Today I want to talk about the worst border crossings! This will include an anecdote from me and many other travel bloggers!
My worst border crossing
So I can be very anxious while travelling, especially about my passport. I’ve always had it ingrained in my mind that it is the most important thing that I own. So much so, in Marrakech I got super worried that the hotel manager had demanded our passports and went and paid the hotel fee very quickly so I could get it back.
(I know in Vietnam and other countries it can be common for hotels to keep possession of them for the remainder of your stay)
However this story took place at the border between Romania and Serbia. From here you cross out of the EU and I was excited that I was going to get a stamp in my passport.
So we got on the train with lots of interrailers heading to Belgrade, we were going to Vrsac as it was more of an adventure across the border than a long trip!
Everyone going internationally had much bigger and different coloured tickets to those getting the train to the villages locally. On schedule, we pull into the station stop which housed the border control and I was happy everything was going well. Then instead of getting off and going through the passport office, a massive Romanian border agent with a huge gun started looking at everyone’s pictures on their passports and collecting them in to a big pile.
I was cautious as I didn’t want to leave my passport, however I did was this intimidating man told me to. So we sat and waited at the border, which was fine for a few minutes. But, those minutes turned into over an hour and we started to get concerned.
There was no activity that we could see from the office and another border agent was getting cross with people trying to get off to stretch their legs or smoke.
After an hour and a half, the original man came back on holding a big bunch of passports and starts to hand them back out. This took a while as he was just going off people’s pictures and we all know how much we look like those awful pictures!
I was convinced they had all been copied, but we had them back with a small little stamp in them. Strangely on the way back, the border control just came on and looked at our passports, then gave them back and left the train.
My story is fairly tame and just my anxiety getting the best of me, wait till you hear some of these!
Crystal Egan – Castaway with Crystal
The worst border cross I have ever done (twice!) was the cross between Thailand and Cambodia. It all starts with the bus from Bangkok. We booked through a tour company that specifically posted a sign saying “NO SCAMS” on their window.
Only the bus conductor is in on it as well. He makes you wait unnecessarily on the Thai side saying you need to pay [insert extortionate amount here] for the Cambodian visa. My research said an amount much lower. I say this and he tells me it is for an “express extended visa” for one year rather than the three months.
I didn’t want more than three months so I fight him and eventually, we agree that I and a few other stingy people will cross the order alone (without his “help”) and meet the bus on the other side.
When you get to the Cambodia side is when the real scams start. Here’s a summary:
1. Know how much you are supposed to pay for the visa, otherwise, the border officials will just tell you any old number they make up as they please.
2. If they fight you, just sit there until they give you a friendly “discount.” As in waste their time until they drop the price.
3. Make sure you have a spare passport picture with you or they will charge you extra to take a photo.
4. Do not listen to anyone who says you need to exchange your money at the border for Cambodia Riel. USD is fine and Thai Baht will get you to Siem Reap.
5. Do not pay anyone to “skip the line.” This is a scam; everyone must line up to get their passport stamped.
6. If you paid for the bus through to Siem Reap, as I did, rip off the sticker they put on your shirt. They didn’t let us on the bus for hours because the stickers have a special code for people who didn’t pay the bribes going through.
If you would like to read the full post on my two experiences going through this order cross and how I managed to get through without paying hundreds in scams, read my post on the Thailand to Cambodia Border Cross Scams.
Joe & Tayler – Roam the Horizon
We’d heard horror stories of the border crossing between Colombia and Ecuador. Tales of waiting anywhere up to 16 hours in all weather conditions in a queue that doesn’t move. So with those in mind as we headed for the border, hopes weren’t riding high.
We stopped in Ipiales (the border town) and visited Las Lajas sanctuary which was great, so our hopes started to rise a little. Then we took a super cheap taxi to the border itself and hopes raised a little further.
At the Colombian border we waited no more than an hour before getting our exit stamps and going on our way. Hopes were riding pretty damn high now.
Arriving at the Ecuadorian border all hopes were torn to shreds. A never-ending queue wrapped its way around the entire customs building, filled with well over 500 people. The Venezuelan crisis has overloaded the border with unfortunate people fleeing their country and the tiny border crossing is so poorly managed it just can’t cope.
We took our place at the back of the queue and over the next 8 hours slowly made our way to the front. In blistering heat, freezing rain and finally a chilling night. By the time we reached the front it was 11pm and a guy simply took our passports and stamped them – it took about 30 seconds. Our total border crossing time was 9 and half hours.
Not quite 16 but still not fun. And to top it off we then had to make our way to Otavalo at almost midnight. We made it. Eventually.
Check out the rest of their stories at Roam the Horizon .
Lisa at TheHotFlashPacker
My worst border crossing was the border between Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. Kyrgyzstan is a lovely country that gives free visas and is very easy to visit.
Uzbekistan is another story. I was on an overland truck tour across the Silk Road and 24 of us crossed near the city of Osh. The Uzbek officials wanted to look through all our things, especially the content of any books, computers, and memory cards. It’s a no-no to bring in any religious or pornographic content.
They also have a restriction on photographing working industries of Uzbekistan, like people working in fields. All 24 of us were searched. They went through all 2,000 of my photos taken since leaving Nepal!
One woman, a graphic artist, had her sketchbook confiscated because her drawings were too provocative. A few people had some photos deleted, including photos of women picking cotton in western Kyrgyzstan. After the search, we still had to go through the X-ray with our luggage. There was no line, just a mob of 100 people pushing and shoving. I’m not a very pushy person and eventually, the officials called us to the front of the line.
Picture: It was worth crossing into Uzbekistan because I saw amazing architecture like this. Read more of her adventures here
Mario at Human Italian
Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv is a place that most of the aid workers saw at least once in their life.
It is indeed the main gateway for the Gaza strip or the West Bank, destinations with many job opportunities for humanitarians. Being it a highly politicised context, Israeli authorities try to control as much as possible foreigners entering their country. I was moving to Israel and had to enter on a three-month tourist visa. I had bought a flight out of the country three months later, hoping that it was enough to get me a visa. The immigration officer started asking me many questions. I knew they usually only try to scare you, but I also knew that they do not really trust and like aid workers. Especially due to the numbers of them they get in Israel.
I was very tired due to the sleepless night before and I had the unfortunate idea of telling the truth when asked about my profession.
The immigration officer lifted his eyes from the passport, stared at me and swiftly ordered me to go to a small isolated office. Without giving me back my passport of course! I entered and found myself with some Asian women giving fingerprints and being taken photos. I felt like they were sending us to a prison!
When my turn came, I entered this small room with another immigration officer. She started asking me many questions, stating that I was lying because tourists cannot stay so long in Israel being it such a small country. After half an hour, I ended up convincing her that I was visiting Israel in order to write a tourist book, which, actually, was not a complete lie.
I finally managed to enter this beautiful and interesting country, where I had some of the best times of my life.
So that is everyone’s border crossing stories – I am so grateful that so many people came forward to share their experiences!!
I hope you enjoyed my first collaboration post and let me know if you want more.
Also comment below with your worst border crossing – I’d love to hear it!
Until next time,
The Great Ambini
x x x
If you like this, please pin it –