Visas

Visa prices are for UK citizens.

Azerbaijan.  January 2014.  Batumi.  The consulate is open Mon to Fri.  The sign says it opens at 10 but each visit we made the security guard told us to come back at 2.  We arrived on a Monday, were given a form to complete and return the same day with 215 GEL each (150 GEL for Schengen countries), one passport photocopy and two photos.  Told to return in 3 working days (Thursday).  Quick chat, he wrote it out in front of us. We got a month with a fixed date of entry and departure - but he forgot about February being a short month so we got 28 days instead of 30.

Iran. January/February 2014.  Tbilisi. We started by completing an on-line visa application form with Key2Persia on 26th December and e-mailed photos of our passports and asked them to confirm receipt.  They wrote back with German bank details for their processing fee of 30 euros each.  After 2 weeks they wrote to confirm payment received and that the application should be processed with the Iranian MFA within 10 days. On 20th January we received confirmation that our application was approved with the code number which we could present at the embassy in Tbilisi.
The embassy is open Mon, Tues, Weds and Friday. 10 to 12 noon and 3 to 5pm. We arrived on Friday and were given a form to complete and a pay-in slip for 180 euros each to pay in cash at a local bank.  We were told to bring the receipt back and completed forms, two photos and one passport copy each on Monday morning. They kept our passports until we collected on Wednesday afternoon. The visa was for 30 days and could be used up to 3 months from the date we first applied at the embassy.

Uzbekistan. February 2014. Baku.  We arrived on a Friday afternoon, completed the application forms and submitted a copy of our passport and two photos.  We were given a bank chit to pay $75 for a 30-day visa single entry ($85 for multiple entry). We were told to wait 7 to 10 days and not to pay the money into the International Bank of Azerbaijan (on the north side of Fountain Square) until they confirmed approval. We got confirmation 10 days later, Monday morning, and collected it that afternoon.  At collection the consul typed out the visas and gave us the opportunity to amend the entry and exit dates. (You can only enter on the specified date or later and you must leave by the exit date).
The consul section is open Monday, Wednesday and Fridays, 09.00 to 12.00 and 15.00 to 17.00hrs.  The embassy is along a lane off the main road (Badamdar Shosesi) just north of the Citimart supermarket, lane no. 9 (it's painted on a wall next to the lane). Bus no. 3 from the centre.

Tajikistan. February 2014. Baku.  We went here before the Uzbekistan embassy on a Friday afternoon. We completed the application form twice, wrote a joint letter (based on an example) saying why we want a visa, and handed over a passport copy and 2 photos.  We were told to come back on the following Wednesday.  $55 for a 45-day visa.  They do not issue permits for GBOA.  All very relaxed.  We returned one week later and paid our cash to the consul.  The embassy is open Tuesday to Friday 15.00 to 17.00hrs To get there take bus no. 3 along Badamdar Shosesi, just a bit further south of the Uzbek embassy, until just after a Bazaar supermarket.  Take the lane on the left with a sign to AEF Hotel, keep to the left, and then take first right before the hotel.

Turkmenistan. March/April 2014. Tehran. This is for the transit visa which is $85 for 5 days.  My favourite consular section features a wooden hatch through which you have to plead.  You need 2 photos, colour photocopies of your passport and Uzbek visa, and a letter to the consul requesting the visa and saying why you want one, what dates, and which border entry and exit points.  This time we had the choice of Sarakhs-Farap or Bajgiran-Khojeli (but I might be wrong - it might be the crossing to Kazakhstan)
The embassy's notional hours are Monday to Thursday 09.00 to 11.30hrs and Sunday 09.30 to 11.30hrs.  It's a twenty-minute brisk walk from Tajrish Sq. metro.
We returned a fortnight later, although they say it takes 7 days, completed an application form on the spot and submitted it with another photo and the cash - crisp unmarked bills please.  After a wait the visas were issued. We didn't need to amend our entry/exit dates but this would be the time to do it.

Kazakhstan.  May 2014.  Dushanbe.  The embassy is open Monday to Friday, excluding Wednesdays, 09.30 to 11.00 and 15.00 to 17.00.  We turned up first thing on Thursday, filled in an application form there and then with 1 photo and a copy of passport and Tajik visa.  We were told that it would take 3 to 5 days to process, was that alright? No, we're on bicycles and we really need to leave on Saturday, any chance?  Okay, come back tomorrow morning.  When we did, we got a form to take to a nearby Kaz Kom bank at 24a Ayni Street and paid our $30.  Back with the receipt to collect our first visa.  Easy.

Russia.  May 2014.  Dushanbe.  Mmmm. We first applied for a Letter of Invitation on-line through Real Russia, which cost £15 each and the invitation took about 15 minutes to come by e-mail.  I'm not sure of the embassy times.  To get in you are required to speak Russian on the intercom with the security guard who sits inside the gate.  On every occasion we found a kind Tajik to help us, although Gayle did memorise one phrase just in case.  Inside they told us to complete an on-line application form, print it out and return.  The form is here - http:visa.kdmid.ru and results in a pdf document.     We took the printed application forms back with one photo and copies of the passport and the Tajik visa, plus copies of the LoI.  We then paid 358 somoni each (about £45) and were told to come back in a week.  One week later we got the visa.

China.  July 2014.  Bishkek.  We used an agency (Passaj Avia) recommended by other cyclists located at 100 Moskva Street - it's a travel agency inside a small shopping centre called Bereke.  The woman there wanted 2 passport photos (special size for China 33x48mm) and our passports.  First she registers you in Kyrgyzstan for a $20 fee.  (One friend did it himself in Osh for $2.50) Then she does all the paperwork for the application.  The Chinese consul only works Mon, Weds and Fri so the normal processing time is 10 days for $110 (express is 7 days for $130). The visa is valid for 3 months from issue and it's for a 30 day stay.
Extension. November 2014.  Huangshan City (Tunxi).  Arrived at the PSB office on the day after our visa expired.  They didn't notice! We each paid 160rmb plus 18rmb for a photo and collected the passports the next day with a further 31 days. 

Taiwan. December 2014. Taichung port. Visa on arrival. 90 days, no charge.

Japan. February 2015.  Naha, Okinawa.  Visa on arrival.  90 days,  no charge, but should have onward ticket.  We didn't because we planned to take a ferry to Korea.  We persuaded the immigration officer.
Extension. March 2015.  Miyazaki, Kyushu.  Immigration office.  Because we wanted to plan our ride around the country we asked for an extension early on.  We needed a photo and to write a letter of explanation, detailing our schedule (very broad and entirely fictitious) with a declaration of our financial means and a promise that we would not work.  We were also asked for an onward ticket, but they relented after we explained we would be taking a ferry to Korea.  We got a further 90 days for a payment of about £20 each.

Laos. August 2015.  Visa on arrival - at Huay Xai/ Chiang Khong border from Thailand. $35 (plus $1 overtime fee at the weekend) for a 30 day visa.  It's not possible to cycle the bridge at this border crossing - you have to put the bike on a bus and pay for the privilege.

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