Dissatisfactions, mostly self-inflicted, about my visa-situation scribbled down at 4 am during a very frustrated and sleepless night.
13.03.2013 - 15.03.2013
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I’ve messed up. Twice! Avoidable mistakes that are keeping me awake for the second night in a row. The first mistake was committed back home, weeks before I left Denmark. I deliberately applied for a Russian visa lasting longer than the period I planned to stay, since I usually get delayed during my travels.
What I didn’t check was which additional days I’d give myself as buffer. It is a Saturday and a Sunday. Never end your visas on the weekend! Days that can’t be used as a buffer since consulates are closed, there’s less transportation options and what’s available fill up quickly because of the weekend. The second fuck-up happened in Tomsk when I missed my train, postponing my arrival in Irkutsk by 12 hours.
Two mistakes keep me awake why? Because it’s the night between Wednesday and Thursday, because my Russian visa expires on Sunday, and because I yet have to pay a visit to the Mongolian consulate to arrange my onwards visa.
And I should make the following clear: It is impossible to extent a Russian tourist visas, which is the kind of visa I’ve got. I definitely don’t wanna try my luck with Russian Immigration overstaying my visa. There is no Chinese consulate in Irkutsk and China and Mongolia are the only two countries within reachable distance (nearest other countries are North Korea and Kazakhstan both more than 2200 kilometers away).
Research suggests it should be possible to get a next-day express-visa for Mongolia in Irkutks, but I am in no way sure of this and ‘should’ doesn’t always apply for consulates far from the actual embassy (in Moscow)!
Had I just gotten on board on that train in Tomsk had I arrived here Tuesday morning, making it possible to go straight to the consulate, which then would have four whole days to arrange the visa – standard time for Mongolian visas.
Instead I arrive Tuesday night after hours, and which day is the consulate closed for visa applications? Right, on Wednesdays… Not checking up on this before leaving Tomsk could be considered a third mistake – but since that knowledge definitely would have made me arrive at the train station in decent time, I count it with the whole missing-the-train-for-no-good-reason mistake.
My current options are thus very limited if the consulate won’t or can’t make a visa within the 48 hours there’s left before the weekend. And it is here my failure to arrange a workable buffer days becomes important – for that extra working day or two could have saved me in the end. It would at least make me able to sleep – right now am I just too worried.
Only alternative – my single backup plan* – is a flight at some time Friday, between Irkutsk and Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia over Beijing. And that isn’t save either. I might need a transit visa to change planes in Beijing, something I don’t have and can’t get. I might need a letter of invitation form a tour company to get the Mongolian visa on arrival, something I don’t have, but might be able to arrange Thursday. And I might not have the right nationality to be allegeable for a visa in the airport at all – something the consulate may or may not be able to tell me.
This might give you an idea why I do I consider travelling a lot tougher than university or student jobs. When you’re slacking off out here you’ll end in situations like this on. Fucking travel…
*It might have been possible to reach Vladivostok and board a ferry to Japan before Sunday at midnight, but I honestly did consider this a real option.
Epilogue: I did manage to get my express visa before the weekend. Setting me back around 105 dollars (instead of 35 a visa normally costs).The kind ladies at the consulate gave me a 30 days Mongolian visa. Trains out of Russia were still scares, but I manage to get to the border towns of Naushki (Russia) and Sükhbaater (Mongolia) during Saturday morning. Whether I’ll be able to actually cross the border or get further than Sükh was still an open question. I eventually manage to get a night trail to Ulaanbaatar.
Most frustrating about all this has, in retrospective, been that I’ve been missing out on a few highlighted sights because of all this. Most noteworthy was I not able to pass by Lake Baikal in daylight, missing the best scenery on the entire Trans-Siberian. Other stuff I’ve missed out on have been a traditional Russia sauna at the lakeside and Russia’s most important Buddhist temple, build by no other than Stalin (which is a bit of a surprise since he spend most of his time destroying religious sanctuaries.