The Visa Again

After my experience with Iranian visas, I was slightly dreading putting in applications for Turkish visas, but alas, the task had fallen to me to get hold of six visas before we set off next month. Last time I went to Turkey (March 2012), you could just buy a visa on arrival in Istanbul airport for £10 – I thought the system was a bit strange because you HAD to pay in British sterling, which seemed a bit odd seeing as you were on Turkish soil. I don’t know what you would do if you had forgotten to bring British money with you to Turkey as there was no way of getting any British money when you got there – would you be sent back? Surely this would happen quite frequently, as it certainly wasn’t well advertised in advance that you would need this £10…

Trusting our luck, we are arriving in Istanbul on the 11th April…and the Turkish visa regulations change on…the 11th April. This means we have to get them online in advance. Thank god, the application process is about the easiest thing you can imagine: one 30-second form per person, then you pay online through an email link (about £12 each, which in comparison to the £190 Iranian visas seems like a steal!), and then you just download your visa. Not only that, but the website even LOOKS nice. If only all applications (and not just for visas) could be like this…

passport

Anyway, all of this application-making has made me think what an odd system visas are nowadays. Certainly for countries that charge £190 per visa I guess the point is to make money off tourists – and why not, they are visiting your country after all; for wealthy countries they are also a way of making sure that tourists don’t overstay their welcome. In today’s globalised world, however, I wonder if they will ever become outdated, as countries want to boost tourism revenue and remove barriers to potential visitors – especially as I’m sure electronic systems could be developed which would allow relevant authorities to track how long foreigners were in their country. When two passengers were found to be on Flight MH370 with fraudulent passports, we were told that it was apparently quite common for people in South-East Asia to be travelling on passports not their own. If this is indeed the case, you would think countries should start to think whether paper passports were the best way of tracking travellers around the world.

Also, I am starting to feel incredibly lucky that most European Union countries have a no-visa agreement: just another reason why I guess I am fairly pro-EU. Not just for personal reasons (having to apply for a visa each time I hopped across the channel would certainly be a pain), but also I think the idea that trade with Europe would be unaffected by moving away from such agreements is slightly laughable.

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