To help any fellow travellers looking to do a similar journey, we thought we would share some of the visa application processes that we have experienced.
Initial disclaimer: this is what happened with/for us, at the time that we made our visa application. Everything and anything could have changed between when this happened, and when you are reading this.
Some advice: do not leave your visa application to the night before you want to go to the application centre! We did this every single time, and regretted it every single time. It was stressful, and resulted in us having many a late night, taking extra days off work, spending more money than we needed to, and delaying our whole trip by a few weeks.
Some more advice: when budgeting for a trip, don’t forget to take into account the complete cost of visa applications – not just the cost of the visa itself, but also things like the travel to the centre (most likely in London), printing lots and lots of papers, passport photos, the cost of getting your passport posted back afterwards etc.
Our experience: Firstly I researched which countries (out of our list of 39) required visa applications before we could enter. For British citizens, information can be found on gov.uk foreign travel advice. This information is largely aimed at people flying into countries, so sometimes you have to do a bit more digging for the restrictions at land borders. I am a spreadsheet nerd, so naturally I made a spreadsheet for this – colour coded obviously.
Most of the countries that we planned to visit either did not require a visa (green on the spreadsheet), or a visa application could be made online or at the border (orange). The only countries that this wasn’t the case for were Russia, Turkmenistan, China, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. For these countries, the visa application process involved sending off your passports to get the visa – meaning that we needed to apply for the visa before we left the UK (red). After a bit more research, we decided that the cost and effort of the visa application for Turkmenistan and Bangladesh just was not worth it, so agreed to bypass these countries and save them for another time. That left us with three applications: Russia, China, and Pakistan.
Once we had set off on our journey, we discovered via Facebook that we could not enter India via a land border with an e-visa. So we needed to apply for an Indian visa too. This is possible to do outside of your home country – it can be done in Islamabad in Pakistan amongst other places. However, I had a planned visit home for two weeks in July, so applied for both of our visas in London during that time.