Monday, 13 June 2016 08:21

Need a visa? Bring nerves

It may be a journey before the journey to get that visa It may be a journey before the journey to get that visa

I’ve always considered myself lucky to be an EU citizen, able to travel visa-free to so many countries. I’ve only heard from non-EU friends how daunting it can be to get a visa at some of the embassies.

Until recently, I actually thought embassies were here to assist, answer questions, advise foreigners on travels to their respective countries… well, apparently not all of them.

My first visa adventure involved an embassy with all of three opening hours on three days per week. When I called on Day one to confirm the information I had found online, it turned out, no one there spoke English and the person on the other end just kept hanging up. But with still six opening hours left, I decided to try two days later. That time: no answer all morning.

So I went ahead, transferred the money including the surcharge for an express visa to ‘collect the visa on the next opening day’ and sent all documents as indicated on the website via courier.

When I called on Day three, I was lucky: The phone was answered by someone who spoke some English. Yes, my application was received. I could pick up my visa in 10 days. The conversation continued like this: “10 days?! But I included the express fee and all necessary documents.” Person on the other line: “No express visa! 10 days!” Click.

End of story.

Looking back I find humour in it, but on the day I found it exasperating – nothing like the feeling of utter helplessness to spoil your excitement about an upcoming trip – as a tourist – planning to spend your money there.

For my next trip, I was happy to read online that visas for EU citizens can be obtained upon arrival at the airport.

After all, it was just a weekend short trip, once again, to spend my money as a tourist. Just to confirm, I called the respective embassy anyway.

The conversation that followed left me speechless! I asked for a confirmation of the online information and was told “No, you need a visa. You need to come to Nicosia!” I suggested that surely one could send an application via courier.

A testy voice on the other line asked, “Well, do you have an application form?” I suggested once more using that convenient tool called the internet to which I got the reply: “Well, you can try. Some people find it, some don’t. If you don’t, you will come to Nicosia.”

I explained sweetly that no, if I didn’t find it, I would call her back and she would help me find it and hung up. I did some deep breathing and called a travel agent who quickly checked with a major airline and confirmed cheerfully: “Yes, you are correct. You get the visa at the airport.”

I hardly ever do this, but I actually called back and had it out with that ‘lovely person’ – in a relatively polite and factual way, but with lots of extra adrenaline mixed in. Possibly this was meant to prepare me for the adrenaline rushes I’d experience during my trip?

Article as published in The Cyprus Weekly of June 10th 2016 

Mary Anglberger

I’ve been travelling the world for over 20 years teaching English and am now taking time to follow my passion for photography and writing. I want to share all the things, events and people that have inspired and inspire me and spread those positive vibes all around.

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