As worthy heirs to the homeland of wine and cheese, we can go to many countries without a visa. Great ! But obviously the biggest countries and the most difficult to circumvent, not to mention China and Russia, do not make the task easy and ask for a loooot of paperwork to get the magic stamp.
And, cherry on the Garonne, it is generally very complicated to obtain a visa outside your country of residence. Meaning it is impossible in many, many embassies.
The holy reference for where/when/how to obtain visas on the silk road, whatever your nationality, is Caravanistan .
For Azerbaijan , it’s a e-visa, but be careful, there are plenty of agencies that offer this, at rates that vary from single to triple for a service quite equivalent. And the first site that appears on google is the most extensive. The real good site is https://evisa.gov.az/en/ it costs about twenty dollars.
As we waited for the last moment to do it, we had a week to wait in Tbilisi, and we took the opportunity to make a tour to Armenia . The Azerbaijanis and the Armenians are really, really not friends so we were afraid to be denied entry into Azerbaijan with an Armenian stamp on the passport, but had no problem.
Once in Azerbaijan, it’s not over, if you stay more than 10 days in the country you need to register
Visa done in October 2017
The Chinese visa is almost impossible to get in Central Asia at the time. We tried in Baku (Azerbaijan, October 2017), Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan, December 2017), Almaty (Kazakhstan, December 2017) and Astana (Kazakhstan, January 2018) with no success. Most of the time they don’t even let you in the embassy. We finally got ours in Seoul, South Korea in February 2018!
Plane tickets in and out of China can be generated here. It’s safer to fly from the place where you apply for the visa, as it can happen that they reject your application and tell you to apply from the city where you’ll fly. You should of course have a visa, if needed, for the country where you go next.
Hotel bookings can me made via booking.com, there are a lot of booking with free cancellation and that you should pay on arrival, so you don’t need to pay anything as long as you don’t forget to cancel them.
If you are unemployed, as you’ll have to say it in the application form, a bank statement showing that you have some money may be helpful, even though it’s hard to say how helpful it is.
Getting a visa at the Chinese embassy in Astana, Kazakhstan
Our best hope was Astana. We went to the embassy with everything prepared : hotel bookings, flight tickets, detailed itinerary…
The lady at the counter (who speaks English !), told us it was impossible for non-resident to apply for a visa in Astana, and that we had to do it in our country. We insisted, said that we left France a long time ago so we couldn’t have done it there… She was nice enough to go to ask to somebody else if they could make an exception. She came back 5 minutes later and said OK ! wow ! So she took a closer look to our papers, and told us to change a few things in the form. We went out of the embassy, the time to print the form again, and got back an hour later.
Bad news. She got a call from her boss in the meantime, it was impossible again due to a “technical problem”. We insisted, how ? why ? when ? And got no useful information…
We went back the next Monday, to see if the “technical problem” had been solved.. But no luck, she told us our only option is the 72h visa free transit. Sounds hard to cycle through China in 72h!
The entrance is on Kabanbay batyr prospekt 28/1 (corner with Kunaeva ulitsa). The Chinese embassy is on the right side of the building, at the very end. At the gate there is a little “hut” where you can make id photos and copies, but it was over-crowed every time we went there. There is a bank across the street on Kabanbay batyr, you don’t need to pay cash at the embassy, they give you a receipt and you go to pay at the bank – if you manage to apply.
Getting a visa at the Chinese visa center in Seoul, South Korea
In South Korea you cannot get your visa directly at the Chinese embassy, the procedure is handled by the Chine Visa Center. It’s an international organization that receives your application, checks that everything is correct, and then send it to the embassy.
We got our visa done at the Chinese visa center of Seoul Square, takes 4 days for the standard procedure (55.000 Won / ~40€), or 2 with the Express service (89.000 Won, ~70€), or 0 for the Urgent one (110.000 Won, ~80€). You can get a 30 days visa with 3 months validity;
You have to submit the same usual documents (1 ID photo 22mmx48mm, passport copy, application form, plane tickets in and out, planed itinerary day per day, hotel bookings). If you need to print things, there are computers and printers at the center, just prepare some coins to put in the box if you print anything (but it’s cheap). You can make an appointment before going there, it’s supposed to decrease the waiting time but in our case we had to queue with everybody else.
We tried to apply with our boat booking (Osaka to Shanghai) but they told us it would probably not work for the embassy, so we got a plane ticket, not to take unnecessary risks. The Turkish stamps in our passports was obviously a problem (same if you have an Iranian stamps, Afghani or 2 others countries I don’t remember), we explained that we went there as tourists. It can be helpful to join a letter to your application explaining what you did in those countries. It added 1 or 2 processing days as they first asked the embassy if we could apply with the stamp, before actually applying.
There are other visa centers in South Korea, but the processing times can differ. You can contact them by email, they usually respond quite quickly.
These centers also exist in Japan but from what we’ve been told they don’t accept non-resident applications. We didn’t have to try though 🙂
Visa done in February 2018
The Russian visa , is also very complicated to get for non-resident, except the transit visa which can last up to 10 days (the duration of the visa will depend on the proof of transport, entry/exit of the territory). We went for it, our plan is to do Astana-Omsk-Vladivostok with the train (6 days), and Vladivostok-Donghae (South Korea) with a ferry.
The process at the Russian embassy is pretty straight-forward once you’ve got the necessary documents ready. Wait 5 minutes, the lady that speaks a little english checks if your itinerary is OK, you chose wether you want the express visa (next day, 70€) or normal visa (6 days turnaround, 70€), you pay at the “kacca” (it’s possible to pay with credit card) and you get an appointment at noon in 1 or 6 days to get the precious paper.
The embassy is on Baraeva street n°4, opening time Tuesday and Thursday from 15h30 to 17h30
Visa done mid-January 2018