Our online guru Eli Orzessek looks into visas for China, Russia and Mongolia.
My partner and I are leaving for a year-long trip. We start in Central America before heading over to Europe in April.

In September-October we are hoping to do the Trans-Mongolian train through Russia, Mongolia and China, however, we won't be able to get visas in New Zealand before we go because it will be longer than three months before we arrive in Russia.

What is the easiest/best/safest way to get Russian, Mongolian and Chinese visas while we are travelling, without coming home? Can it be done? We are both on New Zealand passports and I have a British passport too.

Any advice would be hugely appreciated as we've been dying to do this train trip forever!
Pipi Desborough

I'm sorry this is a bit late - your email got lost in my inbox and though you've already left for your trip, here are some tips if you haven't sorted your visa situation yet.

First, I contacted Intrepid Travel, who offer a Trans-Mongolian railway trip. Here's what Tara Kennaway, regional product manager of Intrepid Group had to say: "Generally, travellers need to apply for visas in their home country, especially for Russia. I strongly advise researching each consulate individually and contacting them directly to see if this is possible."

I did a bit of research myself and contacted the Russian embassy - this seems to be the visa you're most likely to have trouble with if you're applying from overseas. I had read online that you needed to be a resident of the country you're applying from, but the Russian Embassy in Wellington said otherwise.

They advised: "If the traveller stays abroad longer than three months she can contact the Russian Consular Section at that country regarding the obtaining of Russian visa there."
But it would definitely be worth giving the embassy a call for further confirmation - they're on (04) 476 6113.


As for Mongolia, that's a lot more simple. Peter Allport, Honorary Consul of Mongolia in New Zealand, said you should be able to get a visa from any Mongolian embassy.

"Mongolian visas expire 90 days after issue so they have to enter the country within 90 days of issue," he said. "They will also have to have at least six months validity left on their passport at the point of application."

I'm having a bit more trouble finding clear information when it comes to China - I've had no luck getting in touch with anyone at the consulate and information online is quite varied. I've read that it has been possible to get visas from foreign embassies - including in Mongolia - but others say this isn't the case any more.

A Chinese tourist visa requires a flight itinerary prepared by a travel agency or photocopy of your airline ticket (e-ticket is acceptable), or invitation letter from relatives or friends in China, including the personal details and contact information of the person who invited you.

Though New Zealanders can apply for a 72-hour transit permit, this only applies if you're arriving and leaving by air.

I had also read that a lot of people chose to go to Hong Kong first and obtain a tourist visa for China there - but apparently this has become more complicated if you're not a resident.

This seems like a situation where readers' first-hand experiences would be most useful - so hopefully some helpful readers will send in any tips or tricks they've encountered when it comes to obtaining visas while abroad. There's got to be a better way than flying back home!

Tweet us @NZHTravel or use the hashtag #NZHAskAway
Email your questions to askaway@nzherald.co.nz