How to get visa for Eritrea

Here is how easy it is to get Eritrea visa via the embassy in Stockholm, Sweden:

  1. Buy flight tickets for USD 2.800 for the family.
  2. Fill out 4 long application forms for the embassy in Sweden.
  3. Under ‘Host’ in Eritrea ask other travelers and end up writing the name of your hotel.
  4. Send everything electronically to Stockholm for pre-approval 3,5 months before departure
  5. Receive an answer one week later: ”You should send by Post two photo each with your application forms”
  6. Be happy to actually get a response from an embassy that is known to not answer
  7. Pay a total visa fee of app USD 300 and print a receipt to send along
  8. Send 4 passports physically to Stockholm 2,5 months before departure (we used them travelling to Poland in May which is why we did not send them before)
  9. Enclose a letter saying “it is important that we have the passports back two weeks before departure to Eritrea since we are going on another trip” – not because you are going on another trip just to put in a little margin when the embassy is known to return passports last minute.
  10. Realize that it takes the super efficient Scandinavian postal service only 6 working days to get a recommended letter from Copenhagen to Stockholm (6 hours drive away).
  11. Wait
  12. Wait more
  13. Become a little impatient
  14. Call the embassy
  15. Call again
  16. Realize that no matter how many times you call the phone is NEVER answered.
  17. Ask for a status via e-mail 1,5 months before departure.
  18. Receive no answer.
  19. Repeat 11-16
  20. One month before departure – ask for status via mail again.
  21. Get no answer.
  22. Feel a little desperate
  23. Buy a plan B Eurobonus Star Alliance (refundable) flight ticket to Stockholm with departure date a week before departure (in case I need to go there personally with my second passport).
  24. Contact the company Visumservice who can help Scandinavian travelers getting their visas and who have offices in Stockholm, Oslo and Copenhagen. Ask them to ask for status at the embassy.
  25. Get notification that Visumservice has been denied entry to embassy (!?)
  26. Investigate if you can get emergency passports to the kids if passports are not returned in time. Have Charlotte order a passport number 2.
  27. Try desperately finding other phone numbers to the embassy. Realize they don’t answer those either.
  28. Realize that the Visumservice agent are being told. “Not ready. Come back tomorrow” on both his second and third embassy visit.
  29. 18 days to departure. Ask for status via e-mail.
  30. Receive the following reply: ”Still waiting for approval from Eritrea”
  31. Panic
  32. Bite your tabletop
  33. Go to BBQ night with friends. Be told by friend “you need to relax since you cannot do more than you have already done”
  34. Decide the next day (with slight hangover) that you can always do more.
  35. Write Tekeste from Asmara Grande (the best fixer and travel agent in Eritrea) and ask if he can contact immigration in Eritrea and ask why approval has not been made.
  36. Realize that Tekeste could have helped you with an approval to get the visa directly on arrival (VOA) and that he would have charged a discounted price because of our family travelling together…
  37. Lose sleep at night worrying you will not get your passports back in time.
  38. Curse out loud for not using Tekeste originally
  39. Consider just getting your passports back from Stockholm without visas and getting VOA’s instead even though this would mean losing the USD 300 visa fees.
  40. 16 days to departure. Tekeste confirms our applications are in Eritrea. Be told that status is now changed so that Asmara Grande is host on your application (possibly using the hotel as a host has caused the whole delay but we don’t know and are never told). Be told that it takes 3 working days before the approval will be sent to Stockholm.
  41. Lose sleep and speculate if the family will be able to depart for our 3-country summer holiday at all
  42. Experience fall out in communication with Tekeste, Eritrea because of frequent power cuts.
  43. 14 days to departure. Of course, no passports have been returned to you even though you asked for them ‘because of another journey’
  44. Receive confirmation from Eritrea that approval have now been sent to Stockholm.
  45. 13 days to departure. Get the following mail from the embassy in Stockholm: “still waiting” (!!??)
  46. Consider hanging yourself in your garage
  47. Don’t give up. Write the embassy and insist that they have received approval
  48. Wait 4 hours. Receive e-mail “Now i’ve rec. your visas approval.”
  49. Enjoy the fact that you didn’t hang yourself in your garage
  50. Decide never again to visit countries that are so stupidly hard to get a visa to
  51. Repeat 11-16
  52. Realize that embassy writes “7-14 days delivery AFTER approval from Eritrea”
  53. Realize that may not be enough time to get passports back in time before departure..
  54. Ask embassy (five times) by e-mail when visas will be finished
  55. Realize that the earliest the visas will be finished at the embassy is 11 days before departure (11 normal days equaling 7 business days because of two weekends). Realize this is not enough for normal Scandinavian postal service (“up to 6-7 business days delivery”)
  56. Get quote from courier. Almost USD 500 (!) for 4 passports picked up at embassy and with next business day delivery to Denmark.
  57. Order courier to do pick up Friday 11 days (7 business days) before departure.
  58. Request pick up via e-mail to embassy
  59. Get the following answer “at 11.00 am”
  60. Ask for what day they mean. Receive no answer.
  61. Gamble on the day you think they mean and order courier for that Friday.
  62. Cancel flight ticket to Stockholm.
  63. Receive phone call from courier that passports with visas have successfully been picked up ! 😊
  64. Wait until Monday (next business day) 8 days before departure. Drive to Couriers Copenhagen office. Open envelope with trembling hands.
  65. Realize that all visas are issued correctly.
  66. Realize you ended up spending 500 USD more getting the visas yourself instead of just using Tekeste for VOAs (only possible at selected periods and only for people who have no embassy in their home country). Realize you have also wasted countless hours fixing this.
  67. Travel to lovely and beautiful Eritrea.

This is how easy it is to get the visa via Stockholm. In total my guess is the total workload of the embassy in Sweden has been the following: 1. Forward electronical application (2 minutes), write 4 e-mail replies (each max one line) – 10 minutes. Receive approval, print out visas, stick them in passports – 5 minutes – a total of less than 20 minutes of (very hard..) work. I have lost count on how many hours I used in the other end – but hey when you get there in the end all is good…

 

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