Travel Visa Horror Stories – there are plenty!
Getting a visa to just about anywhere may seem routine: apply online or go to your nearest embassy or consulate – and voilà! But as any seasoned traveller surely knows, with visas, especially for far-flung destinations, it’s never always that easy and there are real horror stories along the way. I was lucky that I never had any of my travel go astray because of a visa mishap, but some of my fellow travel bloggers weren’t so lucky. Here are some tales of visa woes I’ve gathered, and cautionary ones at that. Happy travelling!
The Dog Days Are Over
Border runs are never fun but having literally everything go wrong on one is the worst. I was working online and hanging out in Thailand for a while. My time for a border run came around and I booked a bus trip to take me to the Malaysian border and back. I’ve done this before, and it takes all day. My driver was late, which was not surprising, but he picked up the wrong people and didn’t realize it until we were on the way and 30 minutes outside of town. So we drove back and dropped them off. We finally got back on the road and the vehicle’s a/c gave out. It was like an oven and we were roasting.The driver stopped at a repair shop and we got out and huddled in small patches of shade. An hour went by… we were nearly three hours behind schedule now. When we finally got to the border, I realized I had the wrong date in my head for the border run. I had overstayed by two days! No worries, I thought – I’ll just pay the extra and get this day over with. Except I didn’t have enough cash and there was no ATM. Thankfully a fellow passenger on my bus saw my desperation, gave me the money and eventually we were on our way back home. But before we arrived, just to top the day off, our driver ran over a dog. Another day in paradise.
– Nina of Where in the World is Nina
On the Wrong Page
I had been travelling across South East Asia with my sister, and we were making our way to Siem Reap, in Cambodia. We had decided to cross the border between Vietnam and Cambodia by boat, via the Mekong River. We had heard of border scams in the region, but we were not really worried about it. When we finally reached the Cambodian border, the captain of the boat collected all the passports and asked the passengers to wait while he got them stamped. After a while, he approached me, saying that my passport didn’t have enough empty pages (it only had two, and apparently I was required to have at least three) and that for that reason, I’d have to pay a fine of $30 USD. I knew this had to be a scam – nowhere in any guide book I had read, any blog I had browsed, was it written that passports had to have a minimum of three empty pages. I kept my cool, told him that this was not written anywhere at all, and asked whether he could show me a document where it said so. I also asked him whether, if I had paid the said $30 USD, an empty page would magically appear on my passport. I guess he could see I was not easily fooled, so he took me to the border guards. They demanded that I write an “official” letter on the back of an immigration form saying that as soon as I got back to Italy, I would apply for a new passport.
– Claudia of My Adventures Across The World
Having finally arrived in Minsk, my next project was registering my presence in the country as I was staying for more than five days and not staying in a hotel. After numerous walks to random official-ish offices, I was registered and enjoyed my couple of weeks in Minsk. Then it was on to Poland, where I was hoping to get back into the country despite using all my Schengen days. But before I left the country, chaos struck. The official-ish offices had written my exit date as September 18th. The day’s date was September 22nd. I was crapping myself, but, after 5-10 minutes of chat with various officials I was let go, and with no fines. But, wow, was I scared.
– Jub of Tiki Touring Kiwi
Stamp of Approval
As we went on a trip around the world, we thought it’d be too much hassle to apply for our Indian visas in advance and decided to apply for them along the way. In Mozambique, we were late as we arrived at the Indian embassy. They told us it was an Indian public holiday and they were going to be closed the next day and it would take another two days for the visas. We were annoyed as we had to leave the country, as our visas had expired. Our next stop was South Africa. There, we called the embassy in Cape Town several times but discovered that only South Africans are able to apply for an Indian visa. As we had already invested so much time, money and energy we decided to change our flight (Cape Town – Abu Dhabi – Mumbai) and extend our stay in Abu Dhabi. We thought we had planned it well and we would have enough time.
In Abu Dhabi, we applied at the embassy and I told the visa officer about my big dream of visiting India (which was no lie). He wanted to know our exact plans, which cities we would visit and so on. We had a good feeling when he gave us a date to come back. A few days passed and we went there again, at exactly the time he had told us. A woman at the front desk was acting strangely that day and we had to wait a long time. We became nervous as time passed and were anxious if he would give us our passports at all, or if he would decide to go for a lunch break. We were the last ones that were called and in his office, he gave us our passports. When we were leaving, we heard the woman at the front desk saying to all other people, “Go home! Come again tomorrow.” Can you imagine how we danced outside the building with our passports, and visas, in our hands? The next day we left for the airport and finally made it to India.
– Melanie of Mafambani
I applied for a six-month Chinese Business Visa through my local travel agent, as I was going to be on an internship in China. I sent in my passport, financial support evidence and a letter of invitation from the Chinese company I was going to work for. A few weeks later, I received my passport with a six-month visa (written completely in Chinese, except for some random numbers and dates). I flew to China, went through immigration and everything was fine. A few weeks later, I accompanied a friend to the Chinese Immigration Office because he wanted to extend his visa. Since I was already there, I decided to ask the Immigration Officer if it would be a problem to extend my visa as I had thought about adding a few weeks of travel after my internship. He looked at my passport and told me I had to leave China within the next five days because apparently with my visa, I could only stay 60 days at a time. I was shocked. Luckily, my boss agreed to give me a few days off for a visa run. I called a friend who worked in a travel agency in Beijing and told him to get me the cheapest flight out of there. My choices of destination were Pyongyang or Kuala Lumpur, and I chose the latter. And this is how I ended up spending an unplanned week in Malaysia!
– Maria of Maria Abroad
There you have it! No matter what you’re doing when you’re abroad, including trying to get your hands on a visa, it always pays to have a backup before you leave. It gives you ultimate peace of mind knowing that you’re not going to be blocked trying to get to your dream destinations. Let Sherpa be your guide.
Amélie is a fun-loving vegan Canadian publisher, travel writer and influencer who’s ditched the 9 to 5 lifestyle in favour of something that lets her roam the world at her own will and follow her ever itchy feet. She is currently based in Berlin, Germany, but that probably won’t last very long.
The Sherpa Team sends a huge thank you to guest blogger Amélie for connecting Sherpa to an incredible network of bloggers willing to share their tales. You can follow her adventures through her website Mostly Amelie and you connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter! Do you want to contribute to Sherpa? Have a blog idea we should cover? Check out our Initiatives Page and let us know – we’d love to hear from you!