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SOUTH AFRICAN'S DIY visas for the the Middle East

DIY visas for Istanbul, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan

all seasons in one day 23 °C

In-contrast to popular belief that owning the ‘Afrique Du Suid’ (South African) ordinary travel document has limitations, I have discovered that the benefits outweights the limitations. It opens to the world of gratis visas, exemption from visas etc. Due to this I decided to DIY my Middle East visas, great experience indeed. No travel agent was involved in this and no visa specialist was contacted either, I did it all by myself. It was cheap and worth it, it was certainly better than putting together a desk from a DIY shop. So how did I go about it, I initially outline the route I wanted to take and then started obtaining the visa(s) for each country. My proposed route: Fly into Istanbul (Turkey), travel by road to Damascus (Syria), Beirut (Lebanon) and Amman (Jordan). How did I DIY my visas, my advise is to start this process at least two months before your planned trip, it will take time to obtain all these visas.

Turkey visa, as a South African citizen you do not need to obtain a pre-approved visa to enter Turkey, you can obtain a visa at the port of entry. I was advised to carry euros’ with me since they take only certain currencies for the visa. When I arrived in Turkey I had to pay £10.00 for my visa. I noticed that other nationals were charged in other currencies as well e.g an American girl was charged in Euros. With Turkey visa not needing pre-approval I then decided to obtain my next visa.

Lebanese visa, when investigating how to obtain the visa online I found that South Africa citizens can obtain a visa gratis. I submitted my form to the embassy gratis and hmmmmmm. Two weeks passed after submitting my visa and still no news and no passport back. I decided to call the Lebanese embassy to inquire about my passport. They then informed me that I need to pay visa fees. For a single entry £25.00 and multiple entry £50.00. Apparently they have been trying to get hold of me without any success, I am not sure how could that have happened since I always have my mobile phone with me and I do return miscalls sometimes. They also requested an employee’s letter to confirm employment since they were under the impression that I am travelling as a charity worker. After much discussions I decided to pay for a single entry visa I.e. I paid £25.00. Supporting documents needed are : passport , confirmation of employment, hotel reservation and one passport photo. If planning to travel to Lebanon I will advise you to visit the embassy as you might save yourself paying for a visa which is gratis.

Syrian visa, you will need to search for the Syrian embassy online, you then find a link to fill in your details. After filling in your details you then submit and print the form. When you check online there are no fees outlined for South African’s. I decided to call the embassy to find out how much I need to pay. The embassy informed me that I needed to pay £27.00 for either a single or multiple entry visa. Supporting documents are: Proof of employment, hotel reservation, one passport photo and your payment. I then wrote a note explaining why I needed a multiple entry visa for Syria (I was planning to use Damascus as my base). a few days after submitting my visa application I received a call from the embassy informing me that they can’t offer me a multiple entry visa but a single entry visa. I gave consent on this without any argument, so I had a single entry visa for Syria. Please note that if you need to obtain another visa for Syria you can visit the immigrations office in Damascus and they can give you another entry visa i.e. if you are planning to leave Syria and return again.

Jordanian visa, it is gratis for South African’s. You can obtain your visa at the port of entry. If you have enough time you can obtain it via the embassy prior to travelling. This will save you the long cues and delays at the entry port. I did not arrange the visa for Jordan since I didn’t have a need to. I will let you know what happens when you reach the border post presenting your green Afrique de Suid passport.

Latvia visa, on my return I will be flying from Beirut into Latvia for my connection flight .As a South African you will need a Schengen visa if you are planning to enter Latvia i.e. if you intend to leave the airport and enter Latvia, if you are just connecting you are not required to obtain a Schengen visa. I currently hold a Schengen visa so I might just go for a drink in Latvia while awaiting my flight.

So if you have time and want to save money for your holiday instead of paying travel agents to process your visa on your behalf remember it is easier than putting up an Ikea desk ..DIY your visas :)

Posted by Thuligal 05:31 Archived in South Africa Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

ISRAEL entry with Lebanese & Syrian visa stamps ??????

Interogation from HELL

sunny 34 °C

LET ME BE FRANK,I am not sure how interviews at the Guatanamo bay procede like, but I am sure what I went through when entering Israel is close to going through one. Don't get me wrong I have had issues with the immigration officers at border posts before, I have even been arrested. Basically I have been through it all atleast I thought until my last trip. The whole traumatic ordeal started when boarding the flight to Tel Aviv. When they checked my passport they realised that I had been to Syria and Lebanon almost 2 months ago. I was questioned about my travels and I was checked etc. I was then informed that I can't travel with anything on me except my passport, ticket and hotel reservation. I had thought since I was allowed to take the flight my holiday was about to start. Sadly the worse was still to come, when I arrived in Tel Aviv I was interogated by 7 people in a space of 4 hrs. I call this enterogation since by the end of it I was mentally tired of this situation. I think the only thing they didn't ask me was my blood sample and hair strand for some DNA. I was asked to draw my family tree (I don't know what my great-great-grand father's name was nor do I have any idea if I have Middle Eastern blood in me, for a second I started questioning if I was 100% African), my email account was checked (incase I am meeting up with some cute Palestinian dude ha ha ), my phone number taken etc. I Finally took a deep breath fed up of this crazzy scenario and said to them (with a smile): ' I thought as a South African I don't need a visa to enter your country, I have as well checked with your embassy if it was ok for me to travel to your country after my middle east trip. I was informed that I can travel, I would rather your consular services had informed me before hand so that I could have eaither obtained a new passport or travelled to another country instead of coming to Israel' (at this point I didn't care if they granted me entry or not). They then asked me a final question was: 'are you intending to travel to Palestine territory?' , my answer was NO. I was given entry on a security rating of 6/7 (7- refused entry) basically implying each time I enter Israel I will be interogated again. My passport was stamped as well. With the interogation over, passport stamped I went to collect my bags. For once I thought the worse was over only to collect my bags and realise that my phone my phone & camera were missing. At this point I was emotionally tired .I thought to myself its either I'm going to be stressed out about this or I could just buy a disposible camera and get on with life. The funny thing is my camera and phone cost twice my flight ticket fare . Anyways I filled the lost items forms with the airline. Took a deep breath and then started thinking Israel I am here to have a time of my life and I am going to have it. I looked through my lonely planet book, went over my planned backpacking route. FYI the route did include the palestine territory yeeyyyyyyyyy :)

Posted by Thuligal 05:58 Archived in Israel Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Damsel in destress

Lost in Beirut

sunny 37 °C

.... HAVE you ever been lost in a foreign country? the concept of getting lost is foreign to me, this is not beacuse I have a good sense of direction. I get lost all the time, I take the wrong bus; train;taxi and get lost when driving home etc. I have gotten lost so many times I have stopped counting it. As humans we have different ways on dealing with ourseslves when lost. Some people panic and and assume that just because they are not where they intended to be the world is coming to an end. Some people think that just because they are lost and are panicing, other people should share in the destress they are going through (they keep asking you where is this bus going? am I lost??) some make sudden dicisions to get off the mode of transport if possible. I doubt you can get off a moving train or a flight, let me say you might get off but not live to tell the story. I once saw a woman who took a train from London to Manchester but I gues that was a correct train for me but the wrong train for her. As she realised that she was on the wrong train she walked down the aisle to the train driver's end. Upon arrival she banged on the door and screamed 'get me off'. I didn't know whether to laugh or sympathise with her, but since I am easy going in nature laughing was the ultimate thing. I think her attempts to get off could have worked if she was on a bus and pressed the getting off on the next station button. My theory about getting lost when travelling is as follows: if I take transport from point A intending to go to point B, If I realise that my transport is going to point C I just relax and wait for the transport to reach Point C and then take transport back to point A. When reaching Point A I start the whole process again. This works well when you are on the bus,taxi etc. I learnth it the hard way that this thoery does apply in certain situations but shouldn't be generalised. When in Beirut (Lebanon) I decided to take a minibus instead of a taxi from Beirut city centre to my hotel. The area I was staying at is Gemeezeye, I told the bus driver that I am going to Gemezeeye that is what I assume I told him, lesson learned is I should keep my Arrabic to 'Salam, shokran etc nothing more. The bus driver told me I could get on the bus and I waited for the bus to be full when it was full I paid my fare. The journey started off and I saw the bus approaching my destination.. 30 min later I realised that my destination was on my side and then before long it was behind me. In my confused state of which at this point I wish I was impulsive and gotten off,I stayed on the bus. My reasoning was that I was lost so I just need to pay the fare again and get back to where the bus driver took me from. The one thing I didn't realise is that this was a last bus going to some area outside Beirut and the next bus to Beirut was the next morning. The bus driver looked at me wondering where to drop me. I just shrugged my shoulders and started laughing. Luckly he was a man who could read between the lines because he realised that I was lost and started smilling back at me. I can't really be sure why he smilled so much because he started mentioning that his house is around the area and I should give him my number for when am in Lebanon next time. Our final stop was an area on top of a mountain where I couldn't see a car following us nor any sign of a hotel.I came out of the bus and just stood outside admiring the nature and mountainious area around me. This time I could have started crying or even jumped off the cliff since I just didn't know how I got there nor how I will be able to get back to Beirut. I then realised that I need atleast to be halfway to Beirut.I then remembered that this driver has just asked for my number, I then decided to play the 'Damsel' in destress card and it worked wonders. I started telling the driver that I need to get to Beirut and I decided to take his number promising him that I will call him. He was impressed with that and drove me halfway to my destination. Since it was late I had to wait in his bus until a bus come. Finally I did get a bus to Beirut and it passed outside my hotel. How wonderful a journey which could have taken me 20min took me 4 hours.. WHAT IS YOUR THEORY ABOUT GETTING LOST WHEN BACKPACKING?

Posted by Thuligal 03:55 Archived in Lebanon Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Curry for dinner- Palmayra

sunny 34 °C

Ruins_of_t..almayra.jpg

Palmayra known as the 'desert bride' is a naturally beautiful place which is situated in the desert ,it is not far from the Euphratus river, it use to be a stop point for those travelling from Iraq to Turkey. It has a rich history indeed. It is a quite town with not as much traffic or tourists besides in the morning or evening when tourist buses come for sight seeing , when I asked the taxi driver to take me to the nearest hotel I was expecting all things to be the same as the past few days in Syria. Palmayra did come with suprises indeed, firstly my hotel room was at the perfect location, the view from my window was to the ruins of the old city magnificant view indeed. My room was ensuit ( with a normal toilet not a squating toilet) ; TV which besides Abu dabbi TV,Kuwait TV it had BBC and other English channels.These luxuries means alot when you've been sleeping in dorms with 10 people and sharing a bathroom with ten other people. There is just as much snorring,smelling feet and nudity (since it was hot some guys thought it was best to sleep without any cloths) and getting into a bathroom with your flipflops you can take its all worth it but sometimes you want a break and this was my break . After taking a nice,long well deserved clean shower I decided to flick my TV remote control and I ended up watching a few chick-flicks movies. In the evening I decided to leave my room because I was hungry. I asked the hotel owner for resturant sugestions of wich his response was:'dinner will be served at 20:00'. hmmm there's something desturbing when you are vegeterian and you have to have dinner without knowing whats on the menu,as much as I love labner (Syrian vegetable salad) sometimes I just wanted a nice hot meal importantly if I have to pay for a meal I want it to be what I want not something someone thought of last minute.Funny enough I decided to comply of which I rarely did, I gues I didn't have the energy for disagreeing and walking around looking for a resturant. When dinner time came I was seating outside watching the stars, I was offered briyani with mango sauce and nan bread. I looked at the hotel owner with a confused look , I wondered to myself when did I arrive in New Dehli or Mumbai. I couldn't contain my suprise and I asked the hotel owner why am I having Briyani instead of Kebab or falafel with humous. He then informed me that he rents part of his hotel to an Indian company which is doing some gas work around Palmayra due to this they have an Indian chef residing in the hotel who prepares all the meals. Ohhhh wow wow ! I was excited hmm does this mean I will be having Indian meals all the time,yes it did and all the meals were on the house yeeppy.I had a chat with the chef and when he realised that I am familar with the Indian cusine he was impresed he then asked what I wanted for breakfast, lunch and dinner the next day. My wishes were obliged to top it up with a variety of Indian tea(s) the whole day. I think I forgot to mention that I don't like onion bhaji's because that is what he put in my picnic basket as I went for sunset view on top of the Castle.

While in Palmayra I visited the Babel temple and the tombs beautiful indeed, by midday (due to the desert heat) I was so tired I decided to return to my hotel, I took another long shower,plastered myself with more sunscreen and watched TV. In the evening I was invited for a Bodouns buffet and dancing. It was a wonderful experience the food was fab and I had a chance to dance, the rythm of the music has an african beat with it so I showed off a skill or two. The next morning I was offered a lift from Palmayra to my next destination Homs, can it live up to Palmayra's standards hmmmmmm ...:)

Posted by Thuligal 13:26 Archived in Syria Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Istanbul to Beirut, 15 days road trip

Female travelling solo

sunny 35 °C

Travelling from Istanbul to Beirut by road has been a dream come true...

Road trip

Road trip

Day 1 - 2: I Flew into Istanbul, on my arrival in Istanbul I took a bus to Harem bus station (Asia side of Istanbul) where I purchased a bus ticket to Antaika (which is close the the border post with Syria). I was charged TL 60 (Turkish Lira) for my ticket, I do believe that I was charged altleast TL 10 more than the price of the ticket, commision to the gentleman who accompanied me to the bus company. I purchased my ticket for the next day at 19:00. I then took a boat ride from Harem to Bosphourus (next to the blue mosque). The journey took atleast 25-30 minutes. Upon getting off the boat I took a minibus from Bosphourus to Taksmin square where I had booked a hotel. I spent a night in Istanbul and the next day after 17:00 I took a bus from Taksmin square to Harem bus station. I took a wrong bus and I ended on the other side of Harem etc. lets just say I just made it to the bus staion at 19:00. We departed from Harem at 20:00 and arrived in Antaika the next morning aroung 11:00.

Day 3-4 : Upon arrival I got a bus from Antaika to Allepo (Syria). For this journey I was charged TL 10. We left around 12:00 we arrived in Allepo after 15:00 i.e. including border time which took atleast an hour. After getting off at Allepo station I walked to the city centre where I managed to find a hotel . I stayed 2 nights in Allepo, please note the Citadel in Allepo is not opened on Tuesday.

Day 5-6: I then took a bus from Allepo to Damascus, please not that you will need to take a taxi from the city centre to the bus station which is out of town. The bus left Allepo around 12:00 and we were in Damascus just after 16:00. Upon arrival in Damascus I got a taxi with a fellow traveller and we then checked into a hotel in the old city area. I spent two nights in Damascus.

Day 7-8 : Travelled from Damascus to Palmayra, the journey took 2-3 hrs. Upon arrival in Palmayra I checked into a hotel which overlooks the ruins. Amazing view indeed,I spent two nights in Palmayra, this was the time for me to relax and have a break. First night I went for Sunset on top of the Zenoiba castle. The next morning I took a walk along the ruins;the temple and the tombs. In the evening I went for the Boudwing meal and dancing.

Day 9 - 10: I got a lift from Palmayra to Hom's the jorney took us 1.5 hrs. Upon arrival in HOM's I took a minibus to Crac des Chevaliers. The journey took an hour. Sight seeing in the Crac des Chevaliers took 45 min. I then took a minibus back to Hom's. Upon arrival in HOMS I took a taxi to the bus station. I then took a bus to Latakia, I spent two nights in Latakia just relaxing.

Day 11: I took a shared taxi from Latakia to Tripoli (Traboulus) in Lebanon. I spent a night in Tripoli.

Day 12: I took a minibus from Triploli to Bchurreh, upon arrival I checked into a hotel. I was given a map for the Ceders as I was walking someone gave me a lift to the ceders. Upon completion sightseeing in the ceders I hitchhicked for a lift back to bcharrech.

Day13: The next morning I joined two guys who were going hikking in the Baqa valleys (Holy valley). We started hikking around 06:00 and finished the hike around 10:00. I then took a shared taxi to Babelek, a taxi from Bcharre will cost you $50.00.There are no buses to Babelek from Bcharre, it is possible to hitch hike though. Upon arrival at Babelek I checked into a hotel and then went sight seeing, upon completion I decided to leave Babelek and proceded to Zahle. I took a minibus from babelek to Zahle and it droped me just outside the Ksara caves. I took a tour through the Ksara caves,the tour took 45 min.Upon completion I got a lift from fellow travellers who were going to Beirut with a hired taxi. They gave me a lift to Beirut. I arrived in Beirut around 19:00. I then took a taxi to the hotel which was sugested by other travellers.

Day 14: The next morning I took a minibus to Tyr and then went to Sidon. In the afternoon I went back to Beirut.

Day 15: The next morning which was my final day, I took a minibus to Babylos. I spent the morning sight seeing in babylos and then took a bus back to Beirut where I spent the afternoon in the city of Beirut. In the evening I took a taxi from the hotel to Beirut airport :)

Posted by Thuligal 14:08 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

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