The Visas – Round I…

Good morning folks

Sorry for the recent radio black-out, it’s been a rather busy time for Team Mongoliando.com filling in Visa forms…
On our big 2012 summer holiday, we will be travelling through around 10 countries. (As the Mongol Rally goes, this is not an excessive amount, some teams will be crossing up to 20 borders, but unfortunately we are limited by time, so we have to take a fairly direct-ish route). Even then, it’s not cut-and-dried that we’ll get to UB in time. Across Europa, up to and including the Ukraine, no Visa is necessary.
A UK passport (without smiling! Smiling is a definite no-no at border crossings) should get one over a border hassle-free.
Beyond the Ukraine, is when it all changes…

A Visa is a priceless (but not cost-free) piece of paper, or a stamp in a passport, that enables one to step across a border & stay there as long as the powers-that-be deem a reasonable amount of time (& not a second longer).
It is not possible to enter a country before the Visa starts, and it is definitely not possible to stay after the date the Visa expires.

Doesn’t sound so bad I hear you say. Well, there are several other ingredients to toss into the bubbling cauldron.
1) The Embassy is not obliged to actually issue a Visa, they can reject it (for any of a plethora of reasons) & keep the dosh.
2) It is not possible to have two live Visas, for the same country, at the same time in a passport.
3) Whilst we have a rough-ish idea of our route & a sketchy timescale plan, beyond the first week, we could be several days (weeks) behind our itinerary. In addition, a hotel booking is part of the Visa application, but we cannot be really sure that we’ll actually have arrived to that place, by the time of booking.
4) We can apply for all the Visas up front, except the Mongolian Visa, which cannot be issued more than three months in advance. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem, but Lina has to travel to Europe in June, just the time when the passport would be sat on an Official’s desk, awaiting processing, in some Embassy in London Town.
Therefore we have to apply for Kazakhstan & Russian Visas now, have the passport sent back, and then apply for the Mongolian Visa in June, which will be cutting it short, but we are hopeful!
5) My printer is absolutely useless and it is a machine that is heavily relied upon during this lengthy process. I think Eddie Izzard sums it up nicely in this video.
6) There is also another document entitled a “Letter of Invitation”, which we will pay for & look forward to hopefully receiving too.

The Kazakhstan Visa application was a fairly simple 2-page form. The Russian Visa was another matter. A straightforward series of questions, to be answered online, saved, then printed off (see point (5) above). It was all going so well, until the allocated (unchangeable & unrecoverable) password didn’t work, then I had to do it all over again.
Several hours later, umpteen cups of coffee & some choice words aimed at the printer & the document was in my hand.
I’d then managed to fill in the Special Delivery envelope wrong, (after queing in Morley, the busiest & sweatiest Post Office in the UK). Envelope re-done, cash paid & whoosh, it’s on it’s way.

The Visa chickens have not hatched yet though, not until we have the Passports, with Visas intact, will we breathe a collective sigh of relief.

A massive THANK YOU to Julia & her wonderful team at The Visa Machine, who must have a stack of work higher then Jack’s Beanstalk, yet still are the most helpful, friendly & professional bunch of Visa experts in the whole wide World. (To be honest, they are doing most of the Visa legwork, we only have to fill the forms in, and they also provide an idiot’s guide for that too!)

So, it’s keep-our-fingers-and-toes-crossed time.
Please keep yours crossed for us too :-)

To reward ourselves for all this hard work, we are giving ourselves a 5-day road trip “Up the Road”, to the Scottish Highlands. It’s 499.8 miles from our door to John O’Groats, then snaking back down the NW Coast & through the Highlands.
Good chance to give the Silver Streak a run-out, test out some shiny, shiny new camping gear & for Lina to practice her driving. Report & pics to follow on here upon our return.

116 days to go…

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