In the nick of time

Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer

4 Visa’s in the bag and we’re ready to go. Phew, I was beginning to wonder whether I was ever gonna get it all sorted in time!

I recently acquired some ‘Lonely Planet’ books for India, Beijing, Japan and Vietnam. Boy, am I glad I did – it just goes to show no matter how experienced you think you are, there’s always a chance for error.

For instance, though I’ve driven cars in Thailand before, I only just learnt that in order to hire a car in Asia, I need an International Driving Permit (IDP) – unbeknown to me, I have driven many times in the past, sometimes from Northern Thailand to the South, without ever getting an IDP – oh well, no harm done, you live and learn.

To be honest, Vietnam seemed such a distant possibility, it never occurred to me to arrange a Visa before I left, seeing as the standard time to apply for Visa’s in the UK is 3 months prior to your journey. This limitation has left me struggling to get some of my paperwork in order.

In early September I arranged a short trip to Turkey, and was reluctant to send my passport off for any Visa applications, until I returned, just in case I did not get my passport back in time. This meant I only had 8 weeks (not the usual 12) to get all my applications completed.

Apart from jumping through some initial hoops, my China Visa was fairly straightforward and took just over a week. Since my first trip to mainland China in 2009, the process has changed a little. Now all Visas’ for China have to be completed through a 3rd party organisation, increasing the cost three-fold. My first Visa 5 years ago cost me £30, but now they have risen to £85.

My India Visa was rejected, and was send back. This was because I did not include the proper ‘India Visa Photos’, that are slightly larger than normal passport pictures. This meant I had to resend my application, slowing my progress even further. Again, what was once a £30 Visa from the Indian Embassy is now closer to £90 through 3rd party ‘Visa Centres’. I tell ya, it makes me wish I was going for longer than just a week!

My Thai Visa was also rejected, due to my sending it to the wrong place. As of January 2014, the management at the Thai Embassy in London decided that they are the only people who can issue Visa’s for Thailand, but neglected to point this out on the website…or maybe they didn’t! I simply downloaded the ‘Visa Package’ from the site and followed the instructions. I then sent it off to the Thai Consulate  (not the Embassy), setting me back a couple of extra days. Fortunately with a week to spare, I received my Visa for Thailand, my Passport, and my IDP arrived too.

I don’t know why all countries can’t simply implement the E-Visa system like Australia and Turkey, where Visa’s can be applied for online. As it turns out, my Vietnam Visa was the easiest to complete. I filled out the online form in just a few minutes – which was lucky considering it was just an afterthought, and I would not have had enough time to apply in the conventional manner.

In hindsight the good thing about E-Visas is that you don’t need to apply for them before you leave your home country.

So hopefully that’s it, I have been working tirelessly for weeks now and I can’t think of anything else to do, so with a bit of luck, we are all set to go, 1 week from today. We are all booked up until the New Year, and all travel arrangements have been made, from hotels to airport pick-ups…but I just know something’s gonna go tits-up.

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