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Visa montage

Ever wondered what it’s like to delve into the Byzantine world of visa collection in foreign countries? Probably not. Ever tried it yourself? Even less likely I think. Before you do, maybe sit back and enjoy a bit of armchair adventure as I wander around Tbilisi in the rain. And if you are doing this for real here in Georgia, suggest you read my notes at the end. Here goes…

First stop the Azerbaijan Embassy. About half an hour’s walk away. Opens at 1000 for a couple of hours, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. I think. Have my Letter of Introduction, inviting me into the country, completed visa application form, couple of passport photos, and my passport. And I’ve a map. Latin script, whereas the street signs are mostly in the Georgian alphabet. This delays me a little, but the small queue outside the Embassy appears to confirm the Consular section is open for business.

A police officer ensures only one person at a time is admitted into the Consular section – actually it’s a doorway with a heavy steel grill through which you pass your paperwork. Raining. Should have borrowed an umbrella. I queue for about twenty minutes. Bit fraught – everyone else seems to be Turkish and waiting in an orderly line doesn’t come naturally to them – need to be assertive. Then it’s my turn.

I hand my documentation to the Consular official. Visa will be ready in three days. I explain I need to press on to Azerbaijan as soon as possible. Return tomorrow afternoon at four he advises, and gives me a slip to pay the visa fee at a local bank.

Bank - web version

So far so good. Sort of. The bank is nowhere near the Embassy. Probably. There are three streets in Tbilisi that share the branch address on the payment slip. I make a bit of a guess and, it turns, out, get the right one first time. I don’t realise this straightaway, as it takes a while to find the bank. Not exactly a High Street name in Georgia, the place is barely recognisable as a bank. Forms to be signed in triplicate. Twice.

Next stop should be the Kazakhstan Embassy. Searching the web for an address yields at least three possibilities. All of which, it turns out, are wrong. After a while I begin to wonder if they really do have a Diplomatic Mission here. The Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs website’s list of overseas representations in Tbilisi makes no mention of it, suggesting this to be the case. But I remain convinced I’m right.

You’d think a half decent taxi driver would know where the Embassy is, but they also seem to be new in town. Still raining. I hit on a plan to visit a local travel company, guessing that they might have dealings with the Consular staff. They don’t, but Nino and her team does quite a bit of phoning around and comes up with an address.

I head off up a steep, muddy road, climbing up above the city. Seems an unlikely location for an Embassy, but I’ve confidence in Nino and her team. I spot a Police post. Success. Or at least, I’ve found the right place. Turns out to be less than a kilometre from where I’m staying. The Consul is unfortunately absent, explains his very helpful assistant, so I should return at eleven the next morning. I leave with an application form to fill in. And a few leaflets about Kazakhstan to read.

Eleven the next day. Back at the Kazakhstan Embassy. Still raining, but there’s a canopy to stand under. I wait a while, soon joined by a surly woman who fiddles constantly with her umbrella. The door opens. My turn to enter. But no. Would I mind letting the woman go first? She is with child apparently. I doubt this very much, but concede because the Consular official has asked politely. I wait a little while longer, then its my turn. I explain my endeavour, the need to make several entries into the country, and, in turn, he helpfully explains the visa options. I pay the fee and leave.

Next, back to the Azerbaijan Embassy. I arrive a little before four. Still raining. A few people, Turkish I think, are hanging around outside the locked gate into the Embassy compound. There’s no recognisable queue as such, so I make my own. By the gate. A policeman opens it up at four precisely and, after a bit of jostling, I’m admitted. I hand over my passport and the visa fee receipt from the bank. Bit nervous – whilst waiting outside I’d noticed the fee shown on the noticeboard was over a hundred dollars. I’d paid considerably less. Would I have to repeat the whole process? No, I’m given a visa, its validity a bit more generous than I’d expected. Success. Think I’ve earned a coffee, a respite from the rain, before I contemplate collection of my Kazakhstan visa. But that’s for another day…

[Whilst the process of visa collection can be time-consuming, sometimes a bit fraught, a little bureaucratic, the author found the Consular staff to be very understanding and helpful. And they all spoke very good English.

For anyone coming to Tbilisi in search of visas for the ’Stans, the Azerbaijan Embassy can be found in Kipshidzis Street in the Vake district of Tbilisi. Look for the main Chavchavadzis I. Gamziri thoroughfare on any half-decent map, the street is a little to the north of the western end of the road.

English Tea House

The bank where you should pay the visa fee is on Marjanishvilis Street, almost directly opposite the English Tea House, close to the bridge across the River Mtkvari that runs through the city. The correct street has a Metro station on it with the same name. Incidentally, the Tea House offers Whittards teas in rather quaint teapots, but you do need to ask for milk. I mention this because at this point in the visa hunt you’ll be in need of some refreshment.

The Kazakhstan Embassy can be found at 23 Shatberashvilil Street 0179 Tbilisi. I’m very confident of this because I’ve been there. And I’ve copied the address off the very helpful Assistant to the Charge d’Affaires’ business card. So ignore anything else you read on the web. Or in supposedly very reputable guide books that advise there’s no Diplomatic Mission here. Funny, because it looks like it’s been here a while… For more information please feel free to get in touch via the Contact page]


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