The idea to go over silk route one day was with me for quite awhile. That was also the reason that I spent just a month in Australia – summer is here and this is the best time to go on the silk route. Although official silk route doesn’t start in Vietnam, I’m gonna start from Hanoi (hopefully) all the way to Europe. Yes, I need a new passport soon!

Hanoi is handy as here are many embassies you won’t find anywhere else (apparently from 90 countries) – at the same spot. It feels weird and wrong to have at least approximate plan for next few months as for the last year my way of life was pretty much “just go with the flow”. Well, silk route is not a go with the flow, as getting visas require some logic, research and planning.

Hard to believe, but is a year since I left Barcelona.

The rough plan goes like this: Hanoi – China – Kazakhstan – Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, cross Caspian sea to Azerbaijan, Georgia, cross Black sea to Bulgaria – almost there! The only limit I have is my passport. I’m either gonna run out of empty pages or “valid for at least 6 months on entering the country”. Decided to skip Tadjikistan and Pamir highway this time .. Well, one day we will have it all.

Here is some tailored info for anyone getting visas in Hanoi!

Chinese and Kazakh visas in Hanoi

Chinese Visa

Pretty much no hassle. Don’t be stupid and go to embassy to ask what you need to have. They have most of the stuff written on the website or you can find it in bunch of other websites. (Spain had trained me well enough to deal with all bureaucracy!)

Normal processing time: 4 days
Price: $30
Time: 30 days tourist (enter any time within next 3 months)

Here is my list. Took me one visit to the embassy and I picked up my visa 4 days later.

– Visa application form (google it): 4 pages where they ask everything, from your employer phone number to professions of your extended family. You need to write down your itinerary; 4-5 places in a month time seems to be good enough.
– 1 passport photo.
– Copy of your first page in passport (photo and address) and copy of your vietnamese visa.
– Hotel booking for your first destination. Anything decent from seems to be good enough, just don’t go for something $5 hostel alike. Anyways – book something that you can cancel after your visa is approved (I did so).
– Train/bus ticket in. I didn’t have it so I asked twice if just the ticket in is good enough or need to have ticket out of China also. “No, just ticket in that we know when you are coming”. Jumped to the cafe around the corner (had my laptop with me) and “booked” something from border town to Nanning. Train tickets into China are bit tricky to get, found online agency ‘DIY China’ that send back confirmation of “reservation” and printed that out. Went back within 20 mins and handed out the papers. They didn’t seem to care, although they were expecting to see Hanoi – China on the ticket. Told them I gonna be in Sapa and around and that train ticket is from Chinese border. They said ok, asked for my Vietnamese phone number that they can call if something is missing and told me a bank address where I’m supposed to pay before picking up visa.

Colleague of mine did it over Vietnamese travel agent. Only passport and $100 required, got passport with visa back in 3 days. I considered that as my plan B as I definitely don’t want to go to Chinese embassy 5 times.

Kazakh Visa

Normal processing time: 5 working days (week)
Price: $20 + 50k VNĐ bank fee (I read everywhere it should be $30??)
Time: 30 days tourist (visa is date specific, you have to exit before it expire, if you enter later you won’t get any extra days).

They have a facebook page, nothing else. They were really amazingly friendly and they speak perfect english. All done in 5 mins. Picked up a week later. Yes, they kept the passport. Payment at specific bank only. I f* it up and haven’t brought the payslip back immediately, but on the day I was supposed to pick up the visa. (Of course I haven’t put vietnamese number on application). They were super friendly, told me they will try to process it today so I could pick it up a day later. They called me at 10 PM that visa is approved and I can pick it up next morning (although officially they don’t work on Wednesdays).

Here goes the list:

– Visa application
– 1 photo
– passport copy and copy of Vietnamese visa
– I had a copy of my travel insurance policy as it was mentioned in visa application, they took it.
– I didn’t have a statement that I have a right to return to the “country of my origin” as my official address is in another country. They didn’t say anything.
– They asked for LOI – I don’t need it as my country is one of those lucky with “simplified visa procedure”. They checked and said is true.
– They asked how I’m getting to Kazakhstan. I simply said that taking train from China. All good, no more questions.
– “Letter of request”. I didn’t have it. They gave me a paper and pen and say to write it To the Embassy of Kazakhstan in Hanoi: I request tourist visa 🙂

Kyrgyz visa

Kyrgyzstan doesn’t require visas for most of EU citizens and some other countries. Thank you guys, with for visa free and no border planet one day!