Friday, April 16, 2010

Little about Visas

During the past 18 months alot of time has been spent on the internet reading travel blogs, visiting adventure rider sites and looking up embassies. It seemed that most visas could be had at the borders if traveling overland except a few. Ethiopia, Sudan and Syria fall into the pain in the arse category, logistically.

Ethiopia is supposed to be pretty straight forward, or so I have read. Obtain it at the Consulate in Nairobi prior to travelling to the border as there is no governmental infrastructure.

Syria was and still is somewhat of an open issue. Some blogs have stated that you can obtain them at the border and riders have done that but if you pursue formal channels "they" insist you have to obtain the visa from your country of origin and its only valid for one month from the date of issue. Well ... kind of a problem since we will have been on the road for 5 months. I think this one will be a crap shoot. If we are denied entry, well, then we go around ... I hope.

Sudan. I have read alot on visa requirements for this country. Everything I have read up to and including April 15th stipulated the requirement for a letter of invitation from the Ministry of Foreigen Affairs, Border and Alien Department in Sudan. Two ways of getting this: one, from a friend or relative residing in Sudan, the other option is to deal with a travel agency in Sudan. The agency would be able to provide the service for a fee, usually a couple hundred dollars. Funny story. 6 months ago I was relocated at work and ended sitting beside a guy by the name of Dave. Never met him before. We got to talking and I'm not one to openly discuss my private life with strangers unless they require some sort of anesthetic to help them sleep but somehow we got on the topic of this 6 month trip and where I would be traveling. Well ... Dave's wife has a brother who is currently living in Khartoum. Wow. So I sheepishly and as gently as possible asked if he could fascilitae our "meeting". He did. Magdi and I had exchanged several emails and today I had emailed him again after speaking with the Sudanese Consulate in Ottawa. They verified my findings, I needed this letter of invitation in order to apply for a visa which is all fine but that visa would expire before we ever got to Sudan. The consulate stated that we could get this invitation through the acquaintance in Khartoum and get the Sudanese Government to mail it to the Consulate in Pretoria, South Africa where we could then apply for the visa. This seemed like way too much work and definitely a plan that was susceptible to failure. I searched the web for further info. Well, if I didn't come across a blog in Lonely Planet site discussing this very topic. Not sure why I didn't explore Lonely Planet before. Maybe I had, unsuccessfully. Anyway, there was a link in one of the responses to a guy by the name of Midhat. Left mouse click and I was following the link. Sent him an email explaining the trip, route and asked about the best way to obtain a visa and within an hour recieved a response. Not at all the response I was expecting but in broken english he said that we could get a transit visa at the Consulate in Addis Ababa but to get the Egyptian visa first as proof of onward travel. What? Can't be that simple. Emailed him back, highlighting the need for this letter of invitation.

"YO DONT NEED the letter that will cost you 150 $ per person the best way you go and aplly the transit visa".

I stared at the screen in disbelief. Cool. Another piece of documentation taken care of ..... 15 min later....

in Wadi halfa our office will arrange the shipping your biks
my brother Mazar"

Again, staring at the screen shaking my head. Another obstacle solved. You see, the ONLY way into Egypt is by an 18 hour ferry ride on Lake Aswan which leaves Wadi Halfa only on Wednesdays. There are no land border crossings that are open to travellers.

This is all good news but may very well go to hell in a hurry once we actually arrive.

My hat goes off to all those free spirits who have travelled the globe prior to the internet. :)