As we all seek to explore some of the most far-flung places, we have to increasingly check the visa requirements for our next destination. It goes without saying that for both of us we are very lucky. The British and Australian passports are two really good ones to have, meaning in a lot of instances visas can be obtained on arrival or better still, are not needed or are free.
For our most recent trip we not only researched the visa requirements for our adventure using various websites, but also by visiting the various embassy pages and via the Real Russia pages. We had plenty of pages left in our passport – phew what a relief as we were going to need a few visas!
For me, I’ve always enjoyed dropping my passport off at a consulate or embassy. In my experience the task provides you with the first glimpse of what to expect when you reach your final destination.
I remember back in 2005 when I was heading off to India, I trotted down to the embassy on Aldwych (this process and application procedure have long since been superseded). I duly queued for an hour before the allotted opening time and no sooner had the doors opened, the bun fight began. I think it’s fair to say India isn’t the most organised of places, and the slight chaos that greeted me as the embassy opened was good preparation of what awaited in India!
On another occasion I obtained my Ethiopian visa from the embassy in London and the quietly spoken ladies processed it without delay. The building was a little old fashioned, but none of that matters as long as the service you receive is good. Again, the embassy was a reflection of the place – I would later find the same gentle, softly spoken ladies in Ethiopia.
Sometimes it’s not possible to obtain visas before you go. We experienced this with our Myanmar visas. As soon as we arrived in Kathmandu, Nepal, we headed out in search of the Myanmar embassy. No one quite knew were it was, but our taxi driver kept stopping and asking and eventually found it. Once inside the gates the polite and helpful embassy staff greeted us. The serene atmosphere inside the grounds and attitude of the staff were truly a reflection of the Myanmar people – polite, gentle and kind. We duly returned three days later (this time I directed the taxi from the back seat!) only to be given back our passports with some tourist information!
Above all one thing is for sure for us. When we get to an embassy to pick up our passports its a race to flick through the pages with excitement and see the new stamp. Our passports really are our one of our most prized possessions, and for us obtaining visas is all part of the excitement of travel!