Visas are the one thing you really can’t procrastinate – without a visa, you’re not getting in anywhere. For my trip, I’ve had to visit four embassies: Chinese, Russian, Mongolian, and Vietnamese – I’ll give a brief overview of how to get visas for these countries and what my experience was like.
Due to the volume of visas, China’s visa processing in Singapore is done in a separate location, right in the city centre. It’s opposite Lau Pa Sat, not far from the Raffles Place MRT station. Here is their website, and getting a visa is as simple as filling out the form and paying the fee… or so I thought. I had my photograph, passport, application form all ready and was turned away because they wanted to see itinerary details – they ideally want flight and hotel bookings for your entire stay. Obviously, I didn’t have flight bookings, but they wanted to see the Trans-Siberian exit tickets as proof I was going to leave the country. For the hotels, I used booking.com to make up a fake itinerary with some fake reservations, some hostels have no deposit so you can just make then cancel a booking. Other than this, using the visa centre was a very pleasant experience.
The visa cost $90SGD and was ready in just 3 days.
The Russian visa is the only one I don’t have yet, these guys have been a pain, but the visa agency they use is great. Like many embassies, the Russians now outsource their visa process to VFS Global, a visa agency. The first time I visited them, I was turned away as I hadn’t ‘accurately’ filled out the application form: apparently you have to include your university, even if you haven’t finished your degree yet (and the form won’t let you have a degree completion date in the future… you have flat-out have to lie). Don’t forget you have to fill out your visa application with the details you specify in your visa invitation, a document ‘inviting’ you to Russia. I used RealRussia’s visa support service, it was ready in <5 minutes and cost 15 pounds/30SGD.
They also need to take your student’s pass or document verifying your stay in Singapore – an issue for me as I had just lost it… which is why I’m applying for the Russian visa this coming Monday, and hopefully picking it up the next Monday – the date I leave. These guys love their rules.
The visa fee for Australians is $182SGD plus $30SGD for the visa support, and it takes roughly 7 days, depending on the season.
Here is the Mongolian embassy’s website, with forms and instructions. Don’t forget that regular application times are 9am-12 midday, and collection is 3-5pm. I was apprehensive at first about this visa, as they require you to pay their account first, then bring them proof of payment into their account. There’s a UOB just down the road from their embassy in Bugis where you can pay in cash – really convenient. Walking to the embassy after that, I was expecting some dingy old office with a flickering ceiling light. Instead, the embassy is in the most ridiculous building in Singapore: this fantastic 1930s New York style monolith with gold trimming and garish chandeliers, the only building that’s made me think “I want to work here”.
Anyway, this visa was incredibly simple, the staff were friendly, and the embassy office was fantastic. I did have a little laugh with the application form, though – under ‘occupation’ I wrote “Underwater Ceramic Technician” (dishwasher), and was still issued a visa. I like to imagine that one day a Mongolian bureaucrat will wonder what sort of high-skilled labourer they let into the country.
Cost for Australians is $240SGD (arbitrarily doubled for Australians and Americans…) and it took 3 days to process.
The Vietnamese embassy is in a great area, surrounded by mansions costing who-knows-how-many millions of dollars, which make for great scenery as you walk there from Holland Village. This was the simplest visa to get, I just walked in the door where a guy was waiting, handed him my passport, the payment, the application form and a photograph – no need for any itinerary! Here is the page you want, but be warned – the website is a la 2004.
Visa cost was $105SGD and it took 7 days to process (including weekend).
Other than these four, I also need Cambodian and Turkish visas, but thankfully they have e-visa systems which are more or less idiot-proof. Let me know if you have any questions or thoughts about my post!