It was an eerie night, sitting candlelit over a map of the central Asian region of the world as thunder and lightning clap around my house. Flashes of storm appear in the windows as floorboards begin to creep.
I sit pouring over this map trying to plan my route across this part of the asian continent, looking at planes, trains and automobiles trying to find a way across the land masses that ensue.
All of a sudden, a bright light flashes outside my house, the largest of lightning bolts, so loud and vast that books began to fall off my bookshelf under the shock.
I race over to the shelf and begin to put them back up when I stop. Aghast! I couldn’t believe my eyes. I just stood dumbfounded in a sort of terror as I stared at the pages open in front of me from the LP Central Asian guidebook. I wanted to back away, back towards the map when I realised there was no escaping this fact. I quickly closed the book and ran back to my map. There must be a way to sort out this terror inflicting problem. It was of course – the Visa entry information page….
Few things strike so much terror into the hearts of even seasoned travellers as some of the epic Visa requirements to some countries. I’ve recently been toying with the idea of taking three weeks and exploring the central Asian Caucus – namely Kazakhstan, Krygystan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan.
Of course, in my flash mob style of tourism, I like to just get up and go. I’ve become very skilled at booking flights and buses and trains to just about anywhere on earth at the drop of a hat, I can find a bed in any country at minimal notice and I’m usually pretty ontop of what I’d like to do and see when I get there but sadly, the visa hurdle is one completely insurmountable sometimes.
Here’s some of the trickiest Visas I’ve explored…
Although Russia is getting easier, it’s still not quick. Visas are meant to be around 10 days but can take up to many weeks. Letters of invitation are also required so you have to make some bookings for acomodation and so forth. You also have to be very, very spot on with the dates you provide them for entry and exit. Be aware too that because Russia spans so many time zones, you want be sure you are exiting on the correct day. Even a small 12 hour slip up can cost you….
CENTRAL ASIA IN GENERAL…
The visa journey I’m currently undertaking. It’s best to get as much information as you can about this. Keep in mind that regulations are changing all the time and really, its best to check with the embassies. The downside is that central asian embassies are only in a handful of countries. People like Stantours.com can generally help or other specialised Central Asian tourism operators but this is one part of the world, where it pays to speak to people who know…
Saudi Arabia is a tricky because of the types of people they let in. Generally if you’re unaccompanied and female – forget about it. Generally tourist visas are restricted to those who book packages. You’re not generally allowed in to just walk around.
Good Luck! Tourism is only allowed on tour, where you’ll be met by government tour operators who will be with you until you step back on the plane. On the plus side, getting in and on one of these tours is pretty straightforward.
As always, Visa requirements will change depending on who you are, why you’re going and where you’re from. Best of luck.