One of the biggest problems about travelling through Central Asia is visas. Actually, some might say the BIGGEST issue is visas. I’d encountered some problems already. This was frustrating, as after the initial attempt to find the embassy on the Friday, I couldn’t go on the Monday, thanks to Russia Day and a public holiday.
Finally turning up on the Tuesday, the lady on the desk helpfully assisted in filling out the paperwork, and questioned why I’d brought letters and references, surprised that it would suggest that on their own website. Clearly she didn’t like following the website as it’d also said I could get a double entry – but she was only prepared to offer me a single entry at best. Fine, whatever, how hard could it be to get another one later on (I’ll come back to that in several posts’ time)…
I had to go and make a payment at a special bank nearby. Of course, being Russia, all I had was an address and metro station in Cyrillic. She managed to make it clear that it was two stations away, so off I went, and when exiting the station had to pick a direction and hope – and guessed right, the bank being just around the corner. That was surprisingly easy once they realised what I wanted to do, and within an hour I was back at the consulate, to the surprise of the staff. She took all my papers and told me I could call on Thursday to see. This was a little unsettling as I was now without a passport, but I figured I could stay out of trouble and away from the police for a few days.
(This became more stressful trying to get into and out of the Sting concert later in the week, but I digress)
Come Thursday, the staff at the hostel rang in the morning at 9am on my behalf. We were to call back at 1pm. This was frustrating as I’d hoped to go to the Hermitage. At 1pm they said try at 3. At 3 try at 5. At 5 try at 5.20, and then in an hour. When we called back then there was no answer; they’d gone home for the day. Nice.
The next day we called again in the morning, and were told to call back at 3.30pm. Again we were delayed to 4.30, and finally at 5pm they asked to speak directly to me, and informed me that the consulate was too busy with the economic forum in town to do visas, you know, his actual job. I’m going to assume that they’d left early yesterday to get to the Sting concert on time.
Very frustated, I pointed out that I’d planned on leaving on a train that night to Moscow. After much arguing, she said she could be there for a short time for me to collect my passport, and then I could come back on Monday morning with it when it would ‘definitely’ be ready and would just require pasting it into my passport. I stormed across town to collect it, back to the hostel, and headed to the train station to buy a late night ticket to Moscow. I’ll come back to that. But just as I was about to board the train at around 10.50pm, I received a text message from the consulate. Apparently my visa was ready. I may or may not have punched a nearby wall.
Monday morning, back from Moscow I was at the consulate at opening time, and not really looking at me the woman took my passport, and 10 minutes later returned with the visa inside. I paused briefly, considering saying something, and decided it wasn’t worth it. I checked the dates, and left, finally, visa achieved!
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