You don’t want to get to the Laos/Thai border only to find that your passport lacks the requisite number of pages for a re-entry visa. What happens is your friends go on ahead of you to have a fine time on some white sand beach while you wander around the shady neighborhoods of the border town avoiding rabid dogs and miscreants while attempting to locate the U.S. embassy, which turns out to not be located there at all, but requires a hefty, dusty, tiresome bus drive to reach it. It’s entirely possible – if not likely – that the embassy will be closed during the day you arrive back to wherever the embassy is (in this case, Vientiane). Certainly, there are preventative measures. Namely, look at your passport occasionally, which of course has has an RFID protector on it, and note when you’re getting close to its End and take care of the problem before you’re en route to a new, exotic destination. Regardless of the circumstances however, you have options, which we’ve outlined below.
While Still on U.S. Soil
If you’re still several weeks away from departure, you still have time to take care of this before leaving. The U.S. government allows you to add pages to your passport if you have less than two to four blank visa pages left in your passport. If you go through the Bureau of Consular Affairs, this will run you $82, plus any expediting charges that may be included. Overnighting your passport back to you is another $12.75. Fill out the DS-4085 form on the website linked above, pay them and send out your passport. It’s pretty painless, really, except for the denting of the wallet.
While In the Middle of Nowhere
The process for adding pages to your passport varies slightly from country to country, but it’s a common enough request that you’ll find it to be relatively simple. Some embassies are as busy as Bangkok night markets while others are as sleepy as the plains of the Midwest. Assume the worst and get there at least 30 minutes before they open in the morning. The great thing about going in person is that you can fill out the necessary forms, pay your fees and have them add the pages all in one visit. Contrary to the $82 you’ll pay stateside; you can expect it to be much less overseas. Again, this varies depending on location, but in Laos, it cost me $20 and about 45 minutes to complete the whole process.
Any country you enter that requires a visa will take up an entire page of your passport for the visa stamp, and will also stamp other squares on adjacent pages for entry and exit. So, if you’re on some wild, multi-country extravaganza, those pages can fill up mighty quick. I’d suggest you add pages as soon as you see that you have less than four free pages. That way you won’t be ditched by “friends” to fend for yourself in a dodgy border town with “domesticated” wild canines try and rip you to shreds.
By Bryan Schatz