I’ve made a few fair mistakes in my travels (here), but this one takes the biscuit.
The furthest I had travelled without my parents was New York, but it was pretty straight forward, we booked wtih a travel agent and we filled out our visa on the plane 30 minutes before landing. Easy Peasy. But no, not in Asia.
I headed over to Singapore with 2 guys to meet up with a friend who was studying at Nanyang University for a year, it was my first real adventure without parentals. We flew AirFrance to Paris with a lengthy layover in Charles de Gaulle airport, and despite a quick panic over a seeming lost passport, all went smoothly.
We stayed in a hostel in Singapore for a few days, touring the country and visiting all the touristy places (including the Marina Bay Sands!). Then we packed our weekend bags, left our big backpacks in our friend’s student accommodation room, and then headed off to get the train from Singapore up to Malaysia.
I was already starting to get anxious when we arrived and the queue for the train was gigantic and they weren’t letting anyone on because the train/track/signals were getting repaired.
Long story short, when we finally got moving, I was stopped at Immigration because I didn’t have the little piece of paper that went along with my Visa (It wasn’t a full Visa because British nationals don’t need one for a trip under 30 days – it was more like an immigration slip to track me going into and eventually leaving the country). Unbeknownst to me, I didn’t know we needed that paper to get back out the country – I thought a stamp in the passport was enough.
My three friends all shuffled out towards the train while I was escorted into the back office alone by an armed guard. My heart was pounding, I was starting to sweat. The guards were all staring at me, hands clutched onto the butt of their guns. I was asked to sit down in front of this one guards desk. I did immediately, no questions asked. I felt like a criminal and every thought under the sun ran through my brain.
Was I going to miss my train? Were my friends going to leave me here while they went to the F1? Was I going to get deported back to the UK? Was I going to get arrested? Shot?!
Luckily no, nothing as drastic as that happened. Despite their intimidating appearance (which I guess is a good thing), they were all more than lovely and happy to help me. The guard that was in charge was actually quite a flamboyant, outgoing and funny man who often flailed his arms about. I was put at ease immediately when, after asking me why I didn’t have the part of my visa, he laughed out loud and said he would do everything to sort the situation asap. And would even keep the train from moving if possible.
Finally, I could breath.
A few phone calls later (don’t know who) I was issued a new one and off I went on my super long train journey to Malaysia. Still to this day I am unsure if the border control guys were Singaporean or Malaysian – either way they were amazing!
Have you ever had Visa problems?