When I started writing Caravanistan in 2011, I spent the first 3 months writing about visas. It was so complicated, so obscure, so anti-tourist.
Revisiting in 2018, visas are no longer the big issue they once were. However, there is still fear and paranoia. Governments in the region fear Islamic terrorism (Middle East, Pakistan), a hostile takeover (China, India) and Ebola (Africa). If you are from one of these places, applying for visas can still be time-consuming, frustrating, confusing and sometimes downright scary. We know, we’ve been there.
And even the best passports still have to deal with some surprise reversals and kafkaesque bureaucracy, if they want to visit everything.
So, to help you on your way, we have compiled this guide to Silk Road visas. We spend a lot of time writing and updating this guide, and we like to think it’s the definitive resource on visas in this part of the world.
Getting visa support
We have searched long and hard for local travel companies to offer visa support for those who need it. We think we have found the best ones, delivering quality service at a good price.
Getting visa support is now as easy as filling in a small form (and paying :-).
Can I trust this information?
We keep this guide as up to date as possible. Besides living and traveling in the region and having a lot of direct experience with bureaucracy in these countries, we also get a lot of information from other travelers. There are no longer sources referred to in the articles because of link rot, word of mouth or e-mail, but all the basic stuff is cross-checked with the international Timatic website airlines use.
So we do everything we can to keep the information on this pages correct. But please remember that you are coming to a place where rules change as quickly as the mood of those who make them, and nothing is 100% certain. And please, if you find out something new at the embassy, let us know.
- If you are planning an overland trip, we recommend you to get as many visas as possible in your home country. Start as early as possible with this task, this always takes longer than you expect.
- Plan where you will get the remaining visas. You cannot get all visas everywhere, and price and processing time changes from place to place. Keep in mind also that some cities are much more expensive than others to stay for a longer period.
- Let your fixed date visas overlap a day or 2. You don’t want to add more stress to your border crossing.
- Give away information on a need-to-know basis. Generally speaking, nobody needs or cares to know you are cycling, going to go to some far-off corner of Xinjiang, or are a journalist with a multimedia-project for an NGO. But once they know, they have to follow the rules. So in this case, it’s best to be as ordinary as possible. An office worker, only interested in the most touristy sights, sleeping in hotels and using public transport.
- Across the Silk Road, it is ok to switch passports at border crossings if you are a dual citizen of 2 countries.
- Learn a bit of Russian.
- Consuls love holidays.