First of, many thanks to this community for being an excellent resource on all things related to travel on the silk road!
In preparation for an overland silk road trip next year, I am looking at my options for applying for a Chinese visa (and formulating a plan B should my application get rejected).
My trip will take me overland from Western Europe via Turkey, Iran, the stans (hopefully, incl. Pamir highway) and then to China. My plan is to enter China at the Irkeshtam pass and then follow a route North of Taklamakan dessert (Kashgar-Aksu-Turpan-Hami-Jiuquan-Lanzhou) while making my way towards Xi'an and then onward toward Yantai where I hope to take a ferry to South Korea. A pretty standard itinerary for any silk road trip I'd say., though perhaps a bit long .
With the recent crack down on visas at Chinese embassies in central Asia, I am considering alternatives (it doesn't hurt to be prepared ). Now, I do realize that the situation might have changed considerably when I will be in the region (a year from now). Anyway, these are my options for applying for a visa, ranked from least likely to succeed to most likely (by my perception):
- Apply somewhere in Central Asia: Tashkent, Dushanbe. Currently impossible in the region, might change over the next year.
- Apply in Tehran, unsuitable due to the limited one month validity period that is currently being handed out.
- Apply in my home country during my trip using my main passport, asking a relative to do the application. My main passport will contain stamps from long stays in Turkey and Iran at this point. This might be cause for the visa services to schedule an interview, which I would be unable to attend thereby getting rejected. It might also work fine. It does require sending my passport back and forth from a stan country.
- Apply in my home country during my trip using a second passport, asking a relative to do the application. The passport would be relatively unused (it contains a USA and a Middle East stamp at this point), which hopefully would aid in the application. The passport with visa should be mailed to me along the way however.
- Apply in my home country before my trip, ask for a double/multiple entry visa which I might be able to get for 6 months validity. If a double entry visa prohibits extension, then this is an issue though as it would be difficult for me to leave mainland China during my overland travels.
Applying while on the road is risky because a) the visa services require you to drop of the paper work in person, you can however let someone else do it when you are e.g. seriously ill, b) it might prompt an interview at the consular services bureau and c) you have to send a passport (one way or two way).
When I apply using a second passport, it might be suspicious when I show my empty passport at the Chinese border (i.e. how did you get to the border)?
The multiple entry visa might be the best way to go, though it is never sure if you actually get what you ask for. I would probably have to say I am travelling by land and therefor require the six months period, which in itself might be cause for rejection. Any tips here for the application process would be greatly appreciated: e.g. which details do I include (bicycle?), do I give my true itinerary as mentioned above?
My plan B's include:
- Continue my way North along Kazakstan, Try to apply for a visa in Kazahstan (Zharkent border crossing, though I hear North West China is unlikely to be opened to tourists due to the situation in Urumqi) or in Mongolia.
- If rejected in Kazahstan, continue to Mongolia and apply in UB.
- Fly to HK and apply there.
- Skip china and continue my trip, but a silk road trip without China would be a shame.
Any feedback on the success rate and feasibility of the aforementioned options would be highly appreciated!
Take care and safe travels!
P.s.: I'm cautious about sharing personal information, as the Chinese embassy services are known for googling you :tinfoilhat: