In May 2019, at the end of a flight from Morocco to Rome, I was about to join the long line of non-EU nationals queueing at the immigration desk at Fiumicino Airport when I spotted a sign. Citizens of Australia, New Zealand and five more countries were directed to a separate queue. When I get there, instead of a long, snaking line running through the chicanes there's nobody in front of me. Except for a smiling immigration official who gives my passport the once over and with a heartfelt "Grazie" I'm on my way to the baggage carousel in about 20 seconds.
Cheers all around. It's not often that travel gets less complicated. And it's not just Italy making it easier for Australians to enter. Britain has recently opened its e-passport gates to Australians. Provided you have an Australian ePassport, you can use the same electronic gates that British passport holders and EU nationals are allowed to use. Same goes at the e-gates for Eurostar passengers arriving in Britain.
More and more countries are loosening their visa regulations, more are allowing tourists to apply for an electronic visa (e-visa), or a visa waiver, others are extending the period for which tourists can enter or even offering visas free of charge. It's partly down to the expedited processing made possible by passports with chips that can be scanned electronically at airport terminals, partly to the huge database of information that immigration authorities use to screen incoming passengers but also a recognition that easier access boosts tourism. Here are some of the countries that have recently made it easier to visit.
As of June 17, 2019, Australians no longer need a visa to visit Brazil.
China has recently extended its visa-free policy to include longer stays in more of its cities. Australian passport holders can now stay for up to 144 hours in Beijing as well as Shanghai, Hangzhou, Nanjing and several more cities, without applying for a visa before they board the aircraft bound for China. Applicants for visa-free entry must have an onward ticket to a third country that will take them out of the People's Republic of China within the 144-hour period.
Shack up by the Red Sea in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt. Photo: iStock
The Arab Republic of Egypt is now offering e-visas to Australians, either for single or multiple entry.
Australian tourists who intend to enter Ethiopia at Addis Ababa Bole International Airport, the country's main airline gateway, can apply for an Ethiopian e-visa valid for 30 days or, for a higher fee, 90 days.
India has recently extended its e-visa system, providing a much longer period for which the visa is valid. India tourist e-visas are now valid for one year from the day of electronic approval. Tourist e-visa holders may enter India multiple times, with stays of up to 90 days.
Australians may now enter the Republic of Kazakhstan and stay for up to 30 days without a visa.
Australians are allowed to enter and stay for up to 60 days without a visa.
Tsingy de Bemaraha Strict Nature Reserve in Madagascar. Photo: iStock
The island nation now has an e-visa system that allows Australians to enter for up to 90 days for tourism purposes. Multiple entry e-visas are also available. Non-immigrant visas are available on arrival.
In a move to bring back tourists after the deadly militant attacks of Easter Sunday 2019, Sri Lanka has recently begun offering free visas on arrival to citizens of a number of countries, including Australia. Tourist visas are valid for 30 days.
Australians are among many nationalities that no longer require a visa to enter Uzbekistan as a tourist and stay for up to 30 days.