There are two kinds of visas, yes? Both essential to travelers. First there’s the kind that comes in the form of a card enabling you to travel without money—a travel accoutrement of great value—and more than a little stress when you return! Then there’s the other kind of visa which is simply a stamp in your passport saying that the government of said country has authorized you to cross their borders and spend as much money as possible.
I am about to start the process of getting those elegant but frequently undecipherable stamps in my passport from Belarus, Russia and China. Fortunately Norway, Sweden, Latvia, Mongolia and Korea do not require visas for short stays. I say fortunately because it is a time-consuming and expensive process. If you try to do it yourself it will take a very long time if indeed it ever happens, and only be a little less expensive than having an agency handle it. Always use an agency. I am going to use Travel Visa Pro this time because they work closely with Real Russia. There are always requirements that seem to make no sense but there’s simply no choice. Hard to believe but there are countries even more mired in bureaucracy than the U.S. So use the agency! Seriously.
Belarus needs a letter of invitation (I booked a hotel through Real Russia that will issue my invitation), proof of travel insurance and then the obligatory forms, photos, and quite a lot of money. Russia needs a letter of invitation which Real Russia provides plus all of that other stuff, and I haven’t even explored what China wants yet. It won’t be my first-born child because he’s not really that tech-savvy and shows no signs of becoming a billionaire entrepreneur. Actually I have some grandchildren they might take but no one wants to give away their grandchildren.
I’m excited to get the visa process underway. When my passport is returned from the visa service with these interesting, some even rather beautiful, stamps…it is almost like the trip is beginning.