Decided it was time for a new gripe. Mine is about visas and the process of getting them. Here I am 9 days before departure, waiting for the Embassy of the Republic of Kenya to afix its stamp of approval to my passport and mail it back. I sent it by express mail [return by same] to Washington over a month ago and am still waiting for its return. I called after two weeks to inquire about its status, waited on the line (long distance) for twenty minutes while some clerk shuffled papers and finally told me there was a problem with the payment. It seems I had endorsed the money order (checks won't do) to the Republic of Kenya instead of the required Embassy of the Republic of Kenya. Fine. I run to the post office cut a new money order for $50 (what happens to the first one?) and send it by overnight express ($14) the next day. Still no visa or passport. The worst thing is I still have to send it to the Brazilian consulate to get their visa. For that one I may have to use a courier service or fly to LA for a day and walk it through in person.
The whole visa thing is very political. Some countries have reciprical agreements negating the requirement, while residents of other countries are charged exorbitant fees. When you consider the economic benefits to be gained by having tourists come and provide foreign currency, it doesn't make sense to put up barriers. If it's a matter of greasing a few palms, why can't they just collect their fees at the borders without making travellers jump through all kinds of hoops?
I'm just very frustrated after spending another hour on hold trying to get through to the Kenyan visa office (which is only open 9:30-13:00 EST) and not getting anywhere. It's enough to make me consider blowing off the whole trip.
It does make you wonder sometimes why some countries are likely to inhibit travel to their country when the economic benefits could be a boon to them. But I think you need to look at the type of government to understand. If the government is one of repression and suspicion then they're going to be the same with foreigners.
Remember how difficult it was to travel to the U.S.S.R. or China 20 years ago? They were so suspicious of their own countrymen that foreigners stood little chance of getting treated as guests. Rather they were always treated as foreign spies. And frequently were trailed.
Well, there must be a travel goddess who looks after lost voyagers because within an hour of the time I posted my gripe, a USPS special delivery carrier knocked on my door and handed me my password WITH visa! I also found out that there is a Brazilian consulate general in San Francisco (an easy trip) that I can walk through tomorrow. They require a different application form from the one my TA sent, but I have a stack of passport photos and $100 ready to go. Maybe by this time tomorrow I shall have completed the last leg of my pre-journey. I can tell many adventures lie ahead. :-/
It looks like I'll overcome my own problems, but my complaint still holds. The whole visa process is a nightmare of twists and turns and there are no shortcuts. If third world countries want to promote tourism, they should attend to the basics before they start building new resorts.
I suspect you'd not have had the problem if you used one of the VISA services, such as Zierer. This is their business and they always get prompt and accurate service. It is worth the few bucks they charge. We always recommend using a service.
Footnote to the original post - I picked up my passport with the last required visa at the Brazilian consulate in San Francisco this morning, so I'm finally ready to do the doc dance. My TA told me I would have to use the consulate in LA, and that would have necessitated using a VISA service, but luckily, Brazil opened its SF office this year so it was relatively easy to take it there in person. BTW, consulates require 3 days to process applications - even when you do a walkthrough - so don't wait until the last minute!