Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Visa problems already!

Well, not even set off yet and I'm hitting visa problems. There are three potentially problematic visas to pick up on the journey, Iranian, Pakistani and Indian.

With the Iranian visa it appears that the best way is to apply via an agency who then deal with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) to procure a visa code which is used to pick the visa up at an embassy. I've kicked the process off with the idea of picking it up in Turkey.

The Indian visa needs to be picked up en route as it's only valid for six months from date of issue, i.e. your allowed into India for six months from the date it's stamped into your passport. Get there in five months and you're only allowed in for the remaining month.

That leaves the Pakistani visa. It's valid for entry up to six months after issue and once used it gives a stay of up to one month. Apparently it's not the easiest of visas to get once you're outside your home country as many embassies ask for a Letter Of Introduction from one's own embassy. In your home country it's a lot easier: in the UK it's two photo's a £55 fee (!) and an application form. Drop it in in the morning, pick it up in the afternoon. There's even a Pakistani consulate here in Manchester!

All of which saw me yesterday morning in Rusholme, nearly completed form in hand. One or two hurdles awaited. Firstly, where I was staying? "Well, I'm cycling. With a tent. So I'm not sure exactly where I will be at any one time, but I'm heading from Taftan to Quetta and on to Lahore, probably via Karachi."
Nope, I needed an address on the application form. OK, off down the road to The Bicycle Doctor and a borrow of their interweb. Hotel in Lahore found and added to form. Back to Consulate and a different member of staff this time.
Ah. So I was cycling was I? "Yes, although I'll get a bus from the border at Taftan to Quetta"
Sorry, but it's too dangerous for him to authorise it. "I appreciate that. If it is too dangerous I'll go from Iran to Dubai and fly into Karachi". No, I'd have to wait until tomorrow when the Consulate himself was back from London. Right.

Back this morning. Form handed over again to the second person I saw who asked if I had email confirmation from the hotel I'd put on my form "Er. No. You didn't ask for that..." But they need it nonetheless, at which point my head literally hit the counter. At this the man went off to speak to the consulate. He came back a few minutes later: I needed to provide the itinerary I would be following. I suggested I draw up two itineraries, one where I entered from Iran, one where I flew into Karachi, which met with approval. And when I'd given them the itinerary they would have to email it to Islamabad to get approval from the Foreign Office there. For my own safety of course. It would only take a few days... So, create my detailed schedule today, get it too them tomorrow, hear back next week (remember, Monday is a Bank Holiday!). Bollocks bollocks bollocks. Why didn't I lie? Just tell them I was flying into Karachi!

And what with the prospect of a flu epidemic I really don't know why I'm bothering. At this rate I'm tempted to just get on a plane and fly out to Egypt for a summers diving...

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