit-down restaurants are often pricey and you can get the same items from a marketplace stall.

Don’t Overdo It Drinking
Have you ever heard of a Thai Bucket? These are like the plastic buckets kids use to build sand castles but instead of being filled with sand they are filled with coke, Red Bull, and hard liquor. Go easy on those if you order them and never go drinking alone.

Understand the Currency Exchange
When you first do the exchange and have 3 million Vietnamese Dong in your hand. It’s important to be able to do currency exchanges on the fly so you aren’t overspending. Get an app like the XE Currency app to keep track of how much you’re really spending.

Don’t Over-Pack
Southeast Asia is hot and humid, don’t worry about makeup, it won’t stay on too long anyway. If you’re traveling to the major cities, anything you need you can get in markets. Convenience stores have mini-products of any toiletries. A good rule to follow is to lay out everything you think you need and then eliminate half the items. One thing you might want to bring with you is sunscreen as it can be on the pricey side if you need to purchase.

How to

No matter if you’re getting your first passport or renewing your passport once again, getting it fast is usually a priority for most travelers. Here’s why outsourcing your passport and getting it faster is an even better idea now.

The U.S. Passport Agency can take from four to seven weeks to deliver your passport, and the average time service is around six weeks. 2017 is slated to have more traffic for passports than ever for travelers renewing their passports as the 10 year anniversary of the 2007 Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative.

compareservice

If you have your travel booked, then you’re ready to outsource the acquisition or renewal of your passport.  When you visit our passport page, just choose the type of service you want, including one day turnaround time,  and we’ll give you a list of the forms we need you to print and sign.
Then we’ll do the rest.

passports and visa servicesTo apply for your passport visit this page

passports and visa servicesTo renew your passport visit this page

We will process the forms for you and obtain your passport quickly. Our average time service is 8-12 days and if you need your passport in 24-hours, we can assist you.

If you have any questions regarding your passport, or feel you have a special situation, just contact our office at 713-874-1420 or use the live chat feature at www.texastower.net. We’re ready to assist you!

American Express Travel put together a top list of places to visit this Fall and some of them are destinations you haven’t seen frequently recommended up until now.

1. Beirut

Increase in bookings: 
150%
Once known as, “The Paris of the Middle East” – “Cognizant of today’s geopolitical climate, Americans are shifting the conversation from apprehension to understanding and are openly exploring destinations in the Middle East – tourism is booming, [and] airlines are creating more routes,”  said Jamee Lubkemann, vice president of American Express Travel.

2. Tel Aviv

Increase in bookings: 148%
A trip to Tel Aviv could include everything from beach lounging and museum hopping to falafel and hummus sampling. “Tel Aviv is modern, vibrant, and cosmopolitan,” Lubkemann said.

3. Casablanca, Morocco

Increase in bookings: 86%
Morocco as a whole is trending with modern travelers, but with the promise of new construction projects like Parc de la Ligue Arabe and Grande Theatre de Casablanca, the port city of Casablanca is the place to be right now.

4. Nairobi, Kenya
Increase in bookings: 39%

“Often referred to as the Silicon Savannah, Nairobi is known as an innovative tech hub for Kenya. But beyond that, it has evolved to become a gateway to immersive coastal safaris and travelers are increasingly flocking to the destination for its thriving multi-ethnic food scene,” Lubkemann said.

5. Mazatlan, Mexico
Increase in bookings: 82%

This resort town on Mexico’s Pacific coast is known both for its beautiful sandy beaches and its historic core.
Many of its 19th-century buildings have been restored and repurposed to serve its growing culinary and arts scenes. Mazatlán is considered one of Mexico’s best nightlife destinations as well.

Read the entire recommendation list here.
When it comes time to plan your destination, book your trip then talk to us if you need to expedite your passport or travel visa.

5 Things to Know About Traveling in Russia (1)Getting to Russia is easy (and we can make it even easier) – you need a  passport that is current and a travel visa whether you’re going as a tourist or on business.  Now, here are five things to know about Russia that you’re likely to experience.

Before you enter Russia…
U.S. travelers will go through Immigration Control. Usually, you won’t be asked the nature of your visit to Russia, as it’s clear from the type of travel visa you’re carrying. Then you will go through Customs Declarations. It’s very simple. A green door for travelers who have nothing to declare and under $10K in cash on hand. If you have more than $10K in cash or you are selling something in Russia during your stay, there is a red door for your entry. This is the final hurdle for entry into Russia.

The Food
One of the best ways to experience a country is to ditch the restaurants that are recommended to tourists and go for the foods of the region you’re in. You should make it a point to seek out Pelmeni. They are wonderful little dumplings made with unleavened bread and filled with everything from Siberian pork, beef, fish and sometimes vegetables. Each region will have their own unique type served with dipping sauces ranging from sour cream, chili, curry, and even mayonnaise! Shaverma is popular, known as shawarma in the Middle East where the dish hails from. The Russians put their own stamp on it and make it just as awesome. A typical St. Petersburg Shaverma usually has a meat such as lamb, goat, chicken, or beef and they are combined with tomato, cucumbers, onion, and a tasty white sauce usually made from kefir and mayonnaise. The sandwich will be wrapped in a traditional pita or lavash bread.

Getting Around Russia
If you don’t have an international driver’s license, you might think to commute around a country as huge as Russia would be a logistical nightmare, fortunately, it is not. Russia actually has a pretty good and affordable system of public transportation around the country. The railway connections were rated to be on-time by most travelers. In Moscow, the subways are rated as fast and convenient.

Internet and Mobile Service
In the cities, you will find free Wi-Fi on public transportation as well as cafes, airports, hotels and many other places. The prices for mobile data are also very affordable.

Easy Availability of…Everything
In Germany, it’s the norm that not too many people are out after midnight. In Russia, the cities don’t sleep. Most food and drugstores operate 24/7. There are late night movie showings, you can get food delivered at any hour. There is literally always something to do, see, or eat.

The Hospitality of the People
Forget anything you heard about surliness, Russians are NICE. Travelers rated the passion of the people highly for love of their country as well as helpfulness for tourists.

Need help getting your US passport or travel visa for Russia? We can help! Call our office at 713-874-1420 to get started.

top-10Planning to travel abroad over the coming holidays?  Here are the top ten safest international
destinations according to a study conducted by Statista.

10. Czech Republic – A land of unique cafes and absolutely gorgeous architecture.

9. Australia – Surrounded by the Indian and Pacific Oceans, this is a definite must-visit for anyone’s bucket list.

8. Japan – Check out the fast pace and bright lights in Tokoyo, then escape to the quiet mountains or countryside to experience just a few of the many unique sites in Japan.

7.Canada– A fast trip from the United States, this country has both a Pacific and Atlantic Coast and is cross by the Rocky Mountains.

6. Finland – Visitors can enjoy the Northern Lights and also enjoy the ski resorts that populate this Arctic Lapland province.

5. Switzerland – Along with some of the finest watches and chocolate the world has come to know, this mountainous country has gorgeous scenery and awesome hiking trails.

4. New Zealand – This island country is located in the southwest Pacific Ocean and offers a lot to see and do such as exploring beautiful Milford Sound and enjoying Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.

3. Austria – This German-speaking country has mountain villages, baroque city architecture, Imperial history and rugged alpine terrain ready to be explored.

2. Denmark – Linking Northern Europe and Scandinavia via the Öresund bridge, this country has a large number of fun experiences waiting to be had.  The Tivoli Gardens are not to be missed.

1. Iceland has topped the list of safest countries to travel since 2007 and with good reason. The country runs on geo-thermal power and has geysers,  hot springs, glaciers, and black sand beaches.

United States citizens won’t need a travel visa for entry to most of those countries, however, you will need to make sure your passport is ready to travel!