Visa applications a trav­eller’s night­mare

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - PROPERTY -

WHEN plan­ning a trip to a for­eign coun­try, in­clud­ing most of Europe, the UK and Aus­tralia, do your sums care­fully be­fore buy­ing your air tick­ets.

The UK re­cently in­tro­duced visas for South Africans and de­spite the airl i nes bl e a t i ng a bout t he pu­nit i v e mea­sure, the au­thor­i­ties went ahead.

A friend who owns a num­ber of travel agen­cies in­formed me that since UK visas were in­tro­duced, the drop-off in South Africans opt­ing not to travel to the UK has risen to 100 000.

Now, in ad­di­tion to the R905 for a six-month visa ris­ing to R5 400 for a five-year visa, a fur­ther charge of £60 is be­ing levied for air­port de­par­ture.

De­pend­ing on the rand to pound ex­change rate this will cost a trav­eller an ex­tra R720.

Even the pho­to­graphs you have to sup­ply have to be taken i n a cer­tain way and be of an ex­act size, oth­er­wise you are turned away, and some pho­to­graphic stu­dios are not aware of the cor­rect di­men­sions.

A friend had to have her pho­to­graphs taken twice be­fore they were ac­cept­able to the Bri­tish Em­bassy. Now for the big­gest rip-off of all... A month ago, a busi­ness as­so­ciate ap­plied for a 10-year UK visa at the ex­or­bi­tant cost of R6 200, trav­elled to the UK for three days then re­turned, only to have his lap­top bag stolen, which con­tained his pass­port. When he ap­proached the UK Em­bassy for a re­place­ment, he was told he would have to pay the full R6 200 again, de­spite hav­ing a valid visa for an­other nine years and 11 months on their sys­tem.

A s i mi l a r v i s a f r o m t h e U S o r Europe will cost R1 000.

He nat­u­rally feels they are abus­ing their po­si­tion and prof­i­teer­ing, and w ould like to make un­sus­pect­ing trav­ellers aware of the risks and costs of the UK visa so where they have al­ter­na­tives, they should con­sider other routes.

Ap­ply­ing for a Shen­gen visa, al­low­ing travel to many coun­tries in Europe, is also ex­pen­sive – R700 – as well as t he f i l l i ng i n o f f o r ms, s u ppl y i ng pho­to­graphs then get­ting let­ters of in­vi­ta­tion, med­i­cal in­sur­ance, guar­an­teed ac­com­mo­da­tion, three months of bank state­ments, let­ters of em­ploy­ment and the has­sle of back and forth to the rel­e­vant con­sul or em­bassy.

If you live in Cape Town, you of­ten have the ex­tra ex­pense of couri­er­ing your doc­u­ments to Pre­to­ria and back.

Aus­trali a i s not much easi er at R710, and its em­bassy will only ac­cept a bank-guar­an­teed cheque for pay­ment.

Other coun­tries s uch as Li bya, at­trac­tive and re­ally worth a visit, ask for £100 plus an Ara­bic trans­la­tion of your pass­port de­tails, and at l east $1 000 (US) spending money.

Even some of the visa-free coun­tries still re­quire a stamp.

Egypt, for ex­am­ple, is one, but in or­der to ob­tain the stamp, your pass­port has to be couri­ered to Pre­to­ria at a cost of at least R200.

Mada­gas­car will sell vis­i­tors a visa on ar­rival at the air­port for $90 (US).

This is be­fore looking for a com­peti t i ve ai r f are, ac­com­mo­da­tion and gen­eral ex­penses.

A sim­ple hol­i­day sud­denly be­comes out of bounds as the ex­penses rise.

Added to all this is the schlep of fill­ing in myr­iad forms, prov­ing you have em­ploy­ment, own a home, have a bank ac­count, have t he c or r ect l y posed por­trait pho­to­graphs and the cash in hand to ap­ply for the pre­cious en­try stamp. CON­GRAT­U­LA­TIONS to Ja­cobus Scott for his pho­to­graph of blos­soms near the Great Wall of China. Ja­cobus wins din­ner for two at CinCin, where food and life are cel­e­brated with su­perb views of the Cape Town city sky­line, Ta­ble Moun­tain, and its pièce de ré­sis­tance, a 3m gen­uine Swarovski crys­tal chan­de­lier.

CinCin is syn­ony­mous with el­e­gance and am­bi­ence. The menu changes with t h e s e a s o n s , i n c l u d i n g a n u mber o f themes: the veg­etable gar­den, the sea, the farm, the veld and fyn­bos.

From the moun­tains to the sea, the colour­ful dishes r eflect l ocal f l avours; sweet, sun drenched, earthy, rich in taste and aroma. Visit CinCin at the Protea Ho­tel Colos­seum in Cen­tury City and al­low its team to re­veal the true essence of CinCin. What­ever lan­guage you speak, may it be a cel­e­bra­tion.

Our run­ners-up are Lara Husted for her pho­to­graph taken by Epupa falls in Namibia; and Jens Schatke for a photo- graph of a dassie in Her­manus.

Travel2009 will con­tinue to pub­lish the pop­u­lar read­ers’ pho­to­graphic com­pe­ti­tion, with a prize of a din­ner for two for the win­ners each week.

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