31 Jan The Route – UK to Turkey
Thanks to the Schengen Agreement, which allows, among other things, European citizens free movement within the countries of Europe, planning my route for the first leg of the trip is proving pretty easy. As it stands currently, being a British citizen means I don’t need visas for any part of Europe so I’m free to go pretty much where I please. I say currently because things may well change, thanks to the Brexit vote where the UK decided to leave the European Union. I don’t think this will affect the first leg of the journey through Europe as it’s going to take a few years for the UK Government and the EU to work out just how they’re going to go about leaving but by the time I return to Europe, it may well be the case that I’ll need visas for Portugal, Spain, and France. That will be a hurdle I will overcome when the time comes and when more information is available.
When I set off from my hometown of Broadstairs, South-East England, I’ll only be a few hours into the ride when I head for mainland Europe via ferry from Dover, arriving in Calais, France. The ferries run multiple times every day and can be booked online with low fares for bikes and foot passengers so that’s an easy crossing to sort nearer the time. Once in France, I’ll head to Belgium, Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, and Romania before finishing up in Bulgaria where I plan to cross into Turkey. This is where I’ll need the first of many visas on my journey.
Currently, Turkey isn’t part of the European Union. It’s been trying to gain EU status for decades and received a boost in its bid when, in 1999, it was officially recognised as a candidate for full membership. Negotiations started in 2005, but in November last year (2016), the European Parliament suspended accession talks over concerns with Turkey’s human rights and rule of law. These issues, among others, are far from being resolved and I think it’s pretty safe to say, Turkey won’t be joining the EU anytime soon.
Luckily though, the visa for Turkey seems pretty straightforward to obtain. As it stands at the moment, it’s still possible to get a visa on arrival for up to 90 days at any port of entry although, according to the UK Government website, this looks set to be phased out in the near future though no one seems to know when. To avoid being caught unaware of a change in the rules, I’ll apply for an e-Visa online instead. At a cost of $20, it’s one of the cheaper visas of the trip and should allow me up to 90 days in the country, long enough for me to make it to the Iranian border. However, I’ll have to apply while on the road as immigration only allows me to make an application up to three months in advance of my arrival and I’ll also need to know the dates I’ll be in the country, something I won’t know until I’m closer. So long as it’s granted, I should get the visa straight away so I’m planning to apply sometime after entering Bulgaria.
My rough calculations of the route through Europe tell me this first stage should take around 3 months and cover approximately 3,500km. As with all of the route, I’ll be relying on locals and information gathered online about the best and safest route through each country as and when I enter them. Once through the Turkish border, it’ll be the end of the first stage of the ride and on to the second, leaving Europe behind until I return in the final months of the trip.