Thursday, June 12, 2008

Battling bureaucracy


On Tuesday evening I'll jump on the Piccadilly Line, and after a few changes of train will end up in Asian Russia. What can I say? It seemed like a good idea at the time... before I learnt about the mountain of faff that needs to be climbed in order to make this journey. Seven trains, each of which I've purchased a separate ticket for. Seven countries, most of which are now in the Schengen zone meaning I don't have to show my passport. The other two - Belarus and Russia - deserve to be shown up for the one-eyed bureaucratic monsters that they are.

I've nothing against buying a visa to enter a country; it so happens that I've never needed to until this year. Russia's system is fairly bizarre: receive an invitation from a Russian organisation, fill in an electronic form on the embassy's website which you then print out, go and queue outside in the rain for an hour and a half, hand over £45, and a week later you have a shiny visa in your passport.

Belarus requires a very similar process. Have a read of their form and feel your life draining away. It's two full pages long and requires a photo, work and home addresses, purpose of visit, information on all previous visits to Belarus, blood type and inside leg measurement. All that, and all I'm doing is sitting on a train for 8 hours passing through the country. At night. Not exactly a borderless society - and at £79 for the "express service" an unmitigated rip-off.

I hate faff.

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