Visas are the one thing that we underestimated when we first starting thinking about the trip, and it can sometimes cause huge headaches or douse your enthusiasm. Although we have different passports (Nate's Australian and American; Jieming's Hong Kong), the only difference is the number of visas required. For budget travelers, it is possible to do all visas on your own, if you have the time and patience. Below are our steps and some tips:
Useful links to do that:
Visas and documents are required: Visa HQ
Address and locations of embassies/consulates around the world
For those who have extra cash to burn and would rather not deal with visa issues themselves, there's the Visa Machine, which charges an arm and a leg for their services, but saves you a lot of trouble.
Plan ahead, but not too much
The amount of visa's jieming needed (30) stressed him out a lot at first because he likes know everything is ok --and definite-- ahead of time. To keep organized we used an excel spreadsheet and tried to get in touch with as many local consulates by phone and email. However, through this it became apparent, that getting all your visa's in your home country is neither practical nor convenient; instead look in to where you can get visas along the road and look online for other people's experiences.
What's more important is to figure out what documents are needed and how long it takes to obtain such documents. Two such documents are:
The Kyrgyz visa can only be obtained earliest one month before your visit. Jieming obtained his LOI through the travel agency C.A.T. Travel, contact details below, cost is USD 80. They are somewhat responsive, but be sure to pester them to confirm that the MFA has sent the LOI to the consulate where you plan to apply for the visa. Jieming's was sent only after three failed visits to the consulate in Beijing.
Jie had to re-apply for his Kyrgz visa in Almaty. Once he had the LOI, the process was done same day.
PIC: Enn Raginskaya
124, Chui Prospect, Bishkek, 720040, Kyrgyzstan
Tel.: (+ 996 312) 663 664, 663 665
Fax: (+ 996 312) 900 420
E-mail: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Done in Beijing (Jieming) and Washington DC (Nate)
Letter of invitation. In both China and the United States Tajik embassies a letter of invitation was required; in Almaty it was not. Nate obtained his through the Orom Travel and the service was excellent. Orom issued the LOI for USD 25 with a reference number and payment will be done in person when he arrives at their partner hostel, Yeti Hostel, in Dushanbe. Jieming used a travel agency and it was much slower and more expensive. email@example.com.
And again in Almaty (Jieming & Nate)
Our Tajik visa's were going to expire by the time we would be there, so we had to get new visa's issued in Almaty. The process is fairly painless. Neither Jie nor Nate (applying on an Australian passport) needed an LOI. Processing was 4 days after some haggling with the officer, who will ask you a high price that you need to haggle down. We paid $85 USD each. Despite the corruption, a fairly nice guy who speaks some English. Not many people at the embassy.
GBAO permit. Be sure to ask for the GBAO permit if you want to visit the Pamir Highway. Jieming got his for free in the Beijing consulate, because not many tourists go to Tajikistan, and even fewer want to visit the GBAO region; in the US embassy this cost USD 50 .