One of my favorite souvenirs of our trip around the world is my passport, filled up with visitor visas and permission to enter so many countries.
The stories are the same. Never a moment of worry or visitor visa dramas that you hear about so often.
We got off the plane in each country, queued up at immigration, handed our passport to the officer, he/she smiled and stamped us in while welcoming us to his homeland, and we went on to customs.
In some countries there was a fee, but not always.
That’s really all there is to it.
Most of the time.
Some countries require Visas to be purchased before you arrive. For our travels, that was only China and Russia.
China was easy. We gave them our dates, our money, sent our passports to the consulate and we got our visas and entered China without incident.
Russia is a bit more regimented, requiring a sponsor, pedantic details and quite a bit of cash. I had a brilliant idea which was to find the form on-line so it could be typed guaranteeing it to be filled out in black block lettering. Unfortunately the version we found and printed had it’s black border 3 millimeters too narrow, so our application was returned. As a result we had to pay extra to expedite the process. Finally, $1,200 later we had four visas to let us into Russia.
Fiji welcomed us but at the window accidentally only returned three passports. Then we got stuck in Fijian customs until it was only us and 3 Fijian officers remaining in that part of the airport. Following the advice of our travel agent’s assistant, we had brought our own frozen vacuum packed meat along with special certification paperwork from the butcher. It wasn’t until we returned home and told the butcher our story that we understood what had actually happened. When the officer asked for “a vet certificate and import license” what he was really saying was “Give me a bribe and you can pass.” Fortunately for us they had eventually decided that we weren’t smart enough to understand the process and let us pass and keep our food.
Entering the UK we had to answer a long series of personal questions as to why we would want to stay there for more than a month, what we were going to do and how we were educating our children.
Entering Oman there is an extra step as you purchase your visa before entering the immigration queue. Once at the front, they reviewed our passports and then five police officers came and took us away. It turned out that New Zealand’s Minister of Foreign Affairs had been in Oman the day before and we were now the first tourists to arrive under the new policy – New Zealanders no longer needed to buy a visa and our money had to be returned.
And let’s not forget the laser pointer incident in Dubai. As far as visitor visa dramas go, that would be the big one for us.
All photos ©Rhonda Albom 2011-2012. All rights Reserved.
Is there actually a travel tip amongst our visitor visa dramas?
- Learn the rules before you go and follow them.
- Don’t freak out – sometimes you get hauled away by police and it’s a good thing and they give you money.
- When traveling to Russia on a cruise ship you must always be with your guide. If you want to roam around freely you need a visitor visa. It really was worth it. Spectacular country, interesting history, stunning architecture, and a capital city that is easy to get around on the metro.
- Just pay the bribe.
Your turn – have you had any visitor visa dramas?
This is the final week of the A to Z challenge 2013. My topic:
Travel Tips I Learned the Hard Way