Saturday, June 21, 2014
It is always good to start a border crossing day with a coffee. So we did.
The 200-odd km drive to the border was on very good roads, but with the usual dangerous drivers, slow trucks, poorly marked pedestrian crossings in the middle of the highways, unclear speed signage, police everywhere and silly overtaking restrictions. Even with these obstacles, we made relatively good time to the border. About 30 kms short of the border Stephen said, “hard to believe we will drive through Kazakhstan without being stopped once by the police”. Less than 3 minutes later we were stopped. But the police check was quick and efficient. Maybe we dazzled the cop with our highly organized and folderized paperwork.
The border crossing on the Kazakhstan side was frustrating, but once it was all complete, the clock revealed that it had only taken 1 hour. It felt like a very long 1 hour, but still quite quick compared to some other crossings. The actual processing time was less than 5 minutes, and the rest was waiting around trying to work out what to do. Twice Stephen was pulled to one side and into an office hidden from security cameras and asked directly and persistently for money. First by the border police and then by customs. Our zero tolerance for bribes paid off, but probably was the reason for our subsequent excessive processing delays. Kazakhstan immigration was friendly, and they even joked about the poor showing by England the night before in the FIFA World Cup football.
The crossing into Kyrgyzstan was delightful in comparison. Customs was extremely friendly and helpful while immigration were massively efficient. Even with completing temporary import paperwork for Sterlin, we were through in 20 minutes. Only to have this spoiled 400 meters after the border when we were singled out for a quick check by the traffic police. We were waved on once the cop worked out that we didn’t speak Russian. He did glance at our paperwork, but not sure what he was looking for.
Overall a good crossing.