Post 263: Minnie The Minsk
Well .... a Happy New Year to everyone. We're into January and the bureaucratic travel game has begun. Officially speaking, for the next journey, Vietnam is the only country where I need to obtain a visa before I arrive there. I'd initially thought that like Thailand, Laos and Cambodia, I'd just rely upon my good fortune of being British and receive my visa on arrival at the airport in Hanoi. Sadly, I hadn't read the 'small print' and in December discovered that in order to qualify for 'Visa on Arrival', you actually have to apply in advance. Oh ... is that really 'Visa on Arrival?'
Not a problem, I'll apply for my 90 day multiple entry visa in London and everything will be rosy. But, I'm not sure of the dates that I'll be there and I have to specify them on the application form. Unfortunately, the visa will start ticking as soon as it reaches the specified 'Entry Date' whether I'm in Vietnam or not. So, to be on the safe side, I'll apply for a 180 day multiple entry visa instead. Problem solved.
So I'll fly to Thailand, collect everything that I need for the journey and then travel on to Hanoi, buy the Minsk and begin. Oh, another problem. Thailand might let me into their amazing country, but none of the Airlines will fly me there. Unfortunately I've got a very short memory. In 2008, China Airlines refused to fly me to the USA because I didn't have an onwards ticket or an existing visa to enter America. I've now got the same problem with Thailand. I'd initially decided on a one-way ticket. Not because I'm not coming back, though that would be nice, but because I've no idea exactly when I'll be coming back. So, I now need either a visa for Thailand, or a return ticket with a home leg that will never be used. I'm still holding out for a free ticket from my favourite airline and so decided that the visa was the best way to proceed.
Normally when a UK Citizen arrives at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, you receive a 30 Day Tourist Visa when you pass through immigration control. That's fine, but in January 2009 they changed the rules for crossing land borders. When crossing into Thailand via a land border, you now only receive a 14 Day Tourist Visa. Unfortunately, when I ride the Minsk from Cambodia into Thailand, I'll need an awful lot more than 14 Days. So, I'll have to apply for a Thai visa that I'll use for that particular crossing. That's fine, but it doesn't really help me to get into Thailand in the first place. So, if I've already got a perfectly good 90 Day Thai visa sitting in my passport when I first arrive in Bangkok, will they still give me the usual 30 Day Tourist Visa on Arrival? Normally it wouldn't matter because 90 Days is ample, but once I exit Thailand for the first time, the Thai visa will automatically expire.
These are not 'Huge Problems', especially when you consider the hurdles that a Thai National has to leap over in order to obtain a simple Tourist Visa into Blighty, but it's still a pain the arse to arrange. On the other hand, at least I'm not returning to work behind a desk at the end of the Christmas holidays, so I'm not bloody complaining. As things stand, I'm hoping to receive a return 'London-Bangkok-London' ticket from the Airline, with a return date that can be easily changed. Of course, in the first instance I could have bought such a ticket and avoided the initial Thai visa problems, but such a ticket costs three times more than a cheap 'Bucket Shop' ticket that has set travel dates. So, assuming that the Airline Ticket arrives, then I'll get my free 30 Day Tourist Visa on arrival in Bangkok and then apply for my next Thai visa at the embassy in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
I'll let you know what the outcome is, but it looks like I'll be heading East at the beginning of February and returning to Blighty in May.
Happy New Year