Simon Calder: Turkish delights get tangled in red tape

The man who pays his way

April in the eastern Mediterranean is a joy. The air is fresh, and warming by the day. The light is sharp, shining on the blessings of nature and the creativity of man. And Turkey, in particular, is a delight, whether you spend 48 hours in Istanbul or a fortnight exploring Cappadocia.

For decades, holidays in Turkey have had the faintly annoying characteristic of starting slowly: queuing at the airport to pay a £10 visa fee upon arrival. Still, that is a relatively small expense and inconvenience for the pleasure of visiting a friendly and fascinating country. But Turkey's new "Law on Foreigners" takes effect next Friday. From 11 April onwards, every visitor seeking a city break, a week on the beach or a historical odyssey is supposed to have an e-visa.

The government claims the move will end airport queues and "make travelling to Turkey simpler and easier". But the reality is that visiting the country will become a bit more expensive and a lot more complicated.

You are kindly requested to apply at evisa.gov.tr – at least 24 hours before travel, but no earlier than three months in advance. The website claims the application process takes three steps and "approximately three minutes". Well, it's trickier than that. The personal information requested includes, oddly, your parents' first (but not last) names, as well as the issue and expiry dates of your passport. For "Your Nationality" travellers from Britain must select "United Kingdom" rather than "British". Then there is a nine-digit security verification hurdle to clear. Next, you enter your expected date of arrival. If there is any doubt, then go for the earliest possible; the e-visa expires 180 days, just short of six months, after the starting date.

When you confirm that all the information is correct, the clock starts ticking. An email is automatically generated, and you have one hour to respond (check your "junk mail" folder if it does not arrive promptly). If you meet the deadline, you are taken to the payment page. Bizarrely, though, you will be charged not in sterling, nor Turkish lira, nor even euros – but in US dollars. The fee of $20 works out at £12.50 – a quarter more than the current "walk-up" visa.

You pay with plastic. Because it is a foreign-currency transaction, if you pay by debit-card it could cost 10 per cent more because of a £1.25 "transaction fee". So use a credit card.

Your application is confirmed by another email, which allows you to download the e-visa and print it out to take with you. But if you are applying for a family, you must repeat every stage of this procedure. By the end of it, you may conclude that the old queue-up-and-pay system is "simpler and easier" than the new process.

Not welcome aboard?

Between Easter and the end of the year, more than two million British holidaymakers will be heading for Turkey and are therefore obliged to apply for an e-visa. Good tour operators and travel agents are alerting their customers to the new rules, and some are even offering to obtain the e-visa for clients. But there is no legal obligation for travel companies to warn customers.

Inevitably, some holidaymakers will fail to comply with the stipulation that the visa must be obtained at least 24 hours ahead of departure.

Late in the day, the Turkish authorities have recognised that many travellers will be unaware of the new rules. But the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Ankara has actually added to the confusion by apparently contradicting the 24-hour minimum. It now says you can apply on arrival:

"Visitors arriving to Turkey without visas will be able to obtain their e-visas via interactive kiosks placed in Turkish airports."

A useful fallback – but only if the holidaymaker is allowed on board the plane to Turkey in the first place. Hard-pressed ground staff at UK airports, who face disciplinary action if they allow an ineligible passenger on to an international flight, can hardly be blamed for erring on the side of caution. They may take at face value the rule that an e-visa must be obtained in advance, and thus deny boarding to passengers without the piece of paper.

If you think the rules for airline passengers are tricky, try arriving on a cruise ship. Travellers who sail in are allowed in visa-free for up to 72 hours – so long as they don't plan to leave the port of arrival. Anyone planning an excursion, for example a day trip from Marmaris to Ephesus or Dalyan, will need to obtain an e-visa in advance. You also require an e-visa if you fly to Turkey to board a cruise ship, even if you plan to spend only a few hours on Turkish soil.

Right rip-off

Predictably, the move has spawned a number of get-rich-quick websites that seek to divert unwitting travellers from the official channel and levy high "service fees". These businesses pay Google to appear at the top of the listings when a search is made for something like "Turkey Visa". The site run by evisa.eu.com, for example, charges £55 – more than four times as much as you pay at the correct website, evisa.gov.tr. While there is an "Ad" symbol next to this and similar Google listings, exploiting hapless visitors is evidently a profitable business.

It remains to be seen what effect the new rules will have on the profits of Turkey's tourism industry. Certainly, many travel companies are appalled that the system should be introduced at the start of the holiday season, rather than in September or October when visitor numbers dwindle and the system could "bed in".

With the present timing, visitor numbers may dwindle anyway – with British heads kept away from Turkish beds by a tangle of red tape.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Guru Careers: Dining Room Head Chef

    £32K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Dining Room Head Chef to work for one of ...

    Guru Careers: Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Chef

    £27K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Che...

    Ashdown Group: Technical IT Manager - North London - Growing business

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A growing business that has been ope...

    Recruitment Genius: Technical Supervisor

    £24800 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As one of London's leading Muse...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

    'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

    In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
    VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

    How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

    Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
    They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

    Typefaces still matter in the digital age

    A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
    Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

    'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

    New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
    The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

    Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

    Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
    Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

    Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

    Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
    Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

    Crisp sales are in decline

    As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
    Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

    Ronald McDonald the muse

    A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
    13 best picnic blankets

    13 best picnic blankets

    Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
    Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

    Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

    Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
    Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

    Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

    Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'