Iranian Visa

This is how to get an Iranian visa in Istanbul. Again, this is for British citizens, and it may vary for other nationalities, but this should help.
To get to the Iranian Consulate, walk up the hill from Sultanhamet tram stop, take the first major right and walk down the hill – the Consulate is on the left.

The easiest way to apply is online through an agency such as www.iranianvisa.com – indeed, if you go to the consulate and ask to apply for a visa, you will be directed to this website instead. To apply online you will need the relevant information and a scanned copy of your passport. The application takes however long it takes – mine took 3 weeks, but it was the end of Ramadan. If you are lucky enough to be granted a visa, you will be emailed a code, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Iran will fax an approval to the consulate in Istanbul.

You then need to go to the consulate with this form filled in. You will be given another form and told the fee and to get things photocopied. For British passport holders the fee is 95euro, or you can ask to pay 125euro for the same day service.

Fill in the additional form, get photocopies of the additional form, the info page on your passport and the Turkish visa in your passport, pay the fee at the bank across the road from the consulate, and go back to the window in the consulate.

Hand everything across including two passport photos, and wait for an hour if you paid the extra, or return the next day if you didn’t pay the extra. Obviously throughout the process give sensible answers – probably not a good idea to tick the box for “politics” where the form asks for your reasons for visiting for instance…

Indian Visa

If anyone needs to get an Indian visa in Istanbul, here are consise instructions for British citizens, but will apply to most other nationalities as well.
To get to the Indian Consulate, from Taksim Square walk north along Cumhuriyet Cadessi until you see a sign for the “Crazy Horse Show” on the right. Next to the Crazy Horse Show is the Dortler Appartments – the Indian Consulate is on the 7th floor.

Visa applications close at 11am. You will need:

  • your passport;
  • a photocopy of your passport;
  • a “letter of introduction” from your own countries consulate;
  • payment of US$50 in cash;
  • two passport photos;
  • the visa form (available at the consulate at the time).

You also need to know where and when you will enter and leave India. It’s no big deal, just pick somewhere sensible and put approximate dates in – you won’t be held to them. Passports can be picked up between 5pm and 5:30pm four working days later, i.e. if you get your application in by 11am on Monday, it will be ready at 5pm on Friday.

Rip off (also known as “consular fees”)

This is the “letter of introduction” I need to get an Indian visa, that cost me 150ytl (59gbp). No wonder at the Consulate-General they referred to me as a ‘customer’. No way that letter should cost 59gbp – it only took them a minute to put the information in the template and click print. For information: the letterhead is a black image printed on with the text (it starts as a blank white sheet of paper); the name, passport number and passport issue date are all in bold. I’m posting all this for information only. If people see this and decide to make their own version and avoid a 59gbp fee, that’s their decision, and I certainly can’t condone their (probably illegal) actions, however sensible they may be.
Hmm, photo was hosted somewhere else and has disappeared. Will put it back up when I get a chance.

Don’t Panic! visas are a-coming

Had a few concerned emails recently of the “are you still alive” variety. Don’t worry, I’m fine, and making bureaucratic, although not geographic, progress. I arrived in Istanbul 3 weeks ago. That’s how long it takes to get approval for an Iranian visa, which came through today. I’ll pick it up tomorrow morning and apply for the Indian visa in the afternoon. I should have that by Friday. In the mean time I can work out how to get a Pakistani visa.
Pakistan aren’t issuing visas in Turkey to non-residents of Turkey. The options are:

  • Apply in Iran (crazy, going into Iran with no way of exiting in the direction I want)
  • Mail my passport to London so my brother can pick up the visa there then mail it back
  • Wait and hope my contact here can pull some strings (more on that later)

Anyway, now I’m making some progress with the bureaucracy I should start preparing the bike and things for the upcoming stage, which will be much tougher than the leisurely jaunt through Europe!

Folding bike destinations – guest post

The most observant fanatical followers of my website (so probably no one!) may have noticed I updated the Links page. One of the links I added was for Folding Bike Destinations, Ben Tyler’s blog about his travels with a folding bike. Ben asked me to write a guest post for his blog about my travels, and this has now been publishd on his site. Read it here!
Edit: the Folding Bike Destinations blog has disappeared from the internet, so I’ve made a .pdf of the blog post. Read it here!

Visa’s

This is a bit of a rant, not at foreign countries, but my own. In Istanbul I’ve met up with an Irish cyclist called Andrew who is heading the same way as me hopefully through Iran and Pakistan to India. We both arrived without visa’s. When applying for visa’s in Istanbul, the Indian Consulate requires a letter of introduction. Andrew found out from the Irish consulate that one for him is free. I went to the British Consulate to get one, and it costs 75gbp.
I know my government is currently bankrupting itself rescuing banks that are failing, but come on, 75 pounds for them to write my name and India in a template and click print.

Anyway, rant over.

edit: I was so ranty I even added an apostrophe to visas. What would Linda say!

Iran and Pakistan

I was so busy worrying about Iran, I forgot to worry about Pakistan. Having just read the FCO advice on Pakistan, I’m now shit scared. Since the bomb in a hotel a week or so ago, it sounds like chaos over there. British Airways have suspended flights to Islamabad, and the Consulate General of Pakistan in Istanbul are just not giving out visas for any reason at the moment. Even if I do get the Iranian visa, it looks like I can’t get a Pakistani visa.
The FCO advice is, as ever, very useful but difficult to comprehend with lists of names, but no map. So I’ve created two maps on Google, mapping out the FCO advise for Iran and Pakistan, so I can see the advice on a map instead of reading random names (the FCO should do this themselves…). The map for Iran is here, and the map for Pakistan is here. (edit: maps now removed to avoid confusing travellers with out of date information).

I was feeling pretty OK about Iran – the risks were there, but by exercising caution and using common sense, I’d only be in the “danger zone” for about a week. For Pakistan though, the FCO are advising against staying in Western hotel chains, from travelling at all to major cities, and the Balochistan “danger zone” is twice as big (and sounds scarier on John and Sally Watson’s website), and so would take twice as long to cross, as the Iranian side.

It’s all really putting quite a dent in my plans.

The only real alternative is to go north through the ‘Stans and China, and back south through Laos and into Thailand, or to fly over as originally planned – but I now think that’s cheating! But, to go through the ‘Stans and China now, the weather is getting colder by the day, and I wouldn’t be through for a few months.

Oh what to do!? Decisions and dilemmas!