As the world’s largest country, Russia offers up a diverse selection of tourist opportunities. From fine art to gorgeous landscapes and a diverse society. Here are some of the most common issues travels find as a first-time Russian tourist and how to avoid them.

Get Your Travel Visa Early
Russia has specific rules for travelers entering the country and you need to start your Russia visa process as early as possible. We can expedite your visa and make the trip to the Russian Embassy for you.

Once in Russia, You Need to Register
Once you enter Russia, you need to register within seven days of your arrival this excludes weekends and public holidays. Many hotels will offer this service, just ask. Even families must register if you’re staying in a private residence.

Best Times to Visit
During major holidays, museums and other institutions in St. Petersburg or Moscow may have shortened hours or closed. The best times to visit Russia are from May through September with mid-June through early July being one of the best times as it’s the peak of the White Nights when the city is bathed in nearly rough-the-clock sunlight.

Dress to Impress When You Go Out
No guarantee you’ll make it past the doorkeepers in some of the top clubs, but dressing your best will give you a good shot at it.

Learn the Cyrillic Alphabet
It will pay off for you big time. You will be able to decipher street signs, timetables for public transportation, and menus. This app claims you will be able to read a little Russian in 3-hours!

Make Sure You Have Access to Extra Money
Moscow is easily one of the most expensive cities in the world and other major cities are equally expensive destinations. You may feel your wallet-thinning with every restaurant meal.
Students can sometimes get discounts if they have an I.D. card to flash at museums and save on the entrance fee. A big fad in the cities is the anti-cafe. Patrons pay by the minute and can enjoy snacks, coffees, Wi-Fi, and video games.

Keep Your Vodka Plain
Russians don’t add mixers to vodka. If a straight vodka shot is a rough ride for you, ask for a chaser. No one sips their vodka in Russia. It’s also tradition to consume snacks between shots.

If You Visit a Church…
Most churches in Russia are open to everyone but you need to know the basics in order not to offend. Be quiet and speak in a whisper. Women should cover their heads and bare shoulders, some monasteries and churches require women to wear skirts. Wraps are available at the door of many churches for women to use. Men should not wear hats or shorts inside of a church.

Skip the Photos of Government Buildings
You can be fined or even arrested for photographing stations, official-looking buildings or military or security buildings. If you aren’t sure, don’t photograph it.

If You are Stopped by Police
It is a good idea to carry a photocopy of your passport, visa, registration on you at all times when you’re out and about. If a police officer asks to see your documents, you will have them on hand. If you are asked for an unofficial payment to expedite the service of looking over your documents, ask for an official receipt.

Russia is a wonderful destination with something for foodies, history buffs, and luxury lovers. Use these tips to get into the rhythm for understanding basic customs and enjoy exploring this beautiful country.

An expired US passport will hold up your international travel plans, and current wait times for a new US passport can be up to seven weeks. That’s where the service for expediting your US passport renewal in Houston comes into play.

Did you know you can expedite your US passport and get it in days instead of weeks or even as fast as 24-hours?

Here’s all you have to do:
First, make sure you meet the requirements for a US passport renewal in Houston.

Then, follow these steps

Step 1: One completed and signed application for passport renewal. This must be completed online at the Department of State’s passport portal.

Step 2: You will need two passport-type photographs, you can get them taken professionally at Walgreens, CVS or we can assist you.

Step 3: Fill out your authorization letter for Texas Tower to act on your behalf at the Passport Agency, your Authorization letters are here.

Step 4: Include your current passport. Please note that your passport number will change. Your canceled passport will be returned to you.

Step 5: A copy of your flight itinerary or company letter requestion rush service. Here is a Sample rush request letter.

Step 6: Include a completed, signed Texas Tower Order Form

Step 7: Send the completed documents to us and we will obtain your US passport for you!

Get started here at our Passport Renewal page.

Any questions? Please call 713-874-1420, we will be happy to assist you, Se Habla Espanol.

Newborn Passport and Traveling TipsDoes my newborn need a US passport to travel internationally?
The short answer to that question is: yes.

All children, no matter what their age under 15-years-old needs a child’s passport. We have made the process for getting kid’s passports streamlined.

Steps to Getting a Child’s Passport
Forms and Documentation You Will Need
Go to the State Department and fill out the DS-11 form online – do not sign.  Print two copies of the DS-11.
One is for Texas Tower and one is for the envelope the passport deputy is going to execute and seal for you.

Get two passport quality photos taken. If you have a local Walgreens, Kinko’s, or CVS – all of these facilities are familiar with taking passport photos.

You will need an original, certified birth certificate for the child.

A check payable to the Department of State for $140.

Next, you will need to provide a clear copy of the mother’s and father’s state-issued identification. If either parent cannot be present at the time of execution of the documents,  then a notarized Form DS-3053 is needed.

Now you need to provide proof of departure for the child. This is easiest to do in this format:

A. Copy of airline tickets
B. Company letter of expedite. (Sample Below)
C. Travel itinerary Sample Letter

Then you need to print two copies of the Texas Tower Authorization form. This gives us permission to expedite the passport process for you. One copy will go in the envelope to be sealed by the passport deputy. The other will go on the outside with the DS-11 copy you made for Texas Tower.

These are all the documents you should need to obtain your child’s passport.You will need to make an appointment with your local post office to have a passport deputy witness your signing of the DS-11 form, and seal your envelope with your documents for the passport office. If you are unsure where the nearest office is to your location, just go to You can find a complete list of local agencies at http://iafdb.travel.state.gov and you can find the most current list. The passport deputy will charge a fee of $25 for the execution of your documents.

Once the envelope is sealed by the passport deputy, do not open it again.
Ask for the envelope back and attach the copies of the forms you made for Texas Tower along with the authorization form to the outside of the envelope.  To see the current list of fees, please go here and scroll to the bottom of the page.

Then simply mail or overnight to Texas Tower and your passport for your child will be expedited.

2f116ca0-5ea4-0133-ec98-0aa00699013dStarting with Thanksgiving week, the holiday season is a huge travel time in the United States whether you’re going in or out of the country. You’re going to encounter a huge number of fellow travelers on their way to holiday gatherings. This can mean delays, overbooked flights, and long lines in security checkpoints. Did we mention long lines? Fortunately, there are things you can do to stay on your schedule.

1.  Make sure your paperwork is spot-on, ready to go
This means making sure your passport is not expired, not within 6 months of expiring if you’re going to a country that has that requirement for entry, and you should have a few blank pages.
If you cannot answer, “Yes” to all these requirements, talk to us, we can expedite your passport renewal for you.

2. Avoid Wednesday before Thanksgiving travel if possible
Remember this for next year. This is the biggest travel day of the year and the delays and overbooking are legendary. Unless you really enjoy being around waiting, frustrated people, it’s a good idea to avoid airports that day if possible. Fly on Thanksgiving Thursday if you can.

3. Leave early or late
If you can, bump your flight until Thanksgiving Day in the early morning or late at night. Ditto with Christmas. The airports will have far fewer travelers than the day before. Getting through security and boarding will be a breeze.

4. Bring a power strip
If you haven’t already invested in one, get a power strip. You know how territorial some people get about the plugs. Good luck finding one this week. Bring your own to keep your devices charged and avoid getting stink-eye from a fellow traveler.

5. Get through TSA checks like a rockstar
The TSA offers a service called “Pre-Check Service.” Basically, it allows you to skip the lines, don’t have to remove your shoes, and you don’t have to remove liquids or your laptop from your carry on. Best of all, you get through the lines faster.

No matter where you’re going this holiday season, get there easier using these tips and if you know someone that is planning to travel, share this post with them.
Have safe travels.

Love to travel?

How much do you know about your humble passport? Recently, we put together a list of the most common questions we get regarding passports. See how many of these facts you know about U.S. passports.

What is the cost of getting a U.S. Passport?
It depends on the type of passport you need and the speed at which you need your passport processed. You can see the full list at Texas Tower Passports.

You have an emergency that requires international travel, how do you get a passport?
There are two choices you can make:
(1) You can go through a passport agency where you will be required to schedule an appointment and appear in person with documentation of your emergency.
(2) You can use a third-party agency such as Texas Tower Passport and Visa to obtain your passport and you will only be required to fill out paperwork and send it to our office. Call our office at 713-874-1420 to get started now.

compareserviceHow long does it take to get a passport?
It depends on where you order your passport from. Getting a passport from your local passport agency requires an appointment and standard service can be four to seven weeks. This is where using a third-party agency pays off. If you order your passport through Texas Tower, we can obtain it in as little as 24-hours. Our standard turn-around time is 8-12 days.

How many blank visa pages should you have in your passport?
It’s a good idea to have two to four blank visa pages in your passport. Not all countries require a blank page for entry/exit visa stamps, but you could be prevented from boarding your flight if our passport doesn’t have the adequate amount of pages if you are visiting a country that has that requirement.  As of January 2016, you can no longer add pages to your passport, you will need to renew if you need to add pages.

If you’re renewing your passport, do you get your old one back?
Yes, you do. In fact, it’s a good idea to keep your old passport in a safe place, as it can be proof of your U.S. citizenship.

What should you do if you find a lost passport?
If you cannot readily locate the passport holder, you should mail the passport to this address:
ATTN: CLASP
U.S. Department of State
CA/PPT/S/L/LE
4th Floor
1150 Passport Services PL
Dulles, VA 20189-1150

Do you need a passport for domestic travel?
Not at this time, according to the Department of Homeland Security,  you can read more on this at the DHS’s Real I.D. page. A recent news story from CBS Philly on February 3rd noted travelers should renew their passports as soon as possible if they are coming up on expiration.

Who signs an infant or young child’s passport book?
The parent or legal guardian can print the child’s name, then sign their own name in the space provided.

What type of paper should photos for passports be printed on?
Photos must be printed on matte or glossy photo quality paper.

Can you wear eyeglasses in a passport photo?
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In November 2016, glasses cannot be worn in your passport photo.

Those are just a few of the most common questions we get on a regular basis. Got a passport or visa question? Ask us on Facebook or call 713-874-1420.

With all states given the reprieve to comply with identification requirements, having a passport for travel within the United States still isn’t a thing. In the future, that may change. In the meantime, you still need your passport for traveling outside the United States. Here are some of the most common passport issues we see daily and how to handle them.

Your passport is within 6 months of expiring.
You might as well consider your passport expired if there is less than six months left until the expiration date. Go ahead and renew your passport.

The country you’re entering requires a blank page in your passport for stamping upon entry, and you do not have the blank pages available. 
Until January 2016, you could add pages to your passport. Now you need to go through the renewal process to add pages, no matter how much extra time is left until expiration.

Remember! No glasses in passport photos now
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You are an adult that wants their first passport.
Applying for your first passport can seem daunting with the documents you need to gather. However, our service can make it easy. Just look over what you need to do to apply for a U.S. passport through Texas Tower and let us get your passport for you.

passports and visa services
passports and visas

Can someone have two passports?
Yes, if you meet certain requirements. If you are traveling between politically sensitive countries or you need to get a visa stamp plus need to travel internationally at the same time – you qualify. Learn more here.

Have a newborn and need to travel internationally? You need a passport. 
We can obtain passports for your children from newborn to 15 years of age. Children over that age will need to use the adult passport form.

lost-passport

Replacing a lost, stolen or damaged passport?
We can assist you with that. We have some forms you need to fill out and we can help you get your old passport canceled and your new passport in your hands.

Avoid delays and keep your name current on your travel docs.
Marriage, divorce, adoption, and other life events can cause a change in your name. Make sure your name on your identification matches your passport exactly. If you need to update, let us help you apply for a name change on your passport.

Holiday hours: We will be closed Thursday, November 22, 2018, in observance of Thanksgiving and open for regular hours Friday and Saturday to assist you with your travel document needs.

With the expiration dates of U.S. passports issued under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, the lines are getting longer at the passport office.

When you want to travel outside the U.S. for the holidays, you will need your U.S. passport for entry into most countries and re-entry to the United States.

Here’s how easy renewing your passport is through us.   First, make sure you qualify to renew your U.S. passport. Your current passport should be undamaged and submitted with your renewal application.

You should be 16 or older and your passport should have been issued within the past 15 years. If you don’t meet these requirements, talk to us at 713-874-1420 and we can help you!

Our step-by-step instructions make it easy to renew your passport. We can also process for every member of the family – including newborns.

Get started here and don’t let your holiday travel get delayed due to an expired passport!

Malawi is a landlocked country in Africa, that has a lot to offer tourists. United States citizens do not require a visa for entry, just make sure your passport is current.

If you need help with that we can help expedite your passport. Your nationality may require a visa for entry to Malawi, if you are unsure, just contact our offices, we’ll be glad to help you. If you are wondering what to do in Malawi, here are the top 5 things to do and see and Malawi.

1. Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve
This destination has come a long way. Once it was left to the poachers due to lack of funding. In 2010 the reserve received funds from the World Bank to the tune of $850,000 and was able to fund restoration of the area to encourage tourism and conservation of the wildlife. Tourists can see crocodiles at the Bua River, and it is not unusual to see elephants crossing the river. Antelopes, baboons, and leopards are also common sites. Tourists may also go salmon fishing.

2. Cape Maclear
Want something low-key and relaxing? Spend some time in Cape Maclear. Around a bay filled with blue water that is great for fishing, boating, snorkeling, hiking, or diving. Nighttime brings music in the streets and dining from street food to fine French cuisine.

3. Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve
A little off the beaten path for tourists, but this will be your absolute, best chance to see elephants. The best time to see them is to visit between July and September. It is not unusual to have bull elephants come in and munch on nuts around the restaurant. The birdwatching is also prime at this reserve.

4. Likoma Island
Likoma Island is located on the Mozambican side of Lake Malawi but are still considered part of Malawi. The island is 17 sq km and has a population of around 6000 people. The atmosphere is relaxing and tourists can enjoy the
view. The pristine beaches offer days in the sun on the water’s edge as well as many things to do. For a taste of the food the locals enjoy, check out the Hunger Clinic for a taste of Malawi cuisine, or choose a favorite you know like fish and chips.

5. Hiking Mt. Mulanje
Mt Mulanje is an adventure not to miss. It has a steep rise from the plains and has nearly vertical cliffs rising over 3200-feet. There are also several places where rivers run off creating magnificent waterfalls to view. There are clear paths for hiking up the mountain, many huts to stop by, and exquisite scenery all the way. The mountain streams are safe for drinking from and swimming holes are designated for a quick cool off from a day of hiking. All hikers need to register with the Likhubula Forest Station before exploring the mountain.

Those are just 5 of the fun destinations you can find in Malawi. There are so many more enjoyable activities and places to explore in this exotic land.

 

We process passport and travel documents for individuals and corporations all over the United States. We also process travel visas and eVisas for U.S. citizens to use for entry to their country or countries of destination. Here’s a collection of some of the most common questions we get about visas.

1. Do I need a visa to visit every country in the world?
Nope! Here’s a handy map that will give you a fast overview of where you need a visa for entry and where you don’t.
(click to enlarge this map)

By Camoka4 - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22514926
By Camoka4 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22514926

2. Is it true U.S. visitors entering Afghanistan are photographed on entry?
No,  but visitors entering the country are fingerprinted.

3. I was told that Azerbaijan does not issue visas to people of Armenian ancestry. 
That is among the guidelines from the Azerbaijan government. They also will only issue a 30-day visa if arriving in Azerbaijan on Azerbaijan Airlines from a departure in the State of New York.

4. I read about a temporary visa waiver by Brazil, when does that take place? 
Temporary visa waiver, for a stay up to 90 days, will be in place in 2016 between June 1 and September 18, just before and after the Summer 2016 Olympics and ParaOlympics.

5. What is required for traveling to Ghana?
One of the main things you need to have is an International Certificate of Vaccination required. To see the full list of what is required to travel to Ghana, visit our dedicated Ghana Visa page.

6. Is there a URL at the Department of State I can look up information about various countries?
Yes. You’re welcome to contact our office or you can look up information at the Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs.

7. I was told that I don’t need a visa to visit Russia now, is that accurate?
Not entirely. The 72-hour visa-free entry for international cruise ship/ferry passengers only. The requirements are very specific. You must be travelling with an organized tour and accompanied at all times by a tour operator.
American citizens may receive multiple entry visas valid for three years.

And there you have it. If you have a visa or passport related question, just send it to @txtpassportvisa on Twitter or Texas Tower on Facebook.

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You don’t have to be at the mercy of other people, the public transportation system, or taxis when you travel internationally. If you have a valid U.S. driver’s license and you are over 18-years of age, you just qualified for an International Driver’s License.

Why get an International Driving Permit?
If you want to be in command of your own time when you travel, the best way is to get an international driving permit and see your destination country on your own schedule.

I have a driver’s license here in the U.S., can’t I just use that to rent a car overseas?
Your state issued driver’s license in the United States won’t be recognized as a valid instrument for operating a vehicle in another country. That’s where an International Driving Permit (IDP) comes in.

Where do I take the driver’s test?
There is no special test required to obtain an IDP. You will need to be a legally licensed driver in the United States. Most foreign governments will allow you to legally operate a vehicle in their country.

I’m 19 and a licensed driver, can I get an International Driver’s License?
Yes! The minimum age to get an IDP is 18 years of age.

How long is an IDP good for after issuance?
An IDP is good for one year from the issue date.

How can I check to see if the country I am traveling to will allow me to use an IDP?
If you aren’t sure that you’ll be able to use an IDP during your travels, contact our office and we can give you the latest information on the validity of using an IDP in the country or countries you plan on traveling to. Just call 713-874-1420 during regular business hours or reach out to us at Twitter or Facebook.

What does an International Driving License look like?
Here’s one example:
idp

Is it possible to apply online for an International Driver’s License?
Yes, the process is easy. Just fill out our order form, and we’ll do the rest for you.

Those are some of the most common questions for International Driving Permits. Got a question we didn’t answer? Just ask!