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Visa & Valo

Aren't visas the biggest scam? You've just forked over several thousand for a ticket which then has taxes added to it, and then you get stung for visas. More than the bucks, it's the hassle of visas that always trips me up. For the upcoming Finland trip, I was going to go via China and while in Finland I'm going to be in Karelia, which is the doorstep to Russia. It would be rude not to pop in, right? But the fiendish nature of these visas means that not only do I need to come up with several passport photos but also an elaborate invite/visa support. With the constant moving of goalposts that is China's visa situation it currently requires that you need to have accommodation booked for your stay. This means a credit card shuffle and a quick booking in a place I know will give me a receipt that I can attach to the visa application. Then wait two days, which turns out to be four.

The Russian system is even more convuluted. Their visa support document isn't a hotel booking (though it can be...), but an invitation that can be issued by the place you're staying in or by a friend. There's a small fortune being made by companies offering just Russian visa support in a system that really just seems like unecessary red tape.

Okay, enough whining, because some countries do make it easy. Cambodia, for example, has a streamlined e-visa for most tourist entries that gets you what you need online and allows the submission of digital photos (so no more hanging around in the chemist waiting for them to get you 4 badly shot photos of you near the psoriasis treatments). For all the corruption and problems that the country endures, they at least make it easy to visit.

The other difficult bit of prep is that I'm trying to line up is an interview Ville Valo, one of Finland's biggest musicians. His band HIM and their 'love metal' are Finland's biggest exports besides Nokia and you'll see kids in their t-shirts everywhere from Melbourne to Milwaukee. It's always difficult to get interviews with these folks - usually there's a lot of publicists and record company folks between you and the interviewee, but so far Finnish PR has been nothing but helpful. The idea is to get him to be a 'Local Voice' and talk about what he likes/loathes about Helsinki and Finland. Valo was born in Helsinki and most of the band still have some connection to the city, although they've made it big in the States so maybe they don't spend much time there anymore. If all else fails, I could try HIM's stable mates at Helsinki Music Company, the infamous Lordi.


  1. I have a Finnish friend, but she doesn't live there A.T.M.

    FYI ...

  2. Thanks, David. Any suggestions of contacts or coverage are always handy.

  3. Not as cool as HIM but don't forget that other Finnish export, Linux.

  4. And just across the water, Perez, Estonians invented (and recently sold off for a tidy US$4 billion) Skype. It's a techno-savvy part of the world.

  5. I suppose you don't need to cover the atrocious entry from Finland in this year's Eurovision. Please do not.

  6. Finland could always surprise. Lordi were jst the begining...


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