Tag Archives: passport

Things to carry with your passport

In the last two years, I have gone through some country’s immigration process over 40 times.  I have been fine-tuning my passport handling and have some tips that might make transit easier for you.


  1. If you travel as a family or in a group where one person handles the passports (on my last trip I had mine and nine students!) then it is very nice to have some external difference so you don’t have to open every passport to see whose it is.  I have stickers on the back of mine.  our son has a small sticker with his name on it.  Some students in the past have had fancy covers but some immigration stations don’t like them.
  2. Put a couple of sticky flags in the passport.  Immigration agents sometimes spend more time flipping through your passport trying to find the visa than they do actually scrutinizing your passport.  Speed things up by placing one of the removable tabs on the pages they most likely need to see.
  3. A pen.  Many places require filling out an immigration form for arrival and departure.  Often, flight attendants will distribute the forms while on the plane.  Keep a pen handy.  You may want the boarding pass available as well – they’ll probably want to know your flight number and sometimes even the seat you’re in.
  4. A binder clip or rubber band.  This is nice if you have to carry your departure card at all times with your passport.  Many hotels need your passport on check-in and they might drop that card.  Some countries have a hefty fine to replace those – others you can just fill out a new one at the airport for free.
  5. Your emergency and backup kit.  Carry with you but not in the same bag.  A few spare passport-sized photos.  These are necessary for many visa applications.  A photocopy of your passport and any critical visa pages for your trip.  If you don’t want to carry these around, then at least scan or photograph your passport and those pages and have them uploaded to a secure area you can access or saved in an email to yourself.  If your passport is lost or stolen these will really help get going again.

Applying for a Chinese visa in Mongolia


I have applied four times for Chinese visas at the China embassy in Ulaanbaatar in the past year and a half.  Things have changed a little and are bound to change more.  As of right now here is what you need to do to apply for a Chinese visa if you’re not a Mongolian citizen.

  • You will need to fill out two different forms.  The standard visa application form and the supplemental form.  Be sure to fill out all of the sections as accurately as possible.  On the supplemental, you need to fill out the last section since you are applying for a visa outside of your home country.
  • A photocopy or printout of your flight itinerary.
  • A printout of your hotel reservation.
  • A letter of invitation.
  • For expats in Mongolia – a photocopy of your Mongolian resident alien card.
  • A passport-sized photo.
  • So far not necessary but probably wise – a photocopy of your passport ID pages.

They will give you a bill which you then take to the Golomt Bank (Голомт банк) that is just around the corner.  Exit the embassy, turn left until you get to the corner, cross the street (continuing south) and the bank is to the left a few hundred feet.  They will give you a receipt you’ll need to present to receive your visa-fied passport.

The embassy is open to visa applications from 9:30-noon on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.  Pickups are done after 4 PM on the same days of the week.  Normal visa processing time is one week from the submission.  An additional $40 and it can be ready the same day or $20 gets the visa ready not the next day they are opening, but the following opening.  Fees are $140 for Americans regardless the number of entries.  Sometimes you need to provide evidence of multiple flights and associated accommodations but the most recent time I applied I was offered dual entry without that documentation needed.  Residents of other countries (except Mongolia and Romania) are $30 per entry.

Of special note is that starting in January of 2013, Beijing and Shanghai both allow 3 day entries without a visa.  You can just fly there and receive the visa on arrival.  I would have printouts of the departing flight and hotel confirmation and not just something on your mobile device or laptop to show them to minimize hassle.  Up until then you could get a 24 hour transit visa as long as you had proof of continuing flight although many American ticket agents were not aware of that and would scour our passports looking for a valid visa to enter China.  Calmly asking them to ask further up the chain worked well for us – someone on the other end of a phone call knows that it is acceptable!  I hope word of the three day visa on arrival has spread.

The map below pinpoints where the embassy entrance is that you need to use for the visa application and pickup.

Ecuador – day 1

Highlights: Second birthday in South America & having passport, phone and laptop stolen.

Pictures taken: 36

Travel: Flight from Lima, Peru to Guayaquil, Ecuador and taxi from there to Montañita.

Favorite picture of the day:
Hard at work

Happy birthday to me!  35.  And i’m waking up in an airport.  If all goes well i should be watching the last rays of sun disappear below the horizon of the pacific with a cold beer in hand.

Continue reading Ecuador – day 1

Irony: I was just asked for permission to use one of my Flickr photos

Wating in SeattleJust hours after warning about the potential for a flood of incorrect attribution of Flickr photos, i received this message on Flickr.

I love your “waiting in seattle“shot!

Hi Ryan,

I am a writer for the popular personal finance & frugal living site Wise Bread. I am putting together an article on passport photos and would love to use your shot as the header. I will of course provide proper attribution, credit, and a link.

If there is any problem please let me know and I’ll remove the shot. I expect it to be published within a week.

Thank you in advance!
Nora Dunn

I actually had never been to Wise Bread until just yesterday when Consumerist linked to one of their articles.