04 Feb The Route – Turkey to Indonesia
In the last blog post, I talked about the first leg of the trip through Europe and how it looked, on paper at least, to be one of the easier sections in regards to bureaucracy. That European leg finishes when I cross the border into Turkey and then from here on in, things look a little harder. Turkey will be my gateway to the Middle East and Asia and once I cross the Bulgarian/Turkish border, it will be the last I see of any European countries for a long time. It will also mark the arrival of some much bigger countries in terms of land mass and the distance I’ll have to ride between borders.
As I’ve mentioned in a previous blog post, planning every detail a trip like this is impossible but I will need to have an idea about certain things. I’ll need to be sure that the distance I have to travel through each country is possible in the time frame that my visas allow. On top of this, I need to plan around the weather; some sections of the trip are impossible to ride in winter or would be unbearable in high heat or monsoons. I have divided my days into rides of 50km, a modest distance, to give me a time frame for each country. No doubt there will be days when I’ll cover much more than this and days when I don’t get close but by using 50km as my marker I can be sure, in theory, to avoid overstaying my visas and have an idea of what weather to expect as I will know, by month at least, when I should arrive in each country.
Based on that calculation, Europe will take me around 3 months to cross, taking in rest days, so I’ll be entering Turkey around July 2017. My visa allows me up to three months in the country meaning I’ll have plenty of time to cover the 2,200km to the Iranian border. Going on 50km a day, I should cross the country in 40 days but factoring in rest days etc, I reckon it’ll be closer to two months.
I’m also going to need time in Turkey to apply for my Iranian visa. Iran is one of the only countries on the trip where being a British citizen is more a hindrance than a help. There is no guarantee I can get a visa but from what I’ve read, I can apply at the Iranian embassy in Istanbul though it can take anywhere from a single day up to a week to process. I’ll have to apply via an agency beforehand to get an authorisation number from Iran before I can even apply for a visa. This can take a few weeks to get so I’ll do this a week or two before arriving in Istanbul to minimise the amount of waiting time once I get to the embassy.
If I’m refused entry into Iran, then I will have little choice but to fly from somewhere in the East of Turkey, possibly Van or Trabzon, straight to India. My other choices are rather limited if Iran says no. I have Syria or Iraq to the south of Turkey, both a bit of no-go at the moment or Georgia and Armenia to the North East of Turkey. Georgia is easy to get into but takes me a long way off route and Armenia, although more on route, leads to a bunch of countries whose visa is either hard to get or lasts for too short the duration necessary to cross by bicycle. If I do get my visa for Iran, then I’ll arrive in early September and leave within the 30 day period allowed by the visa from Bandar Abbas by boat or plane to arrive in Mumbai, India around the beginning of October.
I can apply online for the Indian visa, although it sounds like I’ll need proof of onward travel. This is a requirement for a few more countries leading up to the half-way point of New Zealand. After that, it becomes less of an issue. From what I’ve read, it’s not the immigration that will ask you, it’s your airline or ferry company that requires the proof. As I’ll be leaving India via land crossing into Nepal, I won’t have any proof but it seems, from my research, that saying I’m heading into Nepal will sometimes work. Failing that, I can always book a fully refundable cheap flight and cancel once in the country. I’ll have a month in India to cross the 1,800km to the Nepalese boarder at Sonauli, arriving at the beginning of November.
I’ll be able to secure a visa on arrival for Nepal for either 15/30/90 days. With my calculations, I’ll need just 30 days in Nepal as I’ll only be going as far as Kathmandu. However, if I am refused entry into Iran, I’ll be approximately one month ahead of schedule as I’ll have to fly straight to India, missing Iran. As I’d like to be in Burma for around the end of January, if I’m ahead of schedule, I’ll opt for 90 days and hang back in Nepal for a while. Originally I was planning to re-enter India and make my way past Darjeeling in the North East and onto the Burmese border but due to the lack of border crossings from India into Burma, it looks likely I’ll be flying out of Kathmandu to Burma.
I’m hoping to arrive in the capital of Burma at the end of January 2018. I have to apply online for a visa beforehand, which should allow me up to 28 days in the country. This should be enough time to make my way down to Yangon and then east over to Thailand via the Myawaddy border crossing, hopefully arriving in Thailand at around the beginning of March.
My visa for Thailand allows me up to 30 days and can be issued on arrival, so long as I can prove I have onwards travel booked. From the research I’ve done, I can book a train from Bangkok to the border town of Padang Besar in Malaysia for relatively little money. My original plan was to try and cycle to the Malaysia border but as I will need proof of entry to get in and the fact I only get 30 days, its looks like I’ll have to book the train and miss the last quarter of the country, although no doubt the train will be just as interesting.
If I’m still on track, then I should enter Malaysia in the first week of April 2018, where I can get a visa on arrival for 3 months at no cost, plenty of time to make it down to Singapore where I’ll look for a boat across to Indonesia. It seems you can travel by ferry from Malacca (Malaysia) to Dumai (Indonesia) fairly regularly and I’ll be looking at making this crossing sometime near the beginning of May 2018.
Once in Indonesia, I’ll get a choice between a free visa for 30 days or a tourist visa for 30 days at a cost of $35. The difference being, apart from cost, the tourist visa can be extended by 30 days whereas the free one can’t. I’m only planning to cycle approx 1,600km through Indonesia to Jakarta which should be okay on the free thirty day visa but if I feel like more of a relaxed ride then I’ll opt for the paid tourist visa and the chance to get extra days added. From Jakarta, I’ll fly to Perth, Western Australia where I’ll need to apply for a tourist visa online. I’ve lived in Australia for two years so I’m hoping the visa won’t be an issue and as an added bonus, it’s free too.
Once I touch down in Australia, that will be the end of the Asia leg and the end of one of the more difficult to plan sections of the route. Next Up, Australia and New Zealand.
Edited By – Emer Garry