debut this week in Abu Dhabi, some of you might be contemplating a visit to the United Arab Emirates. Even if not, perhaps you've been wondering how hard it would be to visit Efteling (our Theme Park Insider Award winner two years running), Tokyo DisneySea, Shanghai Disneyland, or some other world-class theme park outside your home country.With Warner Bros. World turning heads after its
How hard is it to travel internationally? Ultimately, that question divides into two parts: Cost and Legality.
Let's take the second part first. Can you legally travel to a particular country? The answer almost always is some form of "Yes, if...."
Yes, if you have a clean criminal record. Yes, if your home country and the place you wish to visit have visa-free travel. And even if they don't, the answer remains yes, if you can get a visa.
"No" comes into play only if you have a criminal conviction on your record that would preclude your entry into a country. (That's usually for a drug or alcohol offense, including DUI.) "No" also is your answer if a visa is required for entry and the country will not issue you one or makes it so difficult to obtain that you decide it's not worth the effort.
If you want to see which countries your passport allows you to visit without a visa, check out PassportIndex.org. Oh, yes, passports. The answer as to whether you can visit a country is absolutely "no" if you do not have a passport... or even if it is going to expire within the next six months. So start your international vacation planning by applying for or renewing a passport, if needed. (Here's the link for US citizens.)
For theme park fans, the top markets to visit right now are Southern California and Central Florida in the United States, Japan, China (start with Hong Kong and Shanghai), Western Europe, and the UAE (Abu Dhabi or Dubai). For our American, Canadian, and European readers, Japan and the UAE are the easiest international destinations, legally, as they allow visa-free travel from those countries. The UAE also has no language barrier, either, as every sign I've seen in the country is in English as well as Arabic, and English is the default language spoken and understood in all the county's theme parks.
Despite what you might have seen on the Internet, the UAE has no bans on people of certain religions, races, orientation, or nationality entering the country. All are welcome (though getting a visa if you have an Israeli passport can take some work). Just don't bring any drugs (including prescription opiates — check here to see if your prescription medication is banned in the UAE), don't get drunk in public, and avoid all PDA when you are there (whether you are straight or gay), and you will be fine. Dress like you would for Orlando.
Japan is trickier when it comes to language. You can find some English-language signage in the parks and easily can obtain English guidemaps. But most park employees won't speak English, and you'll need to resort to some friendly pantomime from time to time. But Japanese culture values great service, and park employees will go out of the way to try to help you.
China is the toughest destination, legally, as you will need to obtain a visa to get there. English comprehension is basically nil outside maybe Hong Kong and tourist hotel concierge desks in major cities. You can navigate it if you do not speak Mandarin or Cantonese, but you'll need some international travel skills. I would not make China your first international travel destination, unless you welcome a challenge. Here's how to apply for a Chinese visa, if you decide to go.
Now, let's consider the other issue: Cost. Do not automatically assume that an international trip is unaffordable just because you're going to another country. For a week-long stay in the UAE during Thanksgiving week in November, when the weather is much better there than it was for my trip this week, I can find roundtrip airfare from LAX to Abu Dhabi for under $800. I've paid that much to go to Orlando at times in the past.
Granted, the cost of international flights is a lot more manageable if, like me, you live in or near a city with a major international airport that flies non-stop to Europe, Japan, China, and the UAE. If not, you're looking at a domestic connection that likely will inflate your price. But do look. Deals happen, and if you can be flexible about your travel dates, you can get them.
In my experience, you don't have as many cheap options for hotels near theme parks abroad as you can find in the United States. But it's no worse than visiting someplace like New York or Boston on a non-theme park vacation. Heck, for that Thanksgiving week trip to Abu Dhabi, I can find a room in the Crowne Plaza I stayed in this week for $115 a night... provided you get out of town before the F1 Grand Prix starts. That's definitely in line with Anaheim prices.
Theme park tickets tend to be cheaper aboard than in the United States. (Much cheaper in Japan and the UAE, actually.) I would avoid the hassle of rental cars when traveling abroad, as well. Use trains to get around Europe and Japan, and shuttle and taxis in the UAE.
So as with anything in travel, timing is everything. A specific destination on a specific date might not be affordable. But trying another place at another time might be. If you can afford to spend a week on property at Walt Disney World, don't rule out all international travel just because one trip option looked too expensive. Something might be in reach.
The Internet is filled with haters who would love to convince you to join them in never traveling anywhere where you might meet someone different. But it's also filled with people, from a wide variety of economic backgrounds, who have found a way to travel the world and enjoy it. Those of us in the later category would love to help you to do the same.
And if you're still hesitating, remember this: Wherever in the world you go to visit a theme park, you're going to meet people who have something in common with you... because they are theme park fans, too.Tweet
This article has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.
These parks are open or have a reopening date:
We're still waiting on these: