Daniel's current passport was issued when he was under 16, so it was only valid for five years and expires in November 2006. Since he's planning to spend two years on the Doulos, travelling around Asia initially, he needs a new one.
Richard's current passport is a 48-page extended one which expires in 2009, but he's travelled so much in the Middle East in the past few years that it's almost full. So he too needs a new one.
No problem; the British High Commission in Nicosia can renew passports. They have a helpful website with a table of fees, general information, notes about applying for passports, and application forms that can be downloaded as .pdf files. The site says that it usually takes about a week (5 working days) to be issued with a new passport, although it might take longer at peak times. So as Christmas is fast approaching, we thought we'd allow longer. Dan travels on 9th January and Richard may be travelling in January too, so they allocated today to take the forms, old passports, fees and photos to the High Commission. Dan arranged a clarinet lesson in Nicosia for 9am and they both managed to get up and leave by 8am, to allow plenty of time.
Filling in the forms was complicated. None of us is very good with officialese, and some of the questions were a bit ambiguous. The pages of notes were helpful - sort of - and in the end we worked out what was required. At least, we hope so.
Getting passport photos was easy, albeit a little pricey: one of the photographers locally does four for £4 CY, and since he does them on a professional digital camera they could even see what they looked like and choose good ones before they were printed. We have a British friend who teaches at the British army school, who was happy to authenticate the photos and sign the declaration necessary, so that was all sorted out.
We were a little concerned that on the actual forms there was a note saying that passports can take up to four weeks to arrive. On the other hand, they said that if travel dates were indicated, they would try to ensure the passports were ready in time. Anyway, the forms are international - the standard ones for Brits living in other countries, so we thought perhaps the longer period applied to other places where communication might be more difficult. Although with the various bank holidays coming up, we did wonder...
Richard dropped them off this morning, and enquired how long they would take. Apparently they will be ready on about 28th December, so that's good. A little longer than 5 working days, but less than four weeks.
Then he asked if they could be sent to us by registered post, as the site mentions. The cost of £1.50 is a lot less than the cost of petrol to get to Nicosia, and it's much more convenient if they can be posted.
But apparently they don't do registered post - they send by courier. And the courier takes up to three weeks!! Unbelievable...
So Richard will have to go back to Nicosia some time after Dec 28th to collect them. Not really a problem. But we do wonder why nothing's ever simple in Cyprus!