I love, but I did’nt really start traveling until I was 45. The major obstacle was finance, thus I ended up working my butt off behind a computer, just to earn a living. I always wondered how those back packers could travel with limited money. As for me, to make sure that I had spare money at the end of the month to enjoy myself like going to a café once a month is already was hard work. Everything changed when I got a job offer in the Middle East and I become an expat.
Having an expat salary really gave me a big economical boost that enabled me to finance my traveling. However there’s this other painful reality that I have to face when traveling; VISA! Being born and having a third world Nationality, going to other countries (other than going home to my own country) I need to check the visa requirements for each country that I plan to visit.
When reading a lot of travel books and travel blogs where they always say you need to check for visa requirements. However, they never say that obtaining a visa can be a real pain. A lot of travel bloggers telling stories of how they switch from being in the rat race and turn to be a traveler just like that, without any worries about visas and they just go without any preparation! I wonder why…?
However, talking to fellow expats coming from many different countries and with partners from differing countries with differing visa requirements, they moan about their partner, who needs to plan months ahead before traveling, as sometimes it takes more than a month just to prepare for the ‘hassle of getting a visa’.
This is an example of my experience when I tried to get a visa for UK in Qatar; and the same in Bahrain.
- British Embassy does not process any visa; they sub contract it to a visa agency called: VFS Global. Located in a separate building and they have no connection what so ever with the British Embassy.
- There is a long list and an elaborate form to fill-in before I can submit the visa application form to the agency; the application form can be downloaded from UK Border Agency
- I need to make an online appointment with the agency before I can personally hand in the application to the agency. In a busy season, it took me 3 weeks from the day I made an online appointment to the face to face meeting at the Agency. They give you a specific time as well; my slot was I had to be there between 12.30 to 13.00 o’clock. They also added a special note, telling me not to be late, as they will not entertain after the appointed time.
- To fill in the form, there are 2 pages of guidance notes on how to fill in the form; and the form itself consists of 8 pages of questionnaires about my personal information, and that includes my bank balance; how I will finance my travel and during my stay in the UK.
- They also asked for a letter from my sponsor (be it a husband or a company and if it’s from my husband, he needs to get a letter from his sponsor) stating salary and that I will return to Qatar after my visit.
- A photo copy of my bank statement or a printout of my bank statement is no good. It has to be certified by the bank!
- An ideal good document would also include copy of my entire old passport… thus, old passport still has it uses….
Apart from the visa agency, visiting other western countries requires the same procedure: make an appointment, compiling all the personal documents and information which takes weeks by itself before.
The question now is what if I wanted to do a RTW – round the world trip? I will only buy one way ticket and it’s an open ticket…. Could I visit UK still – even without a return ticket to my home country! And what happens if the country I plan to visit has no representative in the country I live and visas can only be applied from outside that country?