THE ODYSSEY WORLD VISA GUIDE

One of the things that holds back many people from travelling is the prospect of wasting time and effort attempting to get into countries that would quite prefer it if you didn't bother.  However, it is a false presumption.  In more than 150 countries worldwide you can turn up without shelling out $$$ for an invitation first. So here’s a comprehensive list of the visa requirements for British Passport Holders for every country in the world, although it may come in useful for other nationalities as well. I’ve split the world into four main categories: No Visa Required, Visa On Arrival, Prior Visa Required and Letter of Invitation (LOI) Required. No Visa Required: You beauties!! Note the (very) high prevalence of prosperous, confident and democratic countries in this list. Visa on Arrival: Not quite as good as no visa at all, but much, much less hassle than: Prior…

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Day 461: The Forbidden Stan

06.04.10: Groggy and grumpy I awoke from my nightborn passage through Uzbekistan. Like Alexander The Great so many years before (and Michael Caine and Sean Connery more recently), I was in Samarkand – the legendary and (arguably) most famous city of Central Asia. Stumbling bleary-eyed out of the taxi I lost my phone and before I knew what the hell was going on I had slept-walked into another taxi and was hurling out of town. Sacrilege, I know. I’m sorry. I’ll tell you a little story: About eight years ago I was travelling through the Andes with an old flame of mine (she’d hate me saying that, but watchagonnado?) and I got increasingly ratty with what I saw as her lack of interest in the soaring grandeur of one of the most spectacular mountain ranges in the world. I couldn’t believe somebody would come all this…

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Day 460: The Wizard of Uz

05.04.10: Today was yet another D-Day in terms of getting visas and getting going.  Within minutes of me wiping the sleep from my eyes I arrived at the Turkmenistan embassy to meet no other than Atabek, my friend from last week who had helped me out with the whole getting-my-Stanistan-visas shenanigans.  Again, the system for getting the visa required me to put my name down on a list and then wait my turn.  While Atabek held my place in the queue I darted over to the Afghan embassy to throw in my second passport for my second Afghan visa (another time-consuming trip to the bank required).  Upon my return, it looked like if I got my passport in this morning, I’d have the visa this afternoon.  Atabek and I waited for a good three hours, but finally – finally – they opened the gate and let…

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Day 459: Doctorin’ The Docket

04.04.10: I may have mentioned this before, but for some stupid reason you have to register three days after you arrive in Uzbekistan.  The problem is you cannot register that you’re staying with a private citizen without a ton of hassle and paperwork.  As a consequence, CouchSurfing is technically illegal. What most people do is check into a hotel for the night and then doctor the docket that they’re given (as I did last week) so the dates imply you stayed in the hotel longer than you really did.  However our sweet French couple, Younne and Cloe neglected to register within their three day period of grace.  You see the Uzbek government is a little stuck in it’s ways and thinks that every westerner who would like to visit their country is James Bond come to blow up their secret volcano fortresses. It’s when you hear…

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Day 458: Can You Imagine?

03.04.10: So where to next? The plan is on Monday to head off towards Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Iran. Three of the hardest countries in the world to visit and visit safely and I’m planning to step in all three in just one day. Impossible? Nah. Just takes a bit of planning, that’s all.  So the bulk of today was spent using the treacle-slow free wi-fi in the Blinoff café sussing out my next few moves, checking on the security situations and pulling anything I could off the usual suspects – bulletin boards, thorntree, all that kind of jazz. Later on I was joined by Rafael’s mate Oybek and his rather fetching ladyfriend Alla, along with Younne and Cloe from last night. After stuffing our faces full of cheap but yummy food, we set off into the night to go to the ‘Can You Imagine?’ night at…

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Day 457: The Land That Time Forgot

02.04.10: By 5am I had made it around that pesky enclave of Sohk and had arrived at the border of Tajikistan. Chances are you know Afghanistan and Pakistan rather well, and Kazakhstan too thanks to a certain Mr. Sagdiyev, maybe you’ve noticed Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan while glancing over an atlas, and maybe once you pulled 10 letters out of a Scrabble bag and they spelt out KYRGYZSTAN by sheer luck, but I’m guessing you know nothing about Tajikistan. Well, don’t feel bad, neither do I. For instance, I knew nothing of the brutal civil war that raged here during the 90s and resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths. I didn’t know that until 1991 Tajikistan was completely closed to foreigners for over 100 years. In fact, the amount I don’t know about Tajikistan is only equalled by the amount I don’t know about the history…

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Day 455: Digging For Fire

31.03.10: I left in the morning with Nazik and did a bit of blah before meeting up with Aima again. I needed to buy a present for my girlfriend’s birthday, and I wanted to get something exceptionally cool and Kyrgyz-Rhymes-With-Burgers. Aima helped me out, and in typically boy-buying-things style I had found the perfect gift within minutes. We headed over to the post office to send it on it’s way to Oz Land, only to discover that it would cost more to send that the damn thing cost to buy in the first place – and that it would take a month to get there, making me look like the worst boyfriend ever. Oh well, at least I tried. After that we had a mooch around Osh Bazaar, the big-assed market on the western side of the city and I got to see Bishkek in action.…

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Day 454: Unpronounceabilistan

30.03.10: Wasn’t too happy when the guy from Vladivostok whom I was sharing the taxi with (and someone I thought was a friend) whipped out my passport and claimed I had dropped it in the night and he had ‘found’ it for me. I would have been happy if a) I believed him or b) he hadn’t demanded $100 for ‘finding’ it. A very awkward conversation later, I got away with giving him about $10. It was a nasty trick to play and hasn’t lifted my (I have to admit) rather negative view of Russians, but that’s all by-the-by. We had got to Bishkek for 9:30am and I got to the Tajik embassy in good time to submit my application and what’s even better, is that instead of the four days waiting time suggested by my Lonely Planet, I only had to hang on until Thursday…

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Day 453: My Kingdom For A Biro

29.03.10: By 9am I was back outside the Kyrgyzstan embassy. I put my name down on the list and headed over to the DHL office to see if my replacement camcorder had arrived. It was still being held in customs. Frustratingly, this meant I would be without a decent video camera for my trip around Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Couldn’t be helped, back to the Kyrgyz embassy. I waited my turn to go inside, and when I did I all but begged to get the visa there and then. If I had to wait until the afternoon to pick it up I could scratch another day – there’s no way I could make it to the Kyrgyz border before it closed at 7pm. To my utter disbelief, the guy in the embassy said okay and furnished me with a visa there and then. I couldn’t believe it.…

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Days 451-452: Movin’ On Up

27.03.10-28.03.10: Woke up at Baha’s flat wondering if anybody got the number of the truck that hit me before stumbling back to Fred’s. Her mate in Samakand (down south) had just split up from her better half and so Fred planned to head down there to give her some moral support. This meant that I had to find a new place to stay. Luckily, Tristan, the French guy I met last night agreed to take me under his wing. Even more luckily, he lived in the flat directly above Fred’s so it’s not like I had to walk very far. These flats are so typically soviet it’s almost hilarious – the exact same flats that I experienced in Georgia, Armenia and Kazakhstan. To give them a veil of individuality some are covered in big blocky geometric shapes – no wonder it was a Russian who came…

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