I’ve been married for just over two months and time has come to plan a trip back home to the UK to show Yohana exactly what England is all about. To say that she’s excited is an understatement and she actually gave me a list of things that she wanted to do. In no particular order they included horseracing (I’m hoping she means watching, not riding) visiting a friend in Nottingham, castles, waterfalls and, oh yes, the Eiffel Tower.
For a moment I thought the same general knowledge that led her to believe that “Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter” was an accurate biographical retelling of Honest Abe’s younger life, ridding the world of demons, was encouraging her faith that the infamous tower was in fact in the UK. But no, she know’s it’s in Paris, and that Paris is in France, and wondered if it would be possible to go there at the same time as visiting the UK.
I was about to reel off a list of reasons, including distance, currency, language etc when it dawned on me that going from London to Paris must be similar to going from Jakarta to Bandung. With a bit of research it would appear that Bandung is 273 miles from Jakarta and the journey takes about 4 hours to get there. By car. London to Paris, on the other hand, is only 211 miles and by using the Eurostar train, takes 2 hours and 15 minutes. In comfort. No traffic jams. Turns out we could even begin our journey in Darlington.
This all seemed to be fitting into place nicely but as with all best laid plans of mice and men, something was going to go wrong. I say wrong but I guess it’s just beaurecracy. France requires a different visa to the UK. Yep, let me repeat that with added perspective. France and the UK are in the European Union. They have trade links established to bring the European Community together. I can travel freely between all member states on my European British passport but it would appear that purchasing a British visa doesn’t allow Yohana the same freedom. The same visa that will allow us to enter France would also, if we chose, allow us to enter a number of other European countries, just not the UK, It would appear this is what happens when you use your veto too many times in the European parliament to say no to mandatory Bratwurst for breakfast. Both the UK and Euro visa, called a Shengen visa, would need to be applied for in advance.
Curiosity piqued, further investigation showed just how many countries will allow you to buy a visa on arrival (cheap option) and how many will expect you to buy it in advance (always more expensive). It all depends on nationality, different countries have different entry requirements. For instance, Indonesia offers sixty-five countries visa on arrival for the cost of $25 US Dollars.
So what about as a British Passport holder? Let’s look at the numbers. The number of countries that i can enter with a visa on arrival is increased to 167. THERE ARE ONLY 196 COUNTRIES IN THE WORLD ALTOGETHER*. Yes, there are 29 countries where I have to apply in advance to enter, if they’ll let me in at all. Which countries can’t I enter this way? Well, that would be the likes of Noth Korea, amongst the few left. Actually of that 167 it’s free to enter many places too...French Guyana anyone?
*this figure changes quite often.
Now I know it’s a wiki site but it still provides a lot of useful information http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visa_requirements_for_British_nationals
According to the "Henley Visa Restrictions Index 2012", holders of a British citizen passport can visit 167 countries visa-free or with visa on arrival
The grey means a pre-arrival visa is needed, everything else is available visa free or VoA.
Lets compare that with the ability for Indoenesians to travel. Once you take out the black (diplomatic visas) and orange (special exemption) then you’re left with the dark blue (no visa) and light blue (visa on arrival) The red, by the way, is Indonesia itself.
So Indonesians can travel VOA to Senegal and Chad, where I have to apply for a visa in advance.....hmmm. I wonder what made Indonesia and Chad come to this arrangement. Maybe hundreds of Indonesians had a visit to Chad on their bucket lists and this encouraged the Indonesian and Chad governments to come to an arrangement.
I saw some provocative pictures recently of the Indonesian President being honoured by our Queen for his excellent work in turning Indonesia into a democratic country with multicultural values. Trade-wise it doesn't increase faith in Indonesia enough to alter the visa situation though, does it.