1 - Check country per country
Do you need a visa? Check for which country you need it depending on your nationality (see maps of Visas for more information). When it’s compulsory: visit the consulates and embassies’ websites for these countries and in the cities where you want to get it.
Example: if you want to get the Uzbek visa in Bishkek, have a look a the Uzbek embassy website in Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan).
Do a list per country with the cost of the visa, its length, its validity period, and the compulsory documents. Get also some information about the limitations related to medicines, the required vaccines, and the equipment you should justify (like journalist’s devices…).
2 - Gather the documents
The papers you need often depend on the place. The price too. The visa is usually more expensive if you do it in your country of origin instead of a neighbour country.
If you are a European Union citizen, you can get most of your visas with:
- ID photo – Recent, with the same hair and beard…
- Copy of the passport ID page – Sometimes black and white is enough, but the picture should be clear
- Forms to fill in the consulate or on internet – Be careful, it can take up to 30′, and consulates often close before the expected time. Downloaded forms filled in advance are sometimes out of date and therefore not accepted.
You may have to complete your file with some of these documents:
- Motivation letter – Some consulates give you a model, that’s only a few lines
- Presentation of your itinerary – A few cities, the dates of your stay, a random hotel and the main touristic attractions: they won’t check the details
- Last bank statement / pay slips – Six months
- Copy of your insurance policy – It should cover a certain amount depending on the length of your stay
- Hotel booking – to cancel or not
- Flight, train or bus tickets, to enter/exit the country – You can counterfeit it at your own risk, or do a last minute cancellation, some travel agencies even provide fake tickets on demand (…)
- Letter of invitation – Got from an online application (Iran), a travel agency, or thanks to a friend who is living there and who may need to contact the administration to provide some proofs
- Vaccination proof – Mainly for american and african countries
- Medicine prescriptions – To avoid issues when you cross the border, check also the illegal substances in the country
- Marriage certificate – Especially if you travel in a muslim country as a couple
- Birth certificate
- Student certificate – To prove your activity
- Employment contract – To prove your activity
- Employer authorization
- Employer reference letter
- Registration number of your own company
- Tax declaration – Past three years
- Criminal record
3 - Plan your schedule
You have the documents, now you need to know when to apply for the visas.
If you do it in advance in your country of origin:
- Check the validity period of the visa, and when you plan to use it. Sometimes you have to precise yourself the exact entry/exit dates, sometimes you can enter the country within one month after the delivery, most of the time within three months.
If you apply during the trip:
- Some consulates do a photocopy of your passport and give it back to you, which allows you to apply for several visas at the same time. Other consulates keep the passport until delivery of the visa, which can last up to one week.
- Therefore be ready to wait one week for a visa, and up to two or three weeks for more. Some cities are known to deliver the visas faster and to have easier procedures, for instance Chiang Mai in Thailand, Urumqi in China or Bishkek in Kyrgyztan. Check the forums and try to visit the countries with long visa procedures in low season: some have delivery quotas.
- If you are in a hurry, do not hesitate to ask for an accelerated procedure. Even if they don’t propose it spontaneously it is almost always possible with the Consul agreement. You can then save 2 or 3 days and the cost is about 10 or 20$ extra.
- When you applied, just move around in the countryside during the procedure. If your normal rhythm is quite fast, staying in a city a few weeks can be really boring.