Thursday, July 26, 2012

Omsk and the visa headache

In one point Lonely Planet guides are definitely right, visas are the biggest headache when traveling through central Asia. Unfortunately we need them for each and every country on our way. However we were not very worried yet, since visa for Kazakhstan was supposed to be the easiest one to obtain. We have read countless posts about how everyone got it the same day and how it was no problem at all. That was the only reason we decided to stop in Omsk and try to get it now. We were still optimistic when we went to the consulate, as the guy there also told us that in most cases visa is ready in one day. So we filled all the papers, copied everything they wanted, sacrificed 2 pass photos and were told to come back in the afternoon. Punctuality was obviously not highly valued since although the office was supposed to be open at 4 pm no one appeared till 5:15. We recognized a few people who were applying for the visa the same morning and saw them getting all the papers, so we were still in good moods, even though we were told to come back the next day.

Unfortunately Omsk doesn't really have much to offer. Just another big city without much charm or attractions, but with temperatures reaching 35 degrees. They have a river though, so we were sharing our time between beach and sushi bar with Wi-Fi, simply killing the time until the consulate opens again, hoping we will be able to continue our journey as soon as possible, since we still had quite a few kilometers to drive. When we came back again the visas were still not ready. For some reason everybody else seemed to get one, just ours were getting late. So we were told to come in a couple of hours, since there was still a possibility the confirmation will come at the end of a day. We were getting a bit inpatient since it was Friday and we knew we can not wait till Monday to pick up the papers since we won't make it on time to Irkutsk, where we still have to apply for Mongolian visa. And honestly we didn’t really want to spend more time in Omsk. We got used to the city but we were still quite far from liking it.

We have to say the consulate workers were extremely nice and friendly, but they told us there is nothing they can do to speed up the whole process. No express visa or extra fees that could help us win a day or two. They can issue a visa directly when they get a confirmation in a system, but they can't do nothing without it. And they were also surprised it was not there yet. It was actually very funny, cause the visa officer didn't speak much English, so everyday he was picking up a new translator to help us understand the procedure and inform us about the progress or actually the lack of it. We met some really nice people that way, like two American missionaries who were staying in Russia for two years. They were living and working in Novosibirsk, telling us how hard the Russian winters are. We really started appreciating the high temperatures in Omsk. Those guys really helped us a lot, as my Russian is definitely not good enough to discuss visa procedures, but it all didn't change the fact that our visas were not in the system yet. Although the consulate was officially closed on Saturday we were told to come anyway, since the confirmation are also done on weekends. It was late and we didn't feel like driving anywhere so we decided to give it a last try on a next day.

When we entered the consulate on Saturday we could already see from the faces of the workers that our visas are still not there. They told us once again how sorry they were and that they are sure it will all come on Monday, but we simply couldn't spend another 2 days in Omsk. We knew we still had a long way to go and we had to organize visas for Mongolia too, so we decided to drop it and try again when we're in Ulaanbaatar. They also told us they checked and the consulate should be open when we get there, as we already heard enough stories that it was closed for 6 weeks due to vacation break... So everybody please keep your fingers crossed as it has to work next time!

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