Tourists visiting Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda will no longer have to pay for separate visas for all three countries, as the East African single tourist visa comes into effect on January 1, 2014.Working like the Schengen visa for European Union countries, the East African single tourist visa will allow a tourist to enter any of the three countries that issued the visa and move freely within the other two.The multiple-entry visa, which will be valid for 90 days, will cost $100. Tourists can apply at any diplomatic office of Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda, at immigration offices of the respective countries or online.Under the agreement reached by the three countries whose partnership is referred to as the Coalition of the Willing (CoW), Rwanda will provide the software for personalisation of the visa stickers to Kenya and Uganda. The software will enable the three countries to share the fees, tourist information and tourism data.The visa is expected to reduce the costs of movement across the countries, leading to a increase in the number of tourists.
CoW experts met in Kigali on December 17 to assess the readiness of the issuance and implementation of the single tourist visa as directed by the CoW Integration Projects Summit of October 2013. At the meeting, the countries agreed that all the requirements were in place for the single visa. READ: Rwanda, Kenya and Uganda to roll out visa .Rwandan co-ordinator of integration projects and chair of the meeting Monique Mukaruliza said the single tourist visa will increase the number of tourists and also benefit citizens as it will allow free movement of people within the region The visa will not be extended, and a visitor will not be allowed to work.So far, 60,000 visa stickers have been processed and distributed to the respective High Commissions and immigration offices of the three countries.
According to Waturi Matu, co-ordinator of the East African Tourism Platform, the single tourist visa will encourage visitors to tour the region at a low cost.“Tourists will only pay $100 to tour the three countries, instead of $150 or more as has been the case,” said Ms Matu.However, she said more needs to be done. “The three countries should now focus on other issues like reducing the airfares within the region,” she said.For example, it is more expensive for a tourist to fly within the three countries than to fly into them from Britain.“A tourist flying from Britain to Kenya will pay $800, then $400 from Kenya to Uganda, and $300 to Rwanda,” Ms Matu said. “This is very expensive considering the distances between the East African n 2010, the EAC gazetted the criteria for partner states’ hotels to adopt in their legal framework. The standards are similar to the ones used to rate South African hotels. Since then, only Rwanda and Tanzania have started the process. Kenya, Uganda and Burundi are yet to commence. Different hotel rating standards in the region have been causing friction among tourism industry players. Ms Matu said East African countries need to implement the standardisation of their hotels to meet the agreed EAC criteria. “To market yourself as a single tourist destination, hotel rates needs to be such that a five star hotel in Kampala is no different from one in Nairobi or Kigali,” said Ms Matu. Experts say partner states will benefit more from tourism if the EAC is sold as a single tourism destination, with EU member states.wanda, Uganda and Kenya will begin using national and student identity cards as travel documents for their citizens.
The three countries adopted the use of IDs as travel documents across their borders at an experts meeting in Kigali on December 17.President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Paul Kagame of Rwanda are scheduled to officially launch the use of the documents in early 2014 at the Malaba and Katuna borders.All the three members of the Coalition of the Willing have announced their readiness to implement the use of national and student IDs for Kenya and Rwanda and voters’ cards or students IDs for Uganda.
In the East African Community, only Rwanda and Kenya issue national identity cards. Uganda and Tanzania are in the process of issuing their national identity cards as an EAC requirement.The three countries have agreed to use machine-readable and electronic national identity cards as travel documents for their nationals who wish to travel across the three countries.READ: Travelling in the EAC? Just grab your passport, pass or ID According to the arrangement heads of immigration departments from the three states, are expected to issue a circular to points of entry on January 1, 2014.
“A traveller shall show the national identity, voter’s or student identity cards to both immigration officers and receive the coupon from the immigration officer of the entry country, which allows him or her to proceed with her/his travel. An entry stamp of six months shall be endorsed on the coupon,” reads the experts’ report released after the meeting.In case the coupon is lost while in the country, the traveller will be required to present him/herself to the nearest immigration office for issuance of another coupon.“A traveller who uses a partner state as transit, shall present a national ID, voter’s or student card at the common border of partner states and use a standard travel document to exit a partner state for his or her destination, on condition of presenting a coupon from the entry point,” reads the report.