Visas: The Traveler Nightmare

“Nostalgia in reverse, the longing for yet another strange land.”

Visas are an absolute nightmare and unfortunately end up dictating travel plans for us voyagers. They are expensive, oppressive, and for some countries, downright frustrating or impossible to obtain. Three months seems to be a pretty typical visa allowance, and many of these can be bought on arrival (for most of South America this is true, as well as Nepal, the USA, Europe, Turkey…). They typically range from thirty to a hundred dollars which adds up quickly when you are traveling through entire continents. There are other countries which only allow a month or two (Uzbekistan and Tajikistan), and many, including the Stan’s, India, Iran, and Burma, China, and Mongolia… which need to be obtained in advance. This is especially frustrating when you are on the go and have to spend two weeks in some big city waiting for the slow process to unfold. There are a few surprises, such as Kyrgyzstan which allows 60 days free entry, and Georgia where you can stay a full year, but these are unfortunately exceptions to the rule.

A few days ago I visited the Nepali immigration office in order to extend my visa. Nepal allows a five month stay within a calendar year, and having only used a month and a half since 2014 began, I still have quite a few months possible. I had checked on the website before arriving and knew that I needed a passport photo, my passport and a copy of it, and the form that you get at the office. I arrived by 10h00 even though it only opens at 10h30, and there were already a few people waiting. Of course it’s Nepal, so everything runs late, and they didn’t start taking application before 11h00. When I finally got to the front they informed me that I also needed a photocopy of my visa page, something that was not stated on the website nor on the wall in front of me with instructions. I had to leave, get the page photocopied, and return to the back of a very long line.

I was trying to extend for three months, and seeing as I have almost forth month still allowed, that shouldn’t have been a problem. They told me that only a thirty day extension is possible though, and that I would have to come back again next month, unless of course I wanted to pay a little extra. I had no desire to see my money disappear into the greedy mans pocket, so I guess I’m going to have to go through this process again next month.

In almost all countries they require you to pay with USD regardless of where you are from or the local currency because the USD is considered stable. It is somewhat frustrating to us travelers as we are forced to carry large amounts of dollars with us throughout our trip. On the website it clearly stated that the visa needed to be paid in USD, and since I was prepared, I didn’t mind. Of course, when I got up to the counter with my dollars in hand they told me it could only be paid in Nepali rupees. Luckily I had brought both so I didn’t have to make yet another trip, but some of the travelers behind me weren’t so lucky. Ah, Nepali organization…

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