London – Visa Bureaucracy

24 March 2018

I had done a bit of research into visas but I hadn’t put too much thought into it as it’s not until we get leave Europe that we will need visas.  We could start to look at them in the middle of the year in Europe.  We plan to miss out Iran and fly to Karachi from Istanbul and then continue our journey from there (Karachi to Lahore and cross into India). The early move to Dina and Trent’s meant that we could have an early look at what we might need and actually this has had quite an effect on how we view the whole procedure and the time needed to apply etc.

General Observations

  • Requirements for individual countries change on a regular basis
  • Every country is different (as you might expect)
  • It is unusual for foreigners/westerners to want to cross land borders
  • The eVisas offered online don’t cater for land border crossings – tourists are expected to enter and exit either at an airport or be part of a cruise which will be visiting port areas for very short periods of time

Individual Countries

  • Pakistan – can only apply for a visa in your country of residence (i.e. UK for us). The visa is valid straight away and lasts for 6 months.  This doesn’t help us as we want our visas to start in about 6 months’ time for when we want to fly from Turkey to Pakistan.  If we want to go to Pakistan we will have to come back to the UK in order to apply for visas. Slightly more risky would be to send our passports back to the UK with the correct documentation and get someone to apply for us then send all the stuff back. At the moment we’re not too sure whether we’ll do this. We could always do this portion of our journey and perhaps more of Pakistan at a later date.
  • India – we want to be entering India in early to mid-December. The consulate can issue tourist visas for up to 1 year, which if we were to get one of these it would cover the time that we want to be there. The India consulate in London has outsourced their visa application services although they actually do the issuing them themselves the person applying never gets contact with the consular staff (this is the same for Pakistan).  The consulate will issue 3, 6 or 12 month visas and you have no idea which one that they are going to give you until it is issued, very annoying.  Currently we have applied for a visa and hope that we’ll get one for 12 months to cover our time there – we were advised by the application centre to add a letter say what we wanted to do, so we took their advice.  The process requires that we give them our passports for 3-5 working days along with a load of paper work.  It’s with them as I type. If we miss out Pakistan we can fly into India instead – not what we want to originally do, but we haven’t decided whether we’ll come back for the Pakistan visas yet.
  • Bangladesh – the consulate run the visa service themselves and have very helpful staff even if the venue is a bit chaotic! Rather annoyingly we didn’t have all the right paperwork when we went there last week or we could quite possibly have visas now.  They require a printout of our bank statements, a hotel booking and the route we intend to take whilst in country.  All doable but we didn’t know what was required.  Our passports are now with the India consulate and so even though we now have the documentation we still can’t get the visas! The consulate staff in London have assured us that we can apply for a visa on arrival (VOA) at the border if we have all the documentation shown above. Plus we could apply for visas enroute, so we are likely to do this in either southern Europe or India (Kolkata).
  • Myanmar – we had planned to exit Bangladesh in the north east, back into India for about a week before entering Myanmar at a place called Moreh. According to the Myanmar embassy staff this crossing can be closed without warning at any time as there’s a bit of insurgency in the region. There’s also a bunch of posts on line saying that you either can’t cross into Myanmar there at all or that if you do enter then you have to exit through the same point.  Not too sure why, but it doesn’t help us as we want to enter there and then transit through the country and then exit into Thailand. Apparently if you try this they won’t let you out of the country! However, it doesn’t appear to be a problem if you fly into the country and then exit through a land border.  So, a little research shows that Biman (Bangladesh Air) fly from Dhaka to Mandalay which might be an option, plus they accept bikes on board. Another option is to fly into Thailand and enter Myanmar at the Myawaddy land border crossing, tour around for up to 28 days and then exit through the same entry point back into Thailand. We currently think that the fly Dhaka – Mandalay is the best option, but that might change as we get nearer the time.  We can apply for a visa in Dhaka apparently.

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