Going Backwards…

The good news was that we had a route along the Silk Road that we wanted to do (see below). The bad news was that we weren’t at all sure as to whether we would be able to do it – in particular, whether we could get visas with sufficient validity prior to leaving the UK.

There was only one thing for it, we spent a happy day in London going to visit the consular sections of various ‘Stans and Iran to ask them about visa issuing rules and visa validity. Here is what we found (Click on the country names for links to the web sites for their embassies):

Iran – By far the largest – and the only embassy with a police guard – though do note that the consular section is in a separate building about a mile away from the main embassy. Whilst quite formal and intimidating in setup – think prison visitor partitions for the interview section with rows of fixed plastic chairs – they were actually quite friendly. However, getting a visa is a two step process that involves getting an authorisation code (which is valid for 3 months) and then the visa itself (again valid for 3 months from issue).

Turkmenistan – The smallest embassy on our tour – a single office in a shared building off Oxford Street. Whilst the chat was friendly enough, the visa process isn’t. Essentially you need a letter of invitation from a company in Turkmenistan. For tourists this typically means booking services through a Turkmen travel agency. Once issued, the visa is again only valid for 3 months.

Kyrgyzstan – Much more straightforward, no letter of introduction is needed and whilst visas are normally valid for 6 months they didn’t think there would be a problem with longer validity if we stated it on the application form.

Uzbekistan – If you ever go to the Uzbeki consulate in London, don’t try to go in the main front door, turn right and go round to the side of the house and down the stairs. Also, the people sitting on benches are likely to be waiting for their visas – so don’t wait to be called, you can go straight up to the desk and speak to the assistant. Simplest of all visa process – ‘no problem’ getting a visa 8 months ahead of entry.

So, where does that leave us…
Going Eastbound from the UK would be simpler logistically and would let us get our visas before leaving the UK. However, leaving Europe (our first continent) by land is against the rules of our (likely) OneWorld Alliance round the world plane tickets.
Going Westbound and entering Europe overland from Asia is within the OneWorld rules, but would leave us trying to pick up at least Iranian and Turkmen visas en route. I don’t think that we are brave enough to do that and so we will sadly have to leave the Silk Road for another time.

Now we need to come up with another plan – fortunately we have time and there are no shortage of beautiful and interesting places to go visit in the world.

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