29 September 2016

Chasing Visas

I have been to more than 45 countries by now. And considering that I don't have a citizenship from a Western country, it isn't an easy feat to achieve. After all, my passport isn't the most powerful, and every time I need to go somewhere, chances are I would need a visa to get there. Some visas are easy to get, some are harder. And recently, I just got another visa sticker in my passport, which I should say is one of the harder ones to get (though I know that there are way harder ones than this one).

You'll get to learn more soon which country I am talking about: right now I would rather play it discreetly. After all, due to politics, I need to erase some of my digital footprints. If you haven't noticed yet, there were a few posts in this blog that disappeared. I'll elaborate later, I promise. For now, what I could say is that I would rather be safe than sorry, and err on the side of caution, so that there won't be a reason for my visa application to be denied.

For some countries, getting a visa is straightforward. I have gotten visas at the border before (Armenia and Georgia, though the latter one was after some begging and pleading, when they couldn't figure out my exact category). I also have gotten visas online (Armenia). Some countries I was able to enter because I had substitute visas (Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras allowed me in because I had a valid US visa; Bosnia and Croatia allowed me in because I had a valid German residence permit). But other countries I had to apply for a visa to enter, and the requirements can vary. Some wanted proof that I had money, some wanted health insurance, others wanted a proof of a hotel booking. These are mostly bureaucratic hassles, and sometimes, you need to go through loopholes if you want to travel in some other fashion (say, if you want to travel relatively flexibly; cancellable hotel bookings are great for this purpose).

Anyway, my latest visa acquisition required me to get a letter of invitation (authorization) from a travel agency. So I contacted a local travel agency, who then processed my application. Once I got the authorization, I went to the embassy, and voila, ten days later, there was a shiny visa on my passport.

For political reasons, there should be no evidence that I have visited some country in the past. My passport doesn't have evidence of a previous visit, but I decided that it would be wise to further delete some evidence such as some blog posts about this country. So I temporarily deactivated these pages. Once I am back, these will be turned on again.

Oh well, different governments have different requirements. And as a guest, I suppose one cannot do anything much about these requirements except follow them if you want to get inside and visit. And I suppose my curiosity is strong enough, that it won't stop me from trying. I have been denied a visa once before (I'm looking at you, Lebanon), for reasons still unclear to me. I've followed all directions as correct as possible, as far as I recall.

Anyway, with every successful visa application, I cannot help but feel empowered. So once I got this visa, I was happy, and excited, to the point that I even checked out which other countries I could apply a visa for. For example, I just saw the requirements for a visa for Benin, and I thought I could totally get that, the requirements the Beninese embassy asks aren't prohibitive at all! Of course I now have an idea how to incorporate a Benin visit to a more complex West African itinerary. Not that I have concrete plans to visit West Africa or other further countries, at this point. But it is a drive, I should say, a motivation, an urge to go where not a lot of people go, an urge to go off the beaten path. As I write this, a couple of friends of mine are currently backpacking in Central Asia, visiting some of the most obscure countries in the world. We'll see, I have a long list of countries I want to visit, and I am checking them off one by one.

Oh itchy feet, it seems it ain't easing up.


  1. I find tourist visas are mostly paperwork and a fee. Now, permanent residence visas are another story, but I've never had too much trouble with visas. You can argue that I have two passports issued by Western nations, mind you, makes life easier.

    Australia was maybe the hardest one to get (a six-month tourist visa in 2003). Back then, they always assumed that backpackers would overstay and/or work illegally. Chinese visas aren't that difficult to get, as long as you follow the steps and "blend in". And yes, I completely understand your need to "clean" some of the articles. I was wondering how you would deal with that aspect, actually...

    1. Zhu,

      Visas are indeed paperwork. While I don't like the idea of visas, I also have to say that they are necessary given the world we live in. Not every place is desirable to be in, and so given the inequality, one needs to control the amount of people going in. And visas are one way one government can control this.