Now that we’ve returned home and have settled back into our routine lives again we find it funny how our travel stories keep coming up. Invariably one of us will look at the other and say ‘Remember That Time…’ I thought it would make a good series; a way to tell these small stories that take us back in the blink of an eye.
We got our Vietnamese visa from an agent in Bangkok, Thailand about 6 weeks before we planned on being in Vietnam. We didn’t know where else we might be able to get it and so pretty much guessed at how long we would take through northern Thailand and Laos to get there.
Vietnamese visas are strict. You must declare your entry date, may not arrive early, and must leave 30 days after entry. It cost 1350 Baht or about $44 each.
At the time that we received the visa we had not yet booked flights. Jason was pretty good at the whole booking flights over the internet thing by now so he had his eye on a number of possible flights and, when one came up that looked good, he booked it lickety split.
It was about a month later, while we were in Laos, that he checked the tickets and realized that we were booked to leave Vietnam 31 days after entry…a day later than allowed.
Yep, checked, double checked, counted out the days…one day late. Shit.
We briefly looked into changing the ticket; the non refundable, non changeable ticket and then thought ‘meh…how bad could it be?’.
We arrived at the airport super early, dressed in the best clothes we had; not wanting to leave anything to chance and wanting to appear like the ‘good travellers’ we were. Our plan was to play it cool; don’t point out the visa error; and maybe even act surprised if they noticed.
Right away, at the check in counter, the attentive agent noticed that our visa had expired the day before. We looked at her and immediately confessed that, yes, we had accidentally booked flights a day late…so much for our acting careers; over before it’s begun!
She pantomimed/explained that we couldn’t have a boarding pass and instructed us to leave our bags and go to speak with the immigration officer. In retrospect that’s exactly what you should do; leave your bags unattended in a foreign country with a strict drug policy while you go to discuss your invalid visa. Not. So. Smart.
We found the agent and presented ourselves. What a sorry heap of nerves, anxiety, and fear we were. So much for playing it cool. I was sweaty, shaky and red as a beetroot as we pantomimed/explained our situation and how sorry we were to have made such a stupid, rookie mistake.
He was gruff, if not slightly amused, as he called over another agent and began talking on the phone to someone I assumed was his supervisor. There was a lot of tsk-tsking and stern looks before he explained how lucky we were and how kind he was being as he waived all fines and signed the all-important document that would allow us to retrieve our bags and a boarding pass.
I tell the story light-heartedly but let me be clear; I don’t think it’s a good idea to screw around with visitation or immigration policy in any country. The rules are clear and it’s not hard to follow them. You can be sure that, from that day forward, we double and triple checked absolutely every entry/exit plan we had. It’s just not worth the risk.