Immigration, Customs, Visas: Oh My.

I made it back to Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam but not as smoothly as I would have hoped it would be. Just to give you a better idea of what the specific challenges I went through just to be able to type this at the Sen Cafe in Ho Chi Minh while getting viciously attacked by mosquitoes (but also enjoying a nice coconut juice), allow me to further elaborate starting with my last morning in Bangkok, Thailand.

Hailed a taxi to get to the Bangkok International Airport and thought I was leaving on time. My gate closes at 7:30 and arrived at the airport at 7 even though I left my friend's condo at 6:15 - - oh, traffic in Bangkok you can kiss my ass - pardon my language. I successfully checked in at the counter but the lady worriedly says to me,

'There is a long, long line for immigrations right now should be okay?'

When anyone ends their sentence with a question mark, it's always a bad sign. The line quite literally wrapped around most of the airport! At this point in time, I had about 15 minutes to get through Immigrations, security checkpoints, and passport control - - and actually physically getting to Gate G (all the way at the end of the Airport, by the way) on time! I waited in line, like any good citizen should, but listened to my gut instincts.

'I will cut every line while showing every passenger my ticket boarding time to encourage understanding'

Here we go. I went the front of the line, every line, encountered a few Australians that were also running late, and successfully fighting against the Thai officials at the front of each line. Got through all the necessary checkpoints in about 5-10 minutes (lucky!) and all three of us ran through the airport and all I was thinking of that scene in Home Alone - - the family cutting in and out of every person there. (Not too sure which Home Alone but definitely Mac. Culkin in it)


We made it. 1.5 hour flight. Yes...But that's not all...

I arrived in the Ho Chi Minh International Airport and was under the assumption I could just re-do my Visa after landing. I could just pay an extra few Dongs or wait a little longer, right?

WRONG! So...very...wrong.

The Vietnamese Immigration officer asked for my pre-approval papers for the Visa and I stated I didn't have any. I passionately argued with him that I had called Air Asia Airlines a week ago and assured me that step would be unnecessary - that 'Yes, you can just get a Visa when you arrive back in Vietnam'. Again, so wrong. I offered a few extra bucks and luckily, the dude believed me - sympathized, and got me through on another Single Entry Visa. It looks something like this:

Moral of the story? Immigration Officers are tough...especially in Asian countries such as Vietnam, China, Mongolia, as well as Laos.

Remember to always, always do your research before landing in any country. Do NOT rely on airlines because they really don't know what's going on. I like to check out Lonely Planet Forums and look at the specific country you are traveling to as they include advice from previous travelers. And, of course, referring to the Embassy of whatever country's official website is always going to include the most up to date information regarding Visa requirements and necessary paperwork.

Trust me. You do not want to be become a detainee anywhere just because you didn't prepare in advance. I know this from personal experience (more specifically, the UK) and will most likely share this interesting story the next time I have the opportunity.

I think it's actually great to travel on the fly with zero itinerary because that's when the best, absolute best travel stories surface - - however, when it comes to Entrance requirements and those tough Immigration Officials? I'd rather you be safe than sorry.

Happy travels!


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