Bids and offers in no-man’s-land
"It becomes clear that, despite the border guards’ protestations, visas are obtainable at the crossing – for a price. The bargaining – affecting only two of us since Russians do not need visas to travel anywhere in the CIS – begins at $1,000."
It’s eight o’clock on the Thursday evening, and the sun has by now very definitely set. We have been sitting in the no-man’s-land on the border between Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan for the past couple of hours, doing battle with the local bureaucracy. Despite our having been assured by the Kyrgyz embassies in London and Moscow that tourist visas can be obtained at border crossings as well as at Bishkek’s Manas airport, the reality here on the border seems very different.
Thankfully I’m travelling with two investors well versed in the practicalities of doing business in the CIS.
After a series of circular and increasingly futile discussions about the difference between the visa regulations in theory and practice, we are told to sit back in our car and wait for the arrival of the border guards’ “big boss”, who eventually pulls up in his own smart shiny car. We produce our flight tickets out of Bishkek, explain earnestly that we are due to fly out less than 36 hours later, and wait for the latest instalment in the saga to unfold.