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Entry Requirements

Due to concerns about parental abductions, there are special requirements for children visiting many foreign countries, including those in Central America. If you are a lone or single parent or a guardian, you must bring a copy of the child's birth certificate and a notarized consent document from the parent(s). For single parents, a decree of sole custody or a parental death certificate will also do. Ask your airline what's required when you book the ticket; also check the State Department's "Foreign Entry Requirements" page at http://travel.state.gov.

Belize -- No visas are required for citizens of the United States, the European community -- including Great Britain and Ireland, South Africa, Australia, or New Zealand. Visitors from these countries do require a current and valid passport. Nationals of certain other countries need a visa or consular permission to enter Belize. For a current list, see the Belize Tourism Board website (www.travelbelize.org) or call the nearest Belize consulate or embassy.

Guatemala -- Citizens of the United States, Canada, Great Britain, all European Union nations, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand may visit Guatemala for a maximum of 90 days. No visa is necessary, but you must have a valid passport.

Honduras -- Citizens of the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and the European Union require just a passport to enter Honduras and may stay for up to 90 days. The passport must be valid for at least 6 months after the date of entry and you must pay a $2 (£1) entrance fee to get a tourist card. Residents from Israel, South Africa, and China require $10 (£5) visas.

El Salvador -- Citizens of the United States, Canada, Great Britain, and most European nations may visit El Salvador for a maximum of 90 days. No visa is necessary, but you must have a valid passport, which you should carry with you at all times while you're in the country. There is a $10 (£5) charge on your tourist card upon entry. Citizens of Australia and New Zealand require a visa.

Nicaragua -- Citizens of the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and the European Union require just a passport to enter Nicaragua and may stay for up to 90 days. The passport must be valid for at least 6 months after the date of entry.

Costa Rica -- Citizens of the United States, Canada, Great Britain, and most European nations may visit Costa Rica for a maximum of 90 days. No visa is necessary, but you must have a valid passport, which you should carry with you at all times while you're in Costa Rica. Citizens of Australia, Ireland, and New Zealand can enter the country without a visa and stay for 30 days, although once in the country, visitors can apply for an extension.

Panama -- Citizens of the United States, Canada, Great Britain, and most European nations may visit Panama for a maximum of 90 days. No visa is necessary, but you must have a valid passport and a $5 (£2.50) tourist card, which can be paid for when entering by land or at the airline counter before your departure.

Coming & Going

In 2006, Guatemala entered into an immigration and border control treaty with El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua. This agreement, which allows free travel between the countries to all nationals of these signatory nations, creates a single 90-day entry visa for foreign visitors. What this means is that if you travel between these four countries, your total stay cannot exceed 90 days without seeking an extension from the immigration authorities in the country you are visiting. If you want to "renew" your Guatemalan visa by exiting the country for 72 hours and then returning on a new tourist visa, it must be to a country not covered in this agreement.

Passport Information

To apply for a passport, residents of the United States can download passport applications from the U.S. State Department website at http://travel.state.gov, or call the National Passport Agency at tel. 202/647-0518.

Canadian residents should visit www.ppt.gc.ca or call tel. 800/567-6868.

British citizens should contact the United Kingdom Passport Service at tel. 0870/521-0410 or on the Web at www.ukpa.gov.uk. Residents of Ireland can call tel. 01/671-1633, or visit www.irlgov.ie/iveagh.

Australian citizens should contact the Australian Passport Information Service at tel. 131-232, or visit www.passports.gov.au. Residents of New Zealand should call the Passports Office at tel. 0800/225-050 or 04/474-8100, or log on to www.passports.govt.nz.

Customs

What You Can Bring Home -- Returning U.S. citizens who have been away for at least 48 hours are allowed to bring back, once every 30 days, $800 worth of merchandise duty-free. You'll pay a flat rate of duty on the next $1,000 worth of purchases. Any dollar amount beyond that is subject to duties at whatever rates apply. On mailed gifts, the duty-free limit is $200. Be sure to keep your receipts or purchases accessible to expedite the declaration process. Note: If you owe duty, you are required to pay on your arrival in the United States -- either by cash, personal check, government or traveler's check, or money order (and, in some locations, a Visa or MasterCard).

With some exceptions, you cannot bring fresh fruits and vegetables into the United States. For specifics on what you can bring back, download the invaluable free pamphlet Know Before You Go online at www.cbp.gov. (Click on "Travel," and then click on "Know Before You Go! Online Brochure.") Or contact the U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP), 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20229 (tel. 877/287-8667), and request the pamphlet.

For a clear summary of Canadian rules, write for the booklet I Declare, issued by the Canada Border Services Agency (tel. 800/461-9999 in Canada, or 204/983-3500; www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca). Canada allows its citizens a C$750 exemption, and you're allowed to bring back duty-free one carton of cigarettes, one can of tobacco, 40 imperial ounces of liquor, and 50 cigars. In addition, you're allowed to mail gifts to Canada valued at less than C$60 a day, provided they're unsolicited and don't contain alcohol or tobacco (write on the package "Unsolicited gift, under $60 value"). All valuables should be declared on the Y-38 form before departure from Canada, including serial numbers of valuables you already own, such as expensive foreign cameras. Note: The $750 exemption can only be used once a year and only after an absence of 7 days.

U.K. citizens returning from a non-E.U. country have a Customs allowance of: 200 cigarettes; 50 cigars; 250 grams of smoking tobacco; 2 liters of still table wine; 1 liter of spirits or strong liqueurs (over 22% volume); 2 liters of fortified wine, sparkling wine or other liqueurs; 60cc (ml) perfume; 250cc (ml) of toilet water; and £145 worth of all other goods, including gifts and souvenirs. People under 17 cannot have the tobacco or alcohol allowance. For more information, contact HM Customs & Excise at tel. 0845/010-9000 (from outside the U.K., 020/8929-0152), or consult their website at www.hmce.gov.uk.

The duty-free allowance in Australia is A$400 or, for those under 18, A$200. Citizens can bring in 250 cigarettes or 250 grams of loose tobacco, and 1.125 milliliters of alcohol. If you're returning with valuables you already own, such as foreign-made cameras, you should file form B263. A helpful brochure available from Australian consulates or Customs offices is Know Before You Go. For more information, call the Australian Customs Service at tel. 1300/363-263, or log on to www.customs.gov.au.

The duty-free allowance for New Zealand is NZ$700. Citizens over 17 can bring in 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars, or 250 grams of tobacco (or a mixture of all three if their combined weight doesn't exceed 250g); plus 4.5 liters of wine and beer, or 1.125 liters of liquor. New Zealand currency does not carry import or export restrictions. Fill out a certificate of export, listing the valuables you are taking out of the country; that way, you can bring them back without paying duty. Most questions are answered in a free pamphlet available at New Zealand consulates and Customs offices: New Zealand Customs Guide for Travellers, Notice no. 4. For more information, contact New Zealand Customs, The Customhouse, 17-21 Whitmore St., Box 2218, Wellington (tel. 04/473-6099 or 0800/428-786; www.customs.govt.nz).

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.