31 August 2008

Travel warnings

There is too much news for one person to know. "All the news that is fit to print" should really be re-worded to say "all the news we think fit to tell you about places which interest editors".
The fact is you cannot know all the things you should about the places you will travel. That is why governments have made up travel warnings. These warnings, updated frequently, and posted on the internet, bring what could be a wealth of security information to your home.
Whether it is an military insurrection, coup, or civil war; or a natural disaster, these travel warnings can alert you to very timely events at your destination. However, as the common traveler, you and I have to make do with these public warnings. Private companies often use specialist international risk assessment companies to prepare detailed reports before trips and business activities. But we cannot afford that, so we use the internet.
Below I have listed three important and generally reliable government travel warning websites for English-speakers.
Some of you will notice the omission of the US government. This brings me to the basic problem with the travel warnings: they are often very political rather than non-partisan assessments of a security situation. The worst offender remains the US State Department travel warning system, which seems more geared towards frightening US citizens with scary stories about places and regimes not currently in favour in Washington, than it does with actually presenting useful security information.
So here are three sites, which taken together, will give you a fair idea of what is going on out there.
I recommend you check all three sites about any one country, and compare and contrast the advice. This will give you a more comprehensive picture of the situation on the ground in your intended destination.
Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.
UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs.

25 August 2008

A Russian voucher is NOT a Russian visa

Okay, we all realize how tough it is to get a Russian visa due to the curious two-step visa application process.
First you must get an invitation and VOUCHER. This document, issued under the authority of the Russian government, but issued by a private company, allows you to apply for a Russian visa. Without the voucher you will not even be allowed to submit your forms at the embassy.
The good news is that we at Visa Services Canada can get you a Russian tourist voucher in 36 hours for only $50 ($55 for international cruise ship passengers). Business travellers can wait up to three working weeks for a business voucher. However, business people can also use an authorized invitation from a Russian company as their visa support. The Russian company letter must be stamped by the Russian Interior Ministry.
The reason I bring up what seems like a rather obvious topic is that serveral people have tried to apply without a voucher; while others have gotten to the airport thinking the voucher, which is in Russian, was their actual visa. The voucher is not the visa: it only allows you to get a visa for the period specified on the voucher.
The second step is to apply for the visa. VSC will both acquire a voucher, and apply for your visa all in one conveniet step on your behalf. You no longer have to worry about trying to get a voucher and a visa. We do it all for you.
Click here for the Russian visa details.
Click here for the Russian visa forms.

18 August 2008

China, after the Olympics

As most of you know by now, travel to China became incredibly difficult this past April as the Middle Kingdom tightened the rules for acquiring a tourist or business or visit visa.
My company, Visa Services Canada, dealt with a lot of customers trying to get to the Olympics. It was our pleasure to be the official provider of visas to Alliant/Bell Canada's contest winners on all the all-expense-paid trips to the Olympics. We even aided some Canadian Olympic team members in getting visas. These were supposed to be be issued automatically, but the bureaucratic nightmare that is a Chinese visa application processes looked for a while to be set to deny visas to several of our athletes. In the end, only days before their flights, we acquired the last visas, and the athletes headed for Beijing.
With the Olympics ending and the demand for visas dropping, there was hope of a return to the former relaxed visa rules. However, I am sorry to report there is no end to the harsh rules in sight.
Tourist visas can now only be issued to passengers with a confirmed itinerary entailing all travel arrangements and a confirmed hotel with full contact data.
Visitor visas are far more difficult. People wanting to visit family must show a copy of the official PRC identity card for their contact, as well as a kinship certificate and a personal invitation letter. They also need confirmed travel arrangements.
The good news is the price: visas are rock-bottom priced at only $50.
China visa details
China visa FORMS