A Couple Close Calls

As I pull my thoughts together to speak of unwanted surprises I had while traveling, a smile spreads across my face recalling my panic and hysteria at the time.  Essential travel documents like passports and visas are needed to enter foreign countries.  An itinerary planner knows to double check, cross check, and recheck papers to ensure there are no mistakes which can up-end vacation plans.  Well, back then, I was not an itinerary planner, but from a couple close calls, I have learned valuable lessons that shape what I do today to avoid unnecessary pitfalls.  Valid passport and appropriate visas are necessary to begin a fabulous holiday.

The first near miss occurred in a place that was far from home.  The country was Cambodia.  In an effort to kill two birds with one stone, I had originally traveled to Vietnam, and from Ho Chi Minh City, I traveled by long distant coach to Cambodia.  As I exited Vietnam, the entry process into Cambodia was smooth.  Passengers had to disembark to be processed through immigration and customs, then walk less than 100 meters between the two countries to embark the bus again.  A headcount was conducted as we re-boarded and traveled the remaining miles to our final destination.

While in Cambodia I visited many places of interest in both Phnom Penh and Krong Siem Reap, but the biggest draws for me were Angkor Wat, Bayon Temple, Ta Prohm Temple, Angkor Thom, Royal Palace, the killing fields and the Tonle Sap River.  When all the sightseeing was over, then the adventure began.  It was time to catch the bus heading back into Vietnam for my impending flight home the next day. I boarded the bus but what a shocker it was when the attendant took my travel documents – passport, airline ticket confirmation and returned to tell me I did not have a visa to re-enter Vietnam.

I was numb.  Even though he tried to explain to me what was wrong, my brain was not comprehending anything.  Of course, I had to disembark, and the bus left for Vietnam without me.  To cut to the chase, besides crying, begging and pleading to everyone for help, I did a lot of praying, running back and forth to offices as directed, made phone calls to my bank to release funds, etc.  That day was one hot mess.  My predicament was dire.  I needed to be in Ho Chi Minh City to catch the return flight back to the USA in time for work the following day.  Total strangers worked tirelessly to process the emergency visa which would allow me entry into Vietnam.  Because the bus was long gone, I had to hire a private taxi to drive to the border where another taxi was waiting to transport me into the Ho Chi Minh.  The ordeal cost me a pretty penny but by this time I was only too glad a resolution had been worked out and so I couldn’t argue.  With the emergency visa in hand, both taxi drivers understood I was in a race against the clock and needed to make up for lost time, so they drove like the wind to cover the distance.

The second near miss was because of a calculation error.  More than 18 months prior to planning a surprise cruise for my Mom and sister, I had checked my passport to confirm everything was in order, and on the day I checked, it was.  However, I had failed to recognize that by the time the future departure date rolled around my passport would be nearing expiration.  At the airport, the ground flight attendant informed me that I could not leave the USA because my passport did not satisfy the amount of time for international travel.  The flight was to Barbados.  Because the flight was very early, I thought the attendant was joking and wanted to make sure I was fully alert and wide awake.  She repeated herself and if I wasn’t awake before, I sure was by then.  She explained my passport was due to expire in less than two months.  For a passport to be acceptable for international travel it must have six or more months of validity.  Grasping the magnitude of what was unfolding sent my body into a panic.  People seemed to be moving in slow motion, voices sounded slower and tears began to fall.  My niece, who was my traveling companion, eyes welled-up with tears, but she could do nothing for me.  It was obvious, she would have to leave without me.  The flight departed, but I was determined to correct my oversight.

To make a long story short, acting on the directions from the flight attendant, I headed to the immigration office in New York City and pleaded my case.  I was told the waiting time to process an emergency request was six weeks.  To my mind, that was not an option.  I needed to be on the island the next day to start a week-long cruise through the Caribbean.   All of a sudden, I was left with a few hours to get there.  After much praying, pleading, and explaining the mistake, I was granted a new passport in less than 8 hours.  I can only attribute all thanks and praise to God for answered prayers.  I missed my flight that day, but was able to fly out the next morning on a flight connecting through Miami. I arrived at my destination with just two hours to spare before boarding the cruise ship at the Bridgetown port.  Needless to say, it was a close call to ruining a perfect surprise vacation for my loved ones.

Community Peeps, all’s well that ends well.  I cannot begin to impress just how important it is to pay attention and double check that you have the correct visas, and updated documents before you travel.  Give yourself enough time to make any adjustments.  Kudos and appreciation to all those strangers who came to my rescue back then.  It is forever etched in my mind.  What has been your experience?  Anything similar?  I’d like to hear of it.  Please share in the comment box below.

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More times,

Itinerary Planner


14 thoughts on “A Couple Close Calls

  1. I think I would’ve shut down if that happened to me, trying to get back into Vietnam! I’ve been fortunate so far (knock on wood!) and the closest call that happened is when I took the train into Italy, they didn’t stamp my passport. When I was leaving Italy and going into Austria, the border agent got snippy with me for not having a stamp into Italy. I was with a few other people, a few of them got a stamp, a few in line with me didn’t. He was really annoyed, but he stamped our passports and let us through.

    Liked by 1 person

    • So sorry to hear of your ordeal. I know how it feels to be at the mercy of those who can stop you from getting to your destination. Thank God it worked out in your favor and mine. It pays to pay attention to every detail. Next time before leaving immigration ask if you should receive a stamp in your passport. They can only say yes or no😊. Thanks for sharing your experience. It’s much appreciated.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Believe or not, when you are placed in a position that threatens your current situation, you survival skills just kick in. You would do whatever it takes to get back on course. However, wouldn’t like to go through it again though 😀😀. Appreciate that you shared. Thanks for reading my post.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I always leave a buffer day between travel and work but we were in Panama and I was watching the day disappear with flight delays and finally cancellation. We made arrangements to get a flight home the next morning on another airline as all the other passengers left on a bus for the hotel. They gave us a taxi ride to the hotel. As we were checking in, the manager took our passports to the backroom which we thought was odd. Then all the other passengers from the airplane came walking in to the hotel reporting that they had driven 1/2 hour to the hotel but it didn’t have any rooms so they drove back to the airport and had been redirected here. After 1 1/2 hours of bus rides, they were being told there were no rooms at this hotel either. Just then the manager came back with our passports and room keys for 2001. I felt so bad for all the other passengers as they were getting back on the bus for another trip to the airport but we got to the 20th floor and there was no 2001. We checked all the rooms twice…Presidential Suite, 2002, 2003, and 2004. For all our travel mishaps, a night in the Presidential Suite made up for a lot of them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sweet. Sometimes mishaps can place us in a better position than what we first might imagine. I’m sure you would’ve preferred to be traveling home but it didn’t turn out too bad after all. As for me, in the past I never had a buffer day. I guess I liked living on the edge back then 😂😂. Now, my travels are less impulsive 😄 and more thoughtful. Thanks for sharing your experience here. It is appreciated.

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    • I have been traveling for many years and have many stories to tell, and love sharing them with my followers. It takes me back down memory lane to places I may not get the chance to revisit again. Thanks for reading my posts and enjoying the content. Your comment is appreciated. Safe travels. 😊


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