Africa – huge continent, huge differences

Visa headingSetting off on a trip to Malawi and stopping in Ethiopia for a few days on the way back, I am startled at the differences in how each country is able to deal with visitors. Ethiopia has a slick on-one visa application system. Malawi’s is cumbersome, both in terms of what I need to do in advance and in the four-queue system I’ll meet on arrival – check form, pay, get receipt, get visa. These were the people whose website said that Irish citizens didn’t need a visa but they explained to me that this was not updated and ‘all the other Irish people’ knew they needed a visa, so why didn’t I?

The modern hotel into which I’ve booked in Addis Ababa, in spite of urgent and kind invitations to friends’ homes, operates a shuttle service from the airport and responds to my email about that within a couple of hours. That is helpful as even locals don’t think it’s safe for me to travel by taxi on my own from the airport there.

This is not the place for an analysis of why these two countries are so different, just noting it with regret because Malawi, like Ethiopia, needs visitors and tourists and needs to make it easier all round.

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Iranian trip planning – a little progress

After considerable time and effort, with lots of help from friends, I managed to book a hotel room in Tehran.  At least they verbally assured me, ‘Mrs Moira’, that it was reserved for me.  No reply to my confirmation email but I realise that this is standard.

So – onto the visa application.  With the London Embassy closed, Dublin is my nearest one.  There are a few obstacles even though my passport is Irish.  One is their limited opening hours, which are not the same as their ‘receiving phone calls’ hours.  The other is the requirement to pay the visa fee in cash.  Ah well – I am due a trip to Ireland.  Watch this space!

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Planning trip to Iran

I am planning to visit Iran in September.  Lovely place, I am assured, with warm people and amazing history and art.  First I must get a visa. On checking out the rules and regs about this I see that I must have a letter of invitation.  For reasons which it would not be wise to put on a public blog I can’t get a personal invitation letter.  I can do so through a tour operator, the website advises me. But I am not travelling with a tour company.

Well – I cannot be put off by this first hurdle but it could be a portent of things to come!  I have an idea that I might be able to book a hotel and get a letter from them.

Watch this space!

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