visas, visas, visas
Ulvenhout Travel Blog› entry 6 of 8 › view all entries
So today I took a day off to travel to the south of the Netherlands to visit the 'visumdienst'. (http://visumdienst.nl/) This is an agency specialised in arranging visas for the more remote places in the world. Since I need about 13 of them, I think it will be impossible to travel to each and every embassy and consulate on my own, so rather I will let them just arrange for them all - "for a small extra fee!"
It is shocking just how NOT small that extra fee is. Let me tell you, you can have quite a nice vacation for the price I am spending for just these visas. But it is a price worth paying. It will save me from having to worry about arranging visas while travelling (as I will be pressed for time in some countries).
The office doesn't look like much from the outside, in fact, the agency is located in a normal residence in suburbia. I was helped by a friendly girl, and I was impressed by how knowledgeable she was. I was under the impression that many of the countries on my itinerary are not very 'standard', yet she knew the visa requirements as well as prices pretty much all by heart. The only one she had to look up was Azerbaijan, and that was mainly because travelling into the country overland has some restrictions compared to arrival by flight (basically tourists are more than welcome to fly into Baku, but travelling elsewhere around the country isn't all that appreciated by the government - I'll have to pre-book all my accommodation and show confirmations before they will grant me a visa).
As expected the Stans are will be a challenge. These former Soviet satellite states don't take kindly to foreigners. Official invitations from the Ministry of Immigration, proof of onward journey (including a visa for the next country) and even the outcome of an Aids test are needed to get entry to Uzbekistan, Tajikistan or Turkmenistan. So hence my surprise that for Kyrgyzstan there are no restrictions at all :-)
The girl at the visa agency was quite confident she could get the visas arranged for me though. With the exception of Turkmenistan she never had a rejection for an application, provided that all the paperwork is in order.
Other countries, like China, and surprisingly India, are a bit of a dark area still. Rules change regularly, and it is expected that they will change again before it is time to send in my applications.
China is the other uncertainty. I need a multi-entry visa for this country, since I plan on entering at least twice, once popping over from Kyrgyzstan, and the second time coming from Nepal crossing into Tibet. Now apparently crossing into Tibet from Nepal means you forfeit your visa and will be put on a group visa instead (if you are lucky). The latter would mean I probably won't be able to spend as much time in China as I would like.
Another option would be to fly to Chengdu from Kathmandu, and then buy a package train tour to Tibet from there. Apparently an easier option, were it not for the fact that it is a 2000 km detour (and it involves flying, the one thing I really want to try and avoid as much as I can on this trip). I guess Tibet is just another one of those "will just see it when I get there" locations.
I was advised to start applying for the visas in February, which gives me roughly two months to get them all. This means I have ample time left to do the preparations: renew my passports, get a lot of passport photos, print all the application forms, and most importantly, start creating my itinerary for the countries that require this!
Packed with loads of information and plenty of homework I headed into the city of Breda. After all, I had taken taken the day off work to go to the visa agency, so I might as well make it a day out. Can't remember ever having been to Breda, so I did feel like a tourist... sort of...
I did have my personal guide though, in the guise of Jorien (Bluesilver84). We went for a few drinks, after which she went off to meet some friends, and I queued up in the Friday afternoon traffic jam.
PS: a little post script to this entry. A week later I found out that there is another visa agency in The Netherlands, based in... Amsterdam! Apparently they offer the same service, abeit somewhat unclear from their website, which hasn't been updated since 2007! I will probably pop by their office on my way to work somewhere next week, so see what they can do (and for what price). It would be great if they can offer the same level of service - beats having to drive to Ulvenhout a second time.