Thursday, 9 March 2017
The Uzbekistan embassy in Almaty was described by several people as looking like a donor kebab stand rather than an embassy. Some even suggested bringing some cigarettes for the security guard to get ahead. But I didn’t.
I, a US citizen, didn’t require a Letter of Invitation (LOI). So, I took my Uzbekistan visa application, copies of my passport info and Kazakh stamp/migration card and my passport photos.
I patiently waited until 15:00 when the embassy was opened to the public. But nothing opened. 15:15 came and the guards yelled “visa” and I pushed my way to the front and through the gate. Then another queue (or something like a queue but not really) formed with nobody at the window. Another 10 minutes of waiting went, then a lady came in. She quickly went to her desk and eventually took my application. “Ahhh…. American… OK.” Then the window closed. Another 10 minutes passed. A man came out with some stacks of papers and my passport. He tried to read my name then just said “American”. He said my papers will be sent to Tashkent for processing and told me to come back next week. “What day next week? It’s Thursday. Come back Thursday?” I asked. “Next week,” the man said then smiled.
Thursday, 16 March 2017
I arrived at 14:45 to the Uzbek embassy. It was still crazy busy with Uzbeks pushing and yelling at each other. At 15:10, the security guard yelled, “Visa!” So I pushed my way through.
Thanks to Google Translate, I had written that I applied the week before. I showed the administration lady this. She smiled and said, “OK.”
While waiting, I started chatting with a Singaporean guy. He was doing a crazy overland trip from Singapore to London. We kept moving because the room was tiny and the Uzbeks who got through kept playing musical chairs as they waited.
Like magic, the small window door opened and I heard my name. The lady handed me my payment slip!
Luckily, the Singaporean guy knew where to go because I surely didn’t!
We walked fast because we wanted to beat the rush of other people. At the bank, the security guard/receptionist asked, “касса?” Then he got me a number. When my number was called, I went to a booth with a door. I handed the cashier my payment of $160 USD (😭). After checking several times that my money was real, she said I had to pay an extra 1,770KZT ($5.35) because I had to pay in local currency. After she triple checked my tenge, she handed me a receipt.
I asked the security guard/receptionist to make a copy of everything. He pointed at a 20KZT coin. (Sigh… More money…)
I went back to the embassy where an actual line had formed. I walked by the line when a lady tries to grab me to prevent me from entering. I yelled, “Visa!!” and the security guard let me through.
The little window was closed, so the Singaporean guy and I just hovered about then bum rushed it with our copied receipts.
Another 10 minutes passed, when the side door opened. “E…Laine, American?”
In my passport, I got my Uzbekistan visa with the correct dates and length. The Singaporean guy requested 30 days, but got 26. Go figure…
It only took 5 business days to get my Uzbekistan visa without the LOI. Not as bad as expected!
Friday, 17 March 2017
Robb needed to get a LOI because he needed it. The paperwork was submitted by Stantours on Thursday, 09 March and they said he’ll get the LOI on Friday, 24 March. The longer wait time was because of Nauryz, the spring festival (and national public holidays) which takes place on 21-23 March.
Just to check on the status, Robb sent Stantours an email. He got an immediate response saying it’ll be ready in 2-3 hours. 😱
And like magic, Robb’s LOI appeared.
And we did the whole visa application thing again at the Uzbekistan embassy.
It was pretty much a deja-vu scenario minus the random lady grabbing my arm or the helpful Singaporean guy.
The only caveat was paying. Robb’s visa cost $60. On the receipt from the Uzbek embassy, it had 18,000KZT. At Center Credit, they took his USD payment and asked for 6,500KZT ($20) more! This weird additional payment also happened to the Singaporean guy too.
But we got the visas. Next stop, Uzbekistan! (…In about a week…)