10. Ivory Coast (VTE)
Fortunately, there used to be a shortcut for the otherwise very difficult visa to the Ivory Coast. The VTE – Visa Touristique d’Entente – covering Benin, Togo, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast and Niger. This visa was only issued in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso and “sometimes” in Lomé, Togo (where I got mine). Meaning you first had to get a visa to one of those countries to get in and then apply there for the VTE. I believe the VTE is one of the world’s rarest issued visas and rumor has it that the VTE has now been abandoned altogether in Ouagadougou.
I got our visas (for me, Charlotte and the kids) in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. It took 5 visits to the embassy. First two times I didn’t even get into the embassy (even though I came within opening hours on my second visit, so I had to ignore the guard and go activate the intercom myself..). Third visit I was allowed in. Truly nice people inside. 4th visit was after I had been to the bank to pay the fee. 5th visit vas to collect the visas (after 3 working days, normally it is 5)
I paid Stantours to fix the required invitation letter. I then flew to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan to collect the visas. I thought it could be done in 5 minutes. I was wrong. The kind Mamma Gulyia of my guesthouse informed me that I first had to telephone to make an appointment at the Uzbek embassy. I did so and was told to come the next day at 10 am. Gulyia then told me to be there 30 minutes before. Fantastic advice since It turned out 40 other people had been appointed the same time for the “interview” (!). At 10 am the lady from the embassy announced who was on the list. I was number around 20 – meaning I would probably not be invited inside before the closing time. Fortunately I had been talking (in my very limited Russian) to a nice local guy who happened to be first on the list who told me to go in with him. Since he hadn’t filled out his forms and I had prefilled them all (for me Charlotte and the kids) I was suddenly first in line and at about 10.30 I had our 4 multiple entry visas (we needed multiple entry since we were going from Uzbekistan to Afghanistan and back).
I filled out a lot of forms and sent our 4 passports plus lots of documentation to the embassy in Berlin. I heard nothing for a long time. I wrote multiple e-mails and phoned them many a time, but they did not answer. Finally, someone in the embassy answered the phone and informed me the visas were ready. However, passports could only be picked up by courier. Of course the courier (Blue Water Shipping) insisted to agree pickup by phone before going to the embassy. And the embassy did not answer their phone…The next 3 weeks the courier called every day with no answer. I then arranged for a friend to do the pickup and issued him an authorization. However, the day before he was supposed to go to the embassy they finally picked up their phone and Blue Water finally got the appointment to collect the passports. (Note pr 1.1.2017 Kasakhstan is now visa exempt for 30 days for many citizens including those of the EU).
6. South Sudan
1. Find a local contact in South Sudan to vouch for you. Fill out many forms 2. Transfer 100USD+shipping fees to the embassy in Oslo (IBAN number on website is wrong – google it and find it with the right number of digits – then receive an extra fee from own bank because something is still wrong). 3. Send passport to postbox in Oslo. 4. Call embassy several times before passport is finally picked up and received at embassy. 5. Wait two weeks. 6. Call a few more times since nothing seems to be happening. 7. Finally realize it is because requested visa is only valid 30 days and I have applied to enter later than 30 days after issuance (thank you embassy for not just issuing wrong visa). 8. Be told that nothing can be done to fix the situation. 9. Try to get the ambassador himself on the phone. 10. Remember it ain’t over ‘til the fat lady sings. 11. Finally get the ambassador on the line. 12. Find out that an exception can luckily be made and for an extra 100 USD you can get a 3 month valid visa. 13. Return to point 2) for payment. 14 Wait a week. 15. Call again to make sure passport is sent. 16. Wait two days. 17 Call again and find out passport was still not sent. 18. Raise your voice marginally (not too much or your passport may never come back) and inform that you are leaving for Africa within a week. 19. Wait three days and receive the passport (sent with normal mail not registered as you have paid for). 20. Open your passport with trembling hands and realize everything is ok. 21. Smile.
Some globetrotters regard this as the overall hardest visa to get. I used the embassy in Stockholm. According to their website you need an official invitation signed by the foreign minister in Angola (!) plus loads of other docs that are very, very hard to get – and these docs obviously need to be translated to Portuguese by an official notary. Fortunately, the website info is somewhat out of date and once you get hold of all the docs (that can be in English and for short tourist trips you do not need the foreign ministers signature) – criminal record, employment declarations etc. the visa is actually achievable. Embassy in Stockholm was closed 3 weeks over Christmas when I went, but with the help from the kind people working there I managed to secure my visa just before they closed for Christmas. Note: eVisas have now been introduced so this visa is now MUCH easier.
4. Equatorial Guinea
I first called the embassy in Berlin. They informed me that Danes must apply in Brussels. I then called Brussels (speaking Spanish on the phone). In Brussels they needed an official invitation signed by the Equatorial Guinea foreign ministry. I almost gave up when a kind person within my travel network informed me that there might be a loophole using the Madrid embassy. I collected loads of docs, bought a flight ticket, translated allmost every document to Spanish myself and had a friend who lives in Madrid hand in the application in person. I ended up getting it same day for just a 100 Euros.
The most stressful of all my visas since embassy in Sweden is infamous for last minute return of passports. Here is how it went: 1. Send application to Stockholm embassy 3,5 months in advance. 2. Receive mail – ‘pls send passports’. 3. Send 4 x passports (family trip) to Stockholm 2,5 months before departure with lots of docs including proof of payment for visa fees and copy of USD 2.500 woth of non-refundable flight tickets . 4. Wait. 5. Get impatient 6. Call embassy multiple times. 7. realize they never ever pick up phone. 8. Receive mail 18 days before planned departure “Still waiting for approval from Eritrea”. 9. Panic. 10. Write Tekeste from Asmare Grande 11. Wait 3 business days while Tekeste is fixing approvals with the Eritrea immigration. 12. Stockholm denies having received approvals. 13. Insist. 14. Approvals now in Stockholm (13 days to departure). 15. Normal delivery time of visa in Stockholm is “7-14 days after approval from Eritrea”. Write many e-mails to embassy asking for a faster processed visa. 16. Get notification that visa is ready 11 days before departure (7 working days). Now it is too late to return by normal post ‘up to 6-7 working days’. Arrange for courier. Pay almost 500 USD for returning 4 passports from Stockholm(!). 17. drive to couriers office 8 days before departure and collect your returned passports with visas…
ALTERNATIVELY – MUCH EASIER AND IN OUR CASE WOULD EVEN HAVE BEEN CHEAPER: if you live in a country with no Eritrean embassy you can just pay Tekeste from Asmara Grande a fee for having the approval sent electronically (3 business days) then you can get VOA in Eritrea (presently USD 70) (always check if VOA is still possible when you are travelling – rules often change)
In 2017/2018 (and 2019 I believe) Libyan embassies were not issuing tourist visas at all. I called the consulate in Copenhagen every week for a year to see if this had changed (one of my danish freinds had previously in 2016 managed to secure a tourist visa this way). They declined. I then got a business invitation via a Libyan travel agent and brought that to the embassy. Again I was declined a visa – probably because they thought it was strange that I had first applied for a toursit visa and now supposedly was going for business. In stead I flew to Tunis and met with a local fixer appointed by the Libyan travel agency.
1. Saudi Arabia
This visa took me 7 years. First I tried for a year or so to get a visa from the former danish ambassador to Saudi – I have friends who know him personally. He declined. I then waited for a couple of years for an executive in a large corporation who had promised to bring me on a business trip. I also tried for a transit visa and considered (not too seriously though) converting to Islam to get a visa to go to Mecca. In the end I went on group tour with an american company organising business visa invitations for tourists in a group – provided we bought a 4.000 USD pr person trip (!) This is the ONLY country I have visited as a part of a group tour. Even with this invitation things were tricky we needed to fill out the enjazit (electronic registration like ESTA) online and in Arabic only and needed to use a visa agency since the embassy in Copenhagen does not allow personal attendance. Our trip (With 3 friends for ‘The Travellers Club of Denmark’) covered Jeddah, Mecca (ring road only), Abha, Medina, Mada’in Saleh and Riyadh. The trip included four domestic flights, guides and rental 4WD cars, hotels and food. We were (as far as I know) the first danish group tourists for at least a decade. (pics here). Note that in december 2018 a temporary eVisa for a motor sports event was granted – and there are plans to repeat this for coming special events.
For Chad you need an invitation from some official contact within the country. Tricky to find but in the end I found one and visa was straightforward via Berlin embassy. Congo (DRC) was also tricky but visumservice.dk helped me with a special (secret) contact here in Denmark who could issue the visa. Rep. of Congo i got in Kinshasa in a few days. Central African Republic visa I also got in Kinshasa in a few days. Gabon visa I got same day in Sao Tome. Nigeria can be very tricky – I applied in Stockholm sent lots of docs and filled out a very long electronical form – fortunately the visa came back pretty fast.