Talking to any other cyclist about the topic of visas can potentially turn you into a quivering mess – some people just spend so much time researching everything, re-ressearching everything, taking to medicine men and witch doctors, that it all becomes a touch overwhelming.
These are our experiences as an Australian male and a Swiss female and the only thing we really noticed for certain is that where you come from certainly plays the biggest role in how easy your “visa experiences” will be. In our case, Nina is always the one saying “somehow it’ll all work out” – and touch wood, until now it has. Let’s see what the future brings.
Australian – 60USD at the border (more of a tourist tax really) for 3 months, simple as that
Swiss – none required (3 months)
Australian/Swiss – no visa required (360 day entry permit)
Azerbaijan consulate, Batumi, Georgia
Address: 14, Nodar Dumbadze str., 6010, Batumi, Georgia
Went to see the consul in Batumi in Georgia. Turned up at 10am, got given an application form around 10:20. Gave the form back and paid at 11am as agreed (the consul said he needed a coffee break with a friend) and then came back after lunch (around 1pm) to pick up the 30-day visa (privately issued by the consul). Apparently towards the end of the month the consul has been known to run out of visas, but we got ours on the 23rd no problems. Know of people paying upwards of 250USD in Tbilisi, Georgia for a visa (since a LOI is required), so Batumi definitely seems the way to go at the minute.
Australian – 100 Georgian Lari (60USD) – 1 month
Swiss – 150 Georgian Lari (90USD) – 1 month
Kazakh embassy, Baku, Azerbaijan
H. Aliyeva, district 15, h. 8, 10
There’s confusion about the adress, the embassy itself writes it this way: ул. гасана алиева, проезд 15, дом 8
Address: Embassy not easy to find: 40.39478°N / 49.82441°E.
Opening hours: application: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday 9.30-11.30
Collecting visa: same days: 16.00-17.00
Went to embassy with filled out visa application form Tuesday morning at 9:30. Handed over form and told to come back to pick up visa (1 month, single entry) on Friday at 16:00. Had to pay 30USD at the International Bank of Azerbaijan in the time in between. There seemed no option to get the visa earlier (maybe having a LOI would have helped though – although not actually necessary.)
Uzbekistan embassy, Baku, Azerbaijan
Batamdart, 1st highway, 9th lane, 437
1000 Baku (not too far from Kempinski Hotel)
Embassy a little difficult to find, the GPS coordinates are: 40.3513°N / 49.80493°E.
Printed Uzbek visa forms from the internet, got to the embassy Monday morning just before 10am, and were shown in at 10am on the dot. Had organised a LOI through Stantours (40USD each), which meant that we got the visa the same day. The consul gave us a payment slip for the International Bank of Azerbaijan, we whipped back into town with a taxi (about 10 Manat return) to pay and were back at the embassy around 11:00. After a bit of a comedy routine from the consul, the visas where stuck in our passports by 11:15.
Australian/Swiss – 75USD (30-day single entry tourist visa) – although Swiss don’t actually need a LOI, we’d acquired one anyway, which turned out to be a godsend. If you don’t have a LOI (which US and many EU-citizens don’t, since they don’t officially need one), the visa process takes 5-7 days. Those 40USD spent with Stantours paid for itself, not having to wait longer in Baku.
Had planned to get our Chinese visa in Bishkek. However, as of August 12th 2013 this is no longer possible, unless you have lived in Kyrgyzstan for more than 12 months. Have also heard that getting a Chinese visa anywhere in Central Asia at present is very difficult, if not impossible. We’re now flying to Hong Kong, to hopefully procure one there – fingers crossed.
Update: Apparently as of October 23, 2013, it is again possible to obtain a Chinese visa in Bishkek through Miss Liu. Doesn’t help us much, but might help the next wave of tourists coming through.
China Visa in HK
Easy as pie, single entry 30-day visa via Forever Bright Travel in the New Mandarin Tower, Kowloon. It takes 4 business days (Swiss passport), and costs HK$350 (approx US$45). Australian passport was only 2 days. No itinerary required, no proof of flights, no hotel bookings, just the money on pick-up and one passport photo (in adherence with the very strict Chinese regulations). Fast, efficient service, and much much much cheaper than any other offers we saw (some agencies try to charge up to US$150). Definitely recommend FBT!!!