Post Trip Note:
We followed this plan closely. Having researched several options we were well prepared when Iran refused us visas.
Trans-Asia 2009 Plan
Visas are a major challenge, especially when travelling East to West. This direction is better for us, however, in terms of wind, weather, and logistics from Vancouver. The recent addition of a Kyrgyzstan Consulate in Urumqi, China, has simplified the process, however. Many visas are valid for only three months from the date of issue, and many are available only in capital cities.
We will depart on 5th January, 2009. Before leaving Vancouver we have obtained visas for : Thailand, China (60 day), and Tajikistan (with GBAO permit). This was possible because we enter Thailand and China within 3 months of leaving Vancouver, and the Tajikistan visa can be issued (at Tajik Embassy, Washington, D.C.) more than 3 months prior to using it. We expect to easily get a Laos visa at the Thai-Laos Border, and a Kyrgyz visa can be obtained in Urumqi, China. We will request visa extensions in China. With these additional visas in hand we can get to Dushanbe, Tajikistan where our more difficult remaining visas can be arranged, with help from StanTours. These remaining visas are for Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan (but we might instead apply for a transit visa at the Uzbek-Turkmen border), and Iran.
Subsequently, we will get three-month multiple-entry visas for Turkey at the Iran/Turk border. Having entered Turkey, do one of the following:
- Cycle to Istanbul and cross to Europe.
- Cycle to the Mediterranean Coast. Cross to Greece by boat and pedal north through the Balkans.
- Turn north to Georgia, and take a boat westward across the Black Sea to Bulgaria.
- Cycle to the Mediterranean Coast, cross to Greece by boat and then by a combination of boat and pedaling pass through the tip of Italy, Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica, and then on to Marseilles.
None of these options require visas.
Since we may well change our plans, here are the options we’ve explored:
For Thailand, we’ll need a double-entry visa, if we want to have the option of visiting Ankor Wat in neighbouring Cambodia.
For China, visas can be extended for 1 month at a police station. We understand that two renewals are usually possible, sometimes more.
For Cambodia, if we go to visit Ankor Wat “One-month visas can be obtained at six legal international border crossing points at the Cambodian-Thailand border”. Return to Thailand using the double-entry visas.
Kyrgyz and Kazakh visas are available in Urumqi, China. In Almaty, Kazakhstan, visas are available for Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Russia and Iran.
From Almaty, Kazakhstan we would have five choices:
- Get visas for Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan in Tashkent, Uzbekistan (takes 2-3 weeks). Go overland by bus/train to Turkmenbashi (now renamed Krasnovodsk?) , and cross the Caspian Sea by boat to Baki, Azerbaijan.
- From Tashkent, Uzbekistan, fly to Baki, Azerbaijan and get visa for Azerbaijan in airport.
- Get visa for Azerbaijan in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, and cycle northwest to the Aral Sea area and on to Aktau on the Caspian Sea. From there take the boat (runs intermittently) to Baki, Azerbaijan. For this option we need a double entry visa for Kazakhstan.
- Forget Tashkent and visa hassles, and cycle to Sochi, Russia on the Black Sea, via the Aral Sea area, and take a boat to Turkey. The hazard here is roadblocks run by corrupt Russian police. A variant on this option is simply to enter Europe via a northern route through Russia, Ukraine, Poland, and Germany.
- Get a 7-day transit visa for Turkmenistan, and a 30 day visa for Iran, renewable at a police station. Take the Tashkent- Turkmenistan- Iran route, then on to Turkey. From Azerbaijan/Iran onward it is (relatively) easy: Georgia requires no visa and for Turkey we can obtain three-month multiple entry visas at the border.