All I want to do is join my client for an event in Moscow but the Russians have other ideas!! Oh and of course, Croatia too!! I have been travelling to Europe, the Middle East (of course), Asia (Australia and the Americas are on the list) and have seen my share of queues, bureaucratic red tape but I think that this experience of getting visas to these two countries are really something else.
Lets start with Croatia first. First - the only embassy/consulate for all services is in Egypt for all Middle Eastern countries. Not Dubai (usually the most popular) or Riyadh (because it is the largest country after Iran) - Egypt. I like Egypt but the Egyptians invented red tape (they don't list that in their list of accomplishments because I am just guessing they did since they are one of the oldest civilisations in the world). Anyway - back to my story.
We called the Embassy to ask for details and since it is Egypt, we asked our Arabic guy to speak to them. Here is how the conversation went (a combination of several conversations over the course of a week or so)
Could you tell me what are the requirements for a visa to Croatia? The passengers traveling are 3 Indians and 1 Jordanian living and working in UAE (United Arab Emirates).
We will fax you (in this day and age - they still use fax here) the requirements but you need to go to our website and download the application form (some progress I see). The application can be either be sent by courier along with the passport and each individual passenger has to come to Cairo in person to pick it up. Or they come in person and submit the application and we can send the passports back by courier.
All of them have to travel? They are busy people - could we not send one person on behalf of the others?
No it has to be done in person.
(Suddenly it dawns on us that we are talking about original passports and not copies) Hang on a minute, if we give you the original passport how are we meant to travel?
Then you have to stay here until the visa is processed.
But you say this will take us 10 working days!! These are senior managers from our company and cannot afford be away from work for that length of time. Besides there is the expense of hotel accommodation.
I am sorry those are the rules.
A lot of haggling and to-ing and fro-ing, they concede.
Alright - you can send the applications with a copy of your passport by courier and come in person with the original passport to get the visa stamped in your passport.
This seemed a little bit more reasonable than the first option but still a fairly expensive proposition considering that we have to spend on four return airfares, two nights' hotel accommodation - even with budget airlines, shared accommodation - this has to be the world's highest visa fees!! My client balked because he has to pay for these. So he calls the hotel in Split where the event is scheduled to be held. The hotel says it will pull as many strings as it can and hopes that we can get away with sending the applications with passport copies and one person traveling to Cairo on behalf of all passengers and get the passports stamped.
We are still waiting to hear how these strings play out!!
In the meantime, we make our plans as if nothing happened.