middle east travel
I might be traveling to the middle east this year and wanted to get advice on VISA's. Each country is different. But the two I plan on traveling to have either a tourist VISA or a business VISA. I'll be bringing some light equipment (tripod, DSLR camera, audio recorder and mic). Should I say I'm a tourist and just risk it? Or should I go with the business VISA?
I've traveled to other countries as a tourist and never had a problem bringing in this small gear package. But I've never been to these countries. For security reasons I don't want to verify which countries I'm speaking about.
Wrong forum- please ask this over on the indie production forum. This is camera tech.
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I realize it's a camera forum, but CAMERAPEOPLE travel with their gear all over the world. How many people subscribe to the indie forum? Besides, this doesn't just apply to indie film makers.
Red Eye Film Co.
Depends on the country and their tourist rules. Call the embassy if you're unsure.
Do you need an invitation from a local host (person/business) to apply for a visa?
It also depends on who you are working for and who is taking the financial risk of the trip (meaning your gear gets "lost", who pays? You rental car explodes, who pays?). Since you need to closet what it is you're doing, it's hard to give specifics, so I will tow the "worst case scenario" line. There'll be a huge difference between Dubai and Fallujah.
Call all of your insurance companies life, health and gear. Do you need kidnapping insurance? You might, no joke.
You can try and be a tourist, just know it could cause problems. Or, you can stay "above board", say you're a business doing business and carnet, carnet, carnet. Either way it's not particularly easy, so plan for some grief. Hopefully whoever you are working for can help you get what you need, and can localize the proper customs for you. Pretend (or I guess, imagine) that you are going to travel through the tightest security you will have ever been privy too, all of your bags will be rifled through multiple times in the same airport, even on the way out the door, you won't speak the language and they won't speak yours. You want to lie through all of that or show your papers? Nothing separates a tourist from an infidel faster than a wireless microphone system.
Sorry to be doom and gloom, but be smart. Excuse my English, but can you afford to mess around?
For the record, I had a much stronger word in there than "mess". It is a war zone after all.
Jeremy outlined it very well. I've worked in the middle east and it is a pain. My philosophy for all locations is pretty simple. If I can afford to have my filming be shut down (or worse) and get kicked out, then I can risk doing it the simple way. If not, I always go to the trouble to do it right.
One additional note: Because of the security situations over there many of the governments have a censorship office. Upon your departure you have to declare that you have filmed nothing that would endanger their national security. They may want to see some of your footage. This was difficult when we used to shoot film. It's obviously gotten a lot easier with digital video. Having the approval from this office always made it easier for me to get out without as much interrogation.
Thanks all for your feedback. I think I will go for the business visa. It'll be less risky than trying to fly under the radar. I'm not doing anything that would get me in trouble with the government or anything, so there will be no problem.
Red Eye Film Co.
[Trevor Ward] " I'm not doing anything that would get me in trouble with the government or anything, so there will be no problem."
It doesn't matter if you're doing anything to get you in trouble.
While traveling through China once, we were stopped when changing planes. We flew in to the international terminal, had to get a major amount of gear from baggage claim, load it all up on carts, push it on carts to a bus, and ride to the domestic terminal to catch a flight deep in to rural China. As soon as we got to the domestic side of things, we were tagged as suspicious. Even with the carne, it took a while to get through security.
We hadn't done anything wrong, and we hadn't even shot anything yet.
Granted, this was China and not the middle east so it could be different. China's concerns might vary from where you are traveling.
Traveling to Dubai on an edit gig by myself with very minimal gear, security was tough. On the way out of the airport and in to the country, after baggage claim, my bags were xrayed at two different times. On my home and out of the country, there was 3(!) xrays. I had to check a carry-on that had too many cables in it. I asked the very nice baggage screener why and she opened my case, took out a cable and held it up around her neck as if she was being strangled. I never thought of an SDI cable as a weapon before that demonstration.
You'll be fine. Travel smart, keep everything in line.
Have you ever prepared a carnet before? Start now.