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Tour du monde en autostop - Jeremy Marie

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 Travel Diary : Scramble of visas in Central Asia

Central Asia is known to be an administrative labyrinth. I could experience it those last weeks. I will describe you the quite unbelievable bureaucratic way I had to follow because of those paperwork issues.

As you could read in my last article, I choose in Beijing to keep my itinerary through Central Asia. My goal is to go from China to Iran. Between both, there are five countries in “Stan” that I can choose to visit.

My goal is to go from China to Iran

 

I enter the labyrinth...
 

The Iran visa

I will exit Central by Iran. However, this is the first visa I have to take care of. After long researches, I learned that the Iran visa requested more time to be obtained.

To apply for an Iran visa, we have in theory to go to an Iran embassy once we receive a code delivered by a special agency. This agency takes care to send to an immigration office in Teheran a folder describing the details of the stay requested in Iran. This code supposedly request 14 days of waiting. Once this code is obtained, the agency sends the code to any Iran embassy we want in the world. This process takes between 1 and 3 days. From this moment, it is possible to officially ask for the Iran visa. The embassy can deliver it within 1 to 5 days.

To summarize:
14 days for the code + 3 days to send it to the embassy + 5 days for the visa = 22 days maximum to obtain the Iran visa.

In the real world:
I start to take care of the Iran visa from Beijing. I use the agency iranianvisa.com. According to their estimations, I calculated that I would be in Bishkek -the capital of Kyrgyzstan- in three weeks to request the Iran visa.

The agency iranianvisa.com sends me the code after 33 days waiting. They send the code to the Iran embassy in Bishkek 9 days later. After this never-ending process, I decide to ask for the express visa to the embassy to finally get this piece of paper the next day. In total, I had to wait 43 days to get the Iran visa. This will have consequences on the rest of my bureaucratic requirements in this area.

The Iran visa

 

Cost of the Iran visa:
39 euros for the agency + 75 euros for the express visa = 114 euros, so 149 dollars
 

A dead-end

I received the Kazakhstan visa in one week in Beijing for 140 Yuans. This is a one month single entry visa. In Central Asia, it is necessary to give the estimated date of entrance and exit of the country when we request for the visa.

The Kazakhstan visa

 

Once in Almaty in Kazakhstan, while considering the estimations of the Iran visa, I ask for the Uzbekistan visa. Logically, I inform them that I would enter Uzbekistan around the December 26th 2012. I obtain it after one week waiting. This is also a one month single entry visa.

The Uzbekistan visa (obtained in Almaty in Kazakhstan)

 

Affet this, I go to Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan to collect the Iran visa. Kyrgyzstan is the only country in Central Asia where I don't need visa. I can stay up to 60 days if I want to.

A simple stamp is enough to enter Kyrgyzstan

 

The problem in Bishkek, as I explained firstly, is that my Iran visa is delivered 3 weeks later than my estimations.

I enter Uzbekistan the January 12th 2013 and my Uzbek visa expires the January 25th 2013.

Once in Tashkent -the Uzbekistan capital- I go to the Turkmenistan embassy to ask for a visa that would let me cross this last country that now separates me to Iran. In this embassy, I am told that I have to wait 20 days to receive a simple transit visa of 5 days.

I only have about 10 days remaining in Uzbekistan, this is impossible. I am stuck.

Cost of the visas:
Kazakhstan : 140 yuans for the visa + 10 yuans for the bank = 150 yuans so 25 dollars
Uzbekistan : 75 dollars for the visa in Almaty
 

In the middle of the labyrinth

I am indeed in Uzbekistan, and I want to reach Iran. Let's have a look once again on the map to consider the different possibilities.

I am in Uzbekistan and I want to reach Iran

 

Three solutions appear in front of me :

1-Exiting Uzbekistan and entering it again when the Turkmenistan visa will be ready. I can exit in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. This also means that I will have to go backward and to ask again for another Uzbekistan visa, that already cost me 75 dollars.

2-Going through Afghanistan. This is an interesting solution but currently too risky. Even if the road going from Mazar-E-Sharif to Kabul is quite sure, the ones crossing the country from Kabul to Herat are much less. Traveling this long distance by hitchhiking would expose me to a kidnapping by the Talibans or other groups of armed bandits. This is the most important risk in Afghanistan. The current situation is not the best neither. The French troops just left and the French army just arrive in Mali to fight the extremists rebels. Shall I add that this fight led other rebels to take western hostages in a Gaz extraction mine in Algeria. The timing is not the best to go hitchhiking in this already shaky part of the world.

3-Crossing the Caspian sea by boat-hitchhiking from Kazakhstan to Azerbaijan. This is a risky bet too. Indeed, there are not many boat going between those two countries and my Kazakhstan visa would only give me about 20 days to find one. Knowing also how difficult it can be to hitchhike a boat, moreover in such a remote place, this let me thinks that this project is not easily doable.

At the end, I choose the option number 1. I exit Uzbekistan to go to Tajikistan, as I already went through Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. At least, let's visit another country.

The Tajikistan visa

 

Cost of the Tajik visa: 55 dollars after 7 days waiting in Tashkent
 

Towards the exit

In Tajikistan, I request once more an Uzbekistan visa in the embassy of Dushanbe. This one takes me one week. From the moment I get it, everything goes fast. I go back to Tashkent in Uzbekistan, where I get my Turkmenistan visa, 22 days after having ask it. Then I cross Turkmenistan. I finally reach Iran after a transit of 24 hours in Turkmenistan (read here the article about Turkmenistan).

The Uzbekistan visa (obtained in Dushanbe in Tajikistan)

 

The Turkmenistan visa

 

Cost of the visas:
U
zbekistan: 75 dollars + 10 somoni for administration = 77 dollars
Turkmenistan: 35 dollars + 12 dollars tax at the border = 47 dollars

I finally exit this unbelievable administrative labyrinth of Central Asia, and went successfully from China to Iran. In total, this bureaucratic muddle still cost me time and money: 93 days waiting and 428 dollars for visas...

See you soon in Iran, which was actually worth the hassle,

Jérémy



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