Long Way Home 1

Documents - Sue

The Great Paper Chase 


OK folks; let’s make this clear. There is a hard way and an easy way to obtain the necessary visas for the ‘great adventure’.

The easy way is to pick up the telephone, give a travel bureau or visa specialist company your itinerary an
d let them sort it all out for you. If money is no object, you half like the idea of letting somebody else do all the work and you want to remain unruffled then this could be the way.

If you are like me, a Yorkshire woman through and through, with Scottish connections (well, my son lives in Aberdeen) and you have the ability to split a fart, then you do it the hard way!

For our trip, we are required to obtain visas for most of the countries we wanted to go to, before we leave the UK. This means planning an itinerary so that entry to the next country happens before the visa for the one you are in, runs out. Sounds a piece of cake eh? Ha!

Some visas can be issued well in advance, and these can be applied for by post. Other visas need to be applied for in person. Sifting through the information on the websites, planning a course of action, deciding which visas to go for first requires precision planning – so I am told!

Most Embassies now have web pages, where information on visa requirements can be found and application forms downloaded, but it has been my experience that Embassy Consular Departments don’t want to talk to you! E-mail queries are either ignored or take so long to be answered despair sets in. Information is given on those premium rate telephone calls costing £1 per minute and why is the bit you want always right at the end of the call 4 minutes later?

I must admit the gentleman at the Uzbekistan Embassy was the exception to this rule. He was so friendly and helpful I rang back twice, just to make sure he was for real! Go to Uzbekistan folks, this guy was so enthusiastic about his country I thought he was on bonus! No visa support letters or anything required, just ‘get yourself there and spend some money’

The first visa applied for was Mongolia, my dream destination. Download the application forms from the Embassy in London, fill them in, send with passports, required fee (£40 each) and stamped addressed special delivery envelope and hey presto! Seven days later passports returned with Mongolian visa. It was big grin time; we had started! The Mongolians wanted us, no hassle, no additional visa support forms or booked accommodation, they just wanted us to go! All we had to do now was to get there - and home again.

I actually started applying for visas in November 2004, thinking there was plenty of time before our 25 March departure. Wrong! Panic is now setting in. At the time of writing, with four weeks before we go, we still need 3 prized pieces of paper, and with visa issuing times of 1 – 10 working days .......
The Peoples Republic of China demanded we present ourselves in person at the Consulate to apply for visas. The nearest one to us is Manchester, so a quick blast across the border was in order. Two hours later I am trying to explain sheepishly to Mick, - well – they shouldn’t have put it in such small print – we had applied too early. Chinese visas can only be issued 3 months before required date! Double-check the visa information – small print as well!

A quick blast up to Aberdeen, to the Consulate for the Republic of Kazakhstan, there they only wanted a letter explaining why we wanted to go to Kazakhstan, the relevant fee (£27 each), and we were able to pick up the passports the following day.

The price of visas differs drastically following no logical pattern. £40 for Russia, £27 for Azerbaijan, £8 for Georgia. For the 11 countries we need to obtain them for, the price will be approximately £300.

Visas are not the only paperwork of course. Medical Insurance is essential, making sure that the cost of being flown home from some obscure plot on the planet, is well covered.

Campbell Irvine are a company specialising in round the world trips and even with a 50% loading for being a motorcyclist, £295.50 (each) for 4 months cover is quite a reasonable sum. (If they knew the extent of my off road experience they would have trebled it!) Although we will be away for nearly 6 months, some of the time will be in Europe, where adequate medical cover is available. (BMW’s own insurance includes EEC countries)

International Driving Licences and the translation of the V5 document are obtainable at either the AA or RAC, but the dreaded ‘carnet de passage’ the downfall of many a round the world trip, are obtained only through the RAC.

The Carnet is a document that allows the temporary importation of a vehicle into a country.

it works like this.

Pakistan for instance, wants a massive 500% of the value of the vehicle in duty. If your prized possession of a motorcycle is worth £4,500, that means you must deposit £22,500 in a secure account. Most people are unable to get so much out from under the mattress and so take the option of an insurance premium to cover the said duty. This is usually about 10%, i.e. £2,250. Add to that the 5% tax, £112.50, the cost of the carnet itself, and the RAC refundable deposit, means that to take your £4,500 bike to Pakistan you would have to stump up £2832.50. Granted you would be able to claim back the refundable deposit and half the insurance premium (£1125) provided you discharged the carnet once back in the UK, but by any stretch of the imagination that is one hell of a lot of petrol money! (Is my Yorkshire upbringing showing through?)

A little prick? … yes, well, injections!

A visit to the travel clinic at my doctors surgery ascertained that I could do with Tetanus, Polio, Typhoid, Cholera, Hepatitis A & B and Rabies. They would not agree to give me Japanese Encephalitis because of the possible side effects; Mick’s doctors in Doncaster had no such reservations (they breed ‘em tough in Balby) and consequently he suffered – as only men can suffer – what was worse according to him, was that he had to pay for the misery! I was sympathetic ... honest!

The time scale for injections was a little over 5 months; so don’t leave it too long!

In all the weeks of planning plotting and scheming I would not be exaggerating if I said many nights sleep were interrupted with nightmare scenarios of passports missing in the post and having to start all over again. Have I planned the timing of the visas correctly? Will things work according to plan? But what the heck, its all part of the adventure!

It’s not over yet, four weeks to go and three visas required… so watch this space!


Diary update 22 March 2005

After 3 weeks of panic, hair pulling, nervous hysteria, grovelling telephone calls and heaven only knows what else, the Turkmenistan embassy in London have finally released our passports with the 5-day transit visa so desperately required. The 4 – 10 working days originally stated as the necessary time to allow, turned into 19 days, leaving us with a mad dash to the Chinese embassy in Manchester on Monday morning for hopefully, a same day visa. No chance. Come back tomorrow she said. We went. We collected. We whooped with joy.

We sat for hours in a traffic jam on the M60 and wished we had gone on the bikes.

Soon we will be on the bikes for 6 months and the nerves are twanging. The Georgia visa, the only one missing, we shall have to get in Baku, Azerbaijan.  (How lucky ... while on the trip Georgie cancelled the requirement for UK citizens to obtain a visa - Mick)

The great paper chase has finally ended, and we’re on the ferry in two days time. A close call indeed!



“Never hurry, never worry, always stop to smell the flowers”