Way of Visas

When I dreamt of a round the world adventure, I never really thought about the amount of work (and paperwork) that would go into acquiring visas.


Now a little over a month from my departure, below is a summary of my experiences with visas thus far which I hope will serve as a guide to others trying to navigate this sometimes unnecessarily complicated process. (This only covers the countries for the first 6 months of my journey (with an Australian passport); I’ll have to go through this all again before heading into the Americas)

South Korea – No visa required

Russia – Any Russian visa requires a letter of invitation (LOI) from a party on the Russian side ‘inviting’ you for your required purpose. Usually, this would be as simple as requesting a single or double entry tourist visa LOI which is simple enough from a travel agency. Unfortunately, because I enter Russia first at Vladivostok and then again in the Altai Mountains after crossing Mongolia, the 30 day duration for a tourist visa may be cutting it too fine for a Mongolian crossing.

Enter the business visa with a 90 day validity. I have paid an agency 60USD to provide me an LOI from a Russian business inviting me for a double entry business visa. I received this in roughly 2 weeks and now await my passport to come back from the Chinese Consulate before applying. I have left this till last as the 2 week processing time can be cut down to 2 business days with a rush fee of ~$150.

Mongolia – The first visa I applied for. This was a tricky one as it required me to mail my passport to Canberra with all the supporting documentation as opposed to working with a local consular office. This could also be applied for only 3 months in advance at most as the visa is only valid for an entry 3 months from issuance. However, I had to chase up the embassy and ensure they sent it back on time. No LOI required here but details on employment, travel itinerary, financial records and a declaration that I was traveling overland to explain the lack of flight bookings. A refundable hotel booking was included too.

2017-05-14 02_11_21-Adobe Photoshop - [18471816_10155233510837317_1202312390_o.jpg @ 66.7% (RGB)]

Kazakhstan – No visa required

Kyrgyzstan – No visa required

Tajikistan – Apply online for an E-Visa which arrives nearly instantly after payment is processed. Take note to also apply for a GBAO permit if planning to visit the Pamirs


Uzbekistan – I nearly got lucky with this one; a visa free scheme was announced in late 2016 however this was reviewed in January 2017 and postponed till 2021. I have yet again gotten an agency to provide me with an LOI for a double entry visa. However, in this case, I will be picking up the visa while on the road at the embassy in Almaty, Kazakhstan as no consular service or Embassy exists in Australia. Yet to receive the LOI as it will only be submitted for in early June. Will have to wait and see how this pans out.

An interesting note is that a 30 day double entry actually functions as 2 x 15 day visas.

Turkmenistan – Regarded as the most challenging and confusing visa in Central Asia, I decided to skip this country all together given my options.

The first was for a transit visa, which can be applied for 3 months in advance only and as per recent reports, only about 50% of all applications are approved with no reason or logic given whatsoever. A transit visa must also cross Turkmenistan while entering from one country and exiting to another. Given that I wanted to loop back towards Pakistan and not continue on into Europe, this was not an option for me.

The other option was a tourist visa which can only be obtained if on a guided tour. With the tour coming to a total of aout $1500USD for 5 days, the con of the cost far outweighed the pro of visiting the ‘Gateway to Hell’ burning gas crater at Darvaza and as such, Turkmenistan was scrapped. More time to relax in the Pamirs 🙂

This one won’t be getting ticked off the bucket list

China – One of the more difficult countries to pass through overland as it again requires a guide at all times. In this case, I only need to cross the country for 5 days to get from Kyrgyzstan to Pakistan and as such, have joined up with around 8 other travelers from all around the world on both 2 and 4 wheels. Amongst us, we were able to negotiate a better price with a travel agency for the crossing. Once this was paid for, the agency provides an LOI which forms the base of the visa application.

Along with the LOI, a declaration of traveling overland is once again necessary to explain the lack of flights, a flight showing me leaving Australia for South Korea, photocopies of my old passport which had an old Chinese visa in it and a formally stamped travel itinerary from the travel agent should see me get it back in the standard 4 day processing time.

Pakistan – The visa I thought I would have the most trouble with given that I am of Indian origin. An LOI is once gaain required here however I was lucky enough to acquire a personal letter of invitation along with an invitation as a guest of honour for the Motorcycle Association of Pakistan. There was a slight scare when the Pakistani government tried to recently introduce a barrier to entry by way of extra documentation (No Objection Certificate/NOC) to the northern region through which I’d need to pass. However, due to backlash from the local tourist bodies, this has been removed and my visa also came back with no questions!

2017-05-14 02_12_59-Adobe Photoshop - [18518477_10155233508782317_2053998475_n.jpg @ 100% (RGB)]

India – No visa required due to having an Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI)

I hope this has been of some use to those reading, if there are any questions on detailed application processes on the above, please feel free to contact me via Facebook

I also found Caravanistan to be an invaluable resource

About the Author ()

I take GSXRs to inappropriate places