It’s best to arrange visas in advance, although at the time of writing all countries in the region except Rwanda were issuing visas at the airport. Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda also issue visas at most land borders. Although not rigorously enforced, officially visitors to Tanzania officially should have visa before arrival. Regulations change frequently so call the relevant embassy for an update.
Once in East Africa, a single-entry visa for Kenya, Tanzania or Uganda allows you to visit either of the other two countries (assuming you’ve met their visa requirements and have been issued a visa) and then return to the original country without having to apply for second visa for the original country. Thus, if you’re in Tanzania on a single-entry visa, you can go to Kenya (assuming you also have a Kenyan visa), and then return to Tanzania without needing a new Tanzanian visa. This doesn’t apply to Rwanda and Burundi, so if you will be including visits to these or other African countries in your regional itinerary, it saves money to get a multiple-entry visa at the outset. Note that visas issued at airports and land borders are usually for single entry only.
At most borders and at airport immigration, visa fees must be paid in US dollars cash, although other major currencies are sometimes accepted (including at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport).
Ensure that your passport has plenty of blank pages for entry and exit stamps, and is valid for at least six months after the conclusion of your planned travels.
Carry extra passport-sized photos for visa applications.
Proof of an onward ticket or sufficient funds is rarely required if you apply for a visa at land borders. It’s occasionally requested at airports in the region, but generally only if you give immigration officials reason to doubt that you’ll leave.
East Africa Tourist Visa
In early 2014, the governments of Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda announced the creation of a new East Africa Tourist Visa. Under the scheme, tourists are entitled to a three-month, multiple-entry visa that covers travel to these three countries (although not yet Tanzania or Burundi) for a single fee of US$100. Applications must be made prior to travelling to the region, either at an embassy or consulate for one of the three countries in your home country or online. Although requirements vary from embassy to embassy, most applications require a single passport photo and a letter to the embassy outlining your travel plans.
With the visa duly in your passport, your first port-of-call must be the country through which you applied for the visa, whereafter there are no restrictions on travelling within the three countries. No visa extensions are possible.
Apart from convenience, the East African Tourist Visa could save you money, with individual visas for most (but not all) nationalities costing US$50 for Kenya, US$50 for Uganda and US$30 for Rwanda.
For more information and links to online application forms, visit www.visiteastafrica.org/visa/.