Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Check passport requirements with tour operators

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Throughout the year, but particularly as people prepare to travel to the most popular sun destinations every fall, I am asked about passport requirements for the countries they intend to visit.

The most frequent questions relate to how long passports must be valid in order to visit Jamaica, Cuba, Mexico and the Dominican Republic, along with the many other Caribbean islands they may be considering.

You should always check for changes and other important information on the specific country you plan on visiting at www.travel.gc.ca.

Nevertheless, here are the passport requirements, as taken from that site, for most of the countries Manitobans usually visit most because of the availability of non-stop flights from Winnipeg.

For Cuba, Canadians must present a passport that must be valid for at least one month beyond the date of expected departure from that country.

The United States, Jamaica, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic only demand the passport be valid for the duration of your stay.

For countries that require passport validity for the length of the stay, the following government advice should be heeded. "Before you leave, ask your transportation company about its requirements related to passport validity, which may be more stringent than the country's entry rules."

This is really important as tour operators are not anxious to have passengers who may be left behind because of accident or illnesses become their longer-term problem.

QUESTION: After reading a recent article about a couple losing their passport while travelling, I began to wonder why they would carry the passport around with them. Is it necessary?

When we've been vacationing, we've left ours in the hotel room safe, but I'm starting to wonder about that too.

Can you give me some insight into this?

ANSWER: Yours is a good question that does not lead to a clear-cut answer.

Given that a passport may be the most valuable document you own, particularly out of country, every precaution should be taken to be sure it is not lost or stolen.

I understand why some prefer to have it with them at all times. While traveller's cheques are not the preferred method of commerce anymore, often before anyone will take them for payment or conversion into local currency, a passport is required.

Passports should not be carried in a purse or pocket when traveller's are touring or shopping. They should be kept hidden in a waist wallet that is tucked under garments, or in what is called a neck safe, which also rests under a shirt or blouse.

While it is likely safe to leave passports in the room safes of most major hotels, the truth is that unless the safe is one of high quality and secured with heavy bolting, most of the hotel room safes would not be all that hard to detach by experienced thieves.

In hotels where security is lax, room safes may not be the best place to leave your valuables.

Many of the major properties, particularly those in foreign countries, offer their own safe boxes for the greater sense of security of their guests.

QUESTION: I am a Canadian with a criminal record that goes back over 20 years.

Because of that conviction I have not bothered trying to get a passport but would now like to travel if I can leave the country or enter into other foreign places.

Will I be prevented from getting a passport, and will I be able to get into the United States, as one option?

ANSWER: There are a number of transgressions that might prevent you from getting a passport.

Passport Canada can refuse those applying for this important document if they have failed to pay child support or alimony.

Especially serious are issues dealing with passport and travel document fraud. There are a number of others that can be found on the Passport Canada website at http://www.ppt.gc.ca/protection/revocation.aspx?langeng.

Your crimes of the past seem not to fall into any of those. As a result, I do not think you will have any problem in getting a passport.

Your greater problem may come at the destinations you hope to visit.

Since 9-11, the United States has become particularly vigilant and checks people's backgrounds as they never have before. There are thousands of people who are checked daily and they take past crimes seriously.

You may need to apply for a pardon or United States entry waiver.

However, it should be noted the U.S. does not officially recognize a pardon granted by the Canadian government as a right of entry. And the severity of the offence, even it is minor, may not make any difference in your being allowed into the country.

Every country has its own rights and policies in regards to those entering their countries with criminal backgrounds. For any number of them it is often not a major issue, depending upon what they check and ask visitors upon entry.

However, it's worthwhile to try to know ahead of time.

Our government offers some safe advice.

"All countries have specific entry requirements. As their rules can change, you should consult the Government of Canada office abroad of the country you intend to visit to confirm the requirements."

Forward your travel questions to askjourneys@journeystravel.com. Ron Pradinuk is president of Journeys Travel & Leisure SuperCentre and can be heard Sundays at noon on CJOB. Previous columns and tips can be found at www.journeystravelgear.com and at www.thattravelguy.ca.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 23, 2013 E2

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