February 28, 2004

I rove Japan!

The Narita airport in Tokyo has a free Internet connection, so I have about two minutes to pop in and say hi, or...ohayo!!! Made it into Japan, where we had an overnight layover and got put up in this fabulous hotel by Japan Airlines. It will probably be the nicest place we will stay in during our whole trip, so we tried to make the most of it even though we were exhausted (The gift shop there sells ramen right next to Burberry scarves, thought that was funny...) Now we are off to Hanoi Will check in as soon as we can.

Posted by Christine at 07:22 PM | Comments (0)

February 20, 2004

Vietnam VISA arrived

It was quite fast. Deposited at the Menlo Park, CA, post office on Wednesday evening, sent via Express Mail. Delivered to the Vietnam embassy in Washington, DC, on Friday at 11a. Monday was a holiday. Processed and mailed on Tuesday via Priority Mail, using the enclosed self-addressed stamped envelope. Arrived at Austin Thursday at noon, a week before take-off. The well-meaning spouse could not see why he should pay for a Fed Ex either way, esp. when Fed Ex has repeatedly had trouble delivering to our house in the boonies. But he now knows better than to make executive decisions regarding visas. Next time, he'll save even more money by sticking his wife in a plane using frequent flyer miles and sending her to Washington, DC, to escort the passports personally.

Posted by Toli at 02:29 AM | Comments (0)

February 12, 2004

Visa - it's not where I want it to be...

If you've seen me lately while we've been back in Austin, you've probably heard me groaning about visas and all the paperwork required to get us into Vietnam (and the rest of Asia) for the next leg of our trip. Let me just take a moment here to explain that obtaining a visa to enter Vietnam is not one of the hardest things to do. The process is pretty straightforward, and the turnaround time is a lot faster than it used to be. (Heck, before the 90's, no one could get a visa into the country anyway.) So as a disclaimer, don't let the following entry discourage you from navigating the visa process if you plan on travelling to Vietnam.

That said, here are some things I've learned over the past two weeks that no embassy, person, or travel website could have warned me about. (Well, okay, I was warned about some of them, but the total whammy of it all falling on my head was a big ol' surprise to me.)

So - as straightforward as the visa application process is, be prepared for delays to happen if (in order of occurence):

A. You need to use your passport during the application process, because you have to mail it in along with the visa fees and application. And no, a photocopy won't do because they need to stamp the visa into the passport.

B. You are applying for a business visa (not the typical tourist one) and the well-meaning person who secured the pre-approval for you listed the wrong date of arrival on the application and therefore you are not pre-approved for your real arrival date (which is only one day before the pre-approved arrival date anyway). Is this making sense so far?

C. The Vietnamese government can't (or won't) change the date on their pre-approval, so you have to either reapply for pre-approval or beg the Embassy/Consulate to accept your real arrival date.

D. Your passport expires in September, and you can't remember if the six-month-validity rule applies to the date you arrive in the country or if it applies to the date you depart the country, so you have to call the Consulate - several times, because they don't always answer the phone - to know for sure.

D(ii). You also happen to own a passport that, for some reason or another, can only be renewed for one year at a time, making it difficult to travel for longer than a few months at a time because you'll quickly violate the six-month-validity-rule.

E. You speak to a representative at the Consulate (in San Francisco) who says that they can issue business visas whose pre-approval was sent to the Embassy (in Washington, DC), so you decide to wait a few days until your spouse will be going to San Francisco and can submit the application in person. (And thereby clear up any misunderstandings regarding the arrival date.)

F. Your spouse gets bogged down in work and cannot get to the Consulate right away.

G. You then find out from your spouse that whoever you spoke to gave you bad advice because no, if the pre-approval was sent to the Embassy, you have to apply at the Embassy. The Consulate can't help you out.

G (ii, also related to D). Your passport has been recently renewed, and the person looking at it doesn't realize that the renewal stamp is on another page and thinks your passport has expired.

H. (Subject to opinion) Your well-meaning spouse decides to send the visa paperwork to the Embassy using U.S. Express Mail instead of FedEx, so not only is the delivery slower and less reliable (in your opinion) but even worse, you are unable to obsessively track the progress of your visa application. (And this is mostly your fault anyway, because your spouse was so busy comforting you over the phone over the whole situation that he couldn't make it to the FedEx office before it closed.)

Sadly, we are only partway into the month of February, so there is room for much more to be added to this list! (Hopefully I won't be adding this one: the Vietnamese government, learning of this weblog, decides it doesn't like the blogger and refuses the visa.)

Posted by Christine at 03:29 AM | Comments (0)