Although traveling is slowly becoming accessible to many, we still have to accept the fact that traveling is a privilege.
Coming from the Philippines, I have what the world considers a “3rd world” passport. Every time I pass through immigration, I spend that extra five to ten minutes having to explain how I can afford to travel and how I managed to get my visa.
While most citizens from the US or Europe breeze through lines and avail of visa on arrival, I have to organize my paperwork months in advance, show my bank statements, and provide a full itinerary of my entire stay in that particular country. While I am not complaining as I am grateful for the chance to travel regardless, it can still be a pain. So here are my tips on how to travel with a 3rd world passport based on my three years of non stop travels.
Tip # 1: Embrace it!
There is absolutely nothing you can do about it. You can sit there and feel sorry for yourself as you moan about how easy it is for others but that won’t get you anywhere. Rather than letting your passport limit you, embrace it. While you can argue that where you are from shouldn’t dictate where you can go, rules are rules. Instead of letting this stop you from traveling, consider it a challenge! While I often have to resist the urge to book flights there and then, specially when I find cheap deals due to visa restrictions, I the take time to find out what I need for visas and if it’s doable, I go for it.
Tip #2 Build Your Travel Portfolio
Research all your visa free options, and start traveling from there. Get some stamps on your passport and build up your “travel portfolio” so that other embassies and immigration offices won’t doubt your travel intentions. As a Filipino, I do not need a visa to enter lots of countries in Southeast Asia, South America, and a few in Central America. Before applying to countries like Europe, the UK, or the US who have strict visa rules, show them that you are well traveled and have no intention of overstaying your visa. That’s right…book that flight to Thailand!
Tip #3: Stay Organized.
Now that you’ve built up your traveling portfolio, the chances of you receiving a visa from other countries is much higher. When applying for visas, you have to be organized. Gather a list of all their required documents and go above and beyond what they are asking for. When I was applying for a visa to travel Europe, I had to provide them with a full itinerary including flight and hotel bookings. I had friends who lived there write letters to vouch for me. I had everything organized in one folder, making it easy for them to find what they are looking for. I admit that often times, applying for a visa is a game of luck as there is no firm checklist which you can meet that will guarantee you a visa. However, try to provide them with little to no reason why they shouldn’t grant you one!
Tip #4: Be Truthful
If you go in there, truthful of your purpose for traveling, you shouldn’t be afraid to go and apply for it. While it seems frustrating and tedious, it’s just one of those things you have to do. Rule number 1: Don’t lie about why you’re traveling. Immigration officers have a way of seeing through you so if you’re going to Italy because you want to taste what REAL Italian pizza tastes like, tell them so. I did in my letter of intent and it worked! (P.S. That first slice of pizza I had in Napoli was heavenly) The point is, be truthful and don’t try to cheat the system. You will go into that visa interview feeling so much more at peace and confident knowing you have nothing to hide.
Tip #5: Acceptance
If you get denied a visa in one particular country….get pissed off for an hour, then move on. Dwelling on things won’t help. Instead, look into sending a letter of appeal. A friend of mine was denied a Schengen visa (Visa for Europe) by the Spanish Embassy. She wrote back with a very lengthy explanation of why they should reconsider, provided the embassy with more proof that she wasn’t planning to stay longer than planned, and a week later, they reconsidered their decision. While I know this doesn’t happen to everyone, accept the decision and move on. Consider reapplying or making alternate travel plans. There is literally heaps of other possible destinations to choose from.
In the end, travel is a privilege. A popular blogger even went further by saying your privilege is as powerful as your passport which is something I can definitely attest to. However, if you’re as passionate as travel as I am, there are ways to make it happen. Despite my third world passport, I have traveled across 4 continents and have seen and made countless memories around the world. Bottom line is, where you are from and your passport should not stop you from traveling.