Monday, 25 June 2012
Day 93 - The next stage in Kazakhstan contingency planning. (China)
With only three days until our China entry date, we’ve spent the last week hopeful that the Chinese Government will allow us to go through Tibet. However, even though officially it is now open to tourists and they’re accepting applications, they’re not actually issuing any permits yet. So even though we applied and paid for these permits many months ago, our applications are now sitting on someone’s desk somewhere, essentially it seems, being ignored.
In the mean time we are putting our Kazakh contingency plan in place. We’ve re-evaluated our options for this and decided that mailing our passports whilst in China isn’t a very good idea. It’s illegal to travel without your passport, and in some places I’d take this with a pinch of salt. China though feels like a country where this type of rule is probably best adhered to.
Originally NAVO had told us that we wouldn’t be able to get Kazakh visas in Urumqi, as we had expected, because it is only a visa office mainly positioned for Chinese people doing business in Kazakhstan. But we would be able to get Kyrgyzstan visas at $300+ each. Regardless of the price though, we really didn’t want to go straight to Kyrgyzstan because they don’t have Embassies for all the other countries that we will then need visas for. So it looked as if our options were either to postpone China (at great expense) and organise Kazakh visas before going there (probably by flying back to Bangkok or something), or catch some sort of public transport to Beijing whilst in China. Neither of these options had us particularly overjoyed.
But the good thing about NAVO being a large and reputable company is that they’ve got contacts all over the place, so we heard yesterday that actually they will issue us with Kazakh visas at the Visa Office in Urumqi. It is going to cost $100 each and will take three days, but we’re pretty happy with that. The only problem is that they also want us to have Invitation Letters at another $140 per person, even though Australians are one of 47 nationalities that are not required to have an Invitation Letter.
So now we are just waiting to hear back from both NAVO and the Urumqi Office directly about whether we need to get the Invitation Letter or not. If we do, we have until Thursday (today being Tuesday) to apply for it in time for it to be issued.