When we first made the decision to take this trip we both knew that there’d be a fair amount of paperwork and I wasn’t looking forward to it. Whenever I’m faced with something like that I tend to go into spreadsheet mode. Being able to see everything I need to do collected in one place enables me to see the whole problem and figure out where to attack it. I think it’s the same reason people write lists, to get it all out of your head and organised in one place so you stop worrying about it and start doing something about it! So a few weeks ago, Mickey and I sat down to figure things out the spreadsheet way: one for vaccinations needed and one for visas. We also looked into the Carnet de Passage at that point – a kind of bike passport that you need to have that allows you to take your vehicle into countries without having to pay import tax – but the sole issuer in the UK, the RAC, has just announced they will no longer be issuing them with no replacement. So, with no replacement company yet announced that’s all up in the air at the moment…one less thing to worry about right now, which is no bad thing!
It may not be exciting but it’s got to be done. But there is a silver lining. Looking at the visa requirements for us versus people from other countries, I’m once again reminded that whilst it may not be an enjoyable task, we’re very privileged to be faced with it at all. The cost of travelling aside, many people in the world are simply unable to undertake a large-scale overland trip due to visa restrictions. I understand the need for borders on a practical level to an extent but sometimes I wish we could find a better way that didn’t penalise quite as many people simply because of the luck of their birth. I wish that more people would remember that borders are for the most part, arbitrarily-defined, man-made fictions (see more on that idea here). In the wake of recent events, I also find myself wishing that more people recognised their privilege and the luck of their birth. I don’t mean to say that people born in good countries are undeserving of it or that they should feel bad for it, I just wish that more would acknowledge the large degree of good luck that was involved in them being born in a safe environment where they could establish a reasonable ‘work-in-equals-success-out’ relationship. We are all a product of our environments to a large extent. Much of life is out of our control. This is a fact that many don’t want to believe. It unnerves them as it calls into question the belief system they’ve built their lives upon. The inverse of the ‘Western dream’ – if you work hard you’ll be successful – is that insidious, unspoken assumption that if you are in hard-times you must somehow deserve it. I think the world might be a better pace if more people were brave enough to acknowledge that this simply isn’t the case. (Of course I’m not advocating the lack of a work ethic, just a little more understanding and a little less judgement of people who have fallen foul of the unpredictable nature of life).
I also note that although we’ve chosen to travel, we will do so safe in the knowledge that we are vaccinated (in many cases without cost to us) against most of the major diseases we will encounter. Not so for many of the locals we will meet who are subject to the same (if not heightened) risk of contracting those diseases. For now, there is nothing I can do about this but it is a start that I can honour my privilege by being suitably grateful for it.
So, with gratitude in mind, on to the practicalities. For anyone who’s thinking about taking a trip like ours, or for those of you that are just curious, here’s how we’ve broken things down to make them manageable (PS, I realise this isn’t a spreadsheet, but coding one into wordpress takes more time than I’m willing to give right now! Also, these are my visa requirements, as a UK citizen, Mickey’s are very similar but vary ever so slightly in one or two countries with him being Irish). (Edit: I should also say that this post is to illustrate how we’re tackling the visas and vaccinations, rather than to give factually correct information on who needs what visa, the information on what visa you needs changes all the time according to political relationships. As I say below, all of the info we have so far is from the www.gov.uk travel advice website to get an idea of our timeline of applications and we will be confirming details with the relevant embassies directly in due course).
No visa needed:
Visa free/ESTA/evisitor, no application needed (duration, conditions applied)
Ukraine (90 days, proof of means required),
Moldova (90 days, Try and cross at Otaci but if crossing through Transnitistria register with the Ministry of Information Technologies and Communication, located in Chisinau at 42 A. Pushkin Street, or the local passport office within 3 days of arrival),
Thailand (30 days),
Vietnam (15 days, must report to local police if staying privately),
Malaysia (3 months),
Indonesia (30 days, Register with local police if staying privately),
Philippines (30 days),
Australia (3 months),
New Zealand (6 months).
eVisa (Duration, when to apply, cost, conditions):
Turkey (90 days, up to 3 months before, $20)
India (Min of 3 days before, contact embassy for cost & duration, Must carry prescription with drugs)
Myanmar ($50, Contact embassy to confirm).
Visa on arrival (Duration, when to apply, cost, conditions):
Bangladesh (30 days, Onarrival/2weeks before, £78, Contact embassy to confirm),
Laos (On arrival, $35, Contact embassy for details, need one passport photo),
Cambodia (28 days, $30, On arrival)
Visa (When to apply (this is a minimum, not what we’re intending! cost, conditions):
Iran (Contact Iranian Embassy for details),
Pakistan (min of 5 days before, £134, 1. Need sponsor 2. If spending more than 4 weeks, need a Polio vaccination cert to exit (must show vaccination within last 12 months, but not less than 4 weeks),
Nepal (min of 2 days before, £35, 30 day visa, must carry prescriptions with drugs).
Seems simples when put like that eh?! So the biggest ones are the last ones and we’ll most likely begin those application early in the new year. There will be a bit of a balancing act to get a good amount of time for the visa to arrive but not so much that the visa has expired by the time we want to enter the country, since some begin their expiration as soon as the embassy stamps your passport. Total cost for visas, so far looks like being under £500 per person. Most of this information has so far come from the Government travel advice website
As long as you’re not increasing the risk of spreading a communicable disease by not being vaccinated (which solid scientific evidence shows is very much the case when refusing to vaccinate against the childhood diseases, despite what the ‘anti-vaxxers’ say), I don’t think there’s any right or wrong approach regarding travel vaccinations so this is just the way we’ve chosen to do it. My approach to vaccinations and health risk is that health is everything.
So, looking at the advised and considered options on this very useful NHS website we decided that we need the following vaccinations (bold are advised, the rest are considered that we’ve chosen to go with, prices in brackets): Hepatitis A/B, Typhoid, Diptheria/Polio/Tetanus, Rabies, Japanese Encephalitis (£190), Malaria (this is not a vaccination but tablets at 40p/day). We’ve also identified the countries where we need to avoid wild swimming and non-bottled water to limit contraction of Schistosomiasis.
Most are a short duration (single injection or one month course), but the Hep A/B takes 6 months so that’s been started already…less than 6 months to go before we set off…**gulp**
So, all in all, a bit of tedium but the wheels are finally rolling. As a seasoned traveller said to me the other day, it’s a period of taking in information and working things out and I’m always invigorated when I’m digesting new information and learning things. As this wheel was set in motion, another also started turning – the bikes arrived last week and so all the modifications and paperwork that we need associated with that aspect is about to begin too. More on that in the next post hopefully…exciting times! Thanks, as ever, for sharing it with us.