Passport Perils

For many avid travellers, one of the very best souvenirs you can bring home is your passport filled with as many stamps as possible. It’s a recollection of where you’ve been and each stamp can bring back memories of a certain place and time. I still love to flip through my old, worn passport – it’s my all time favourite travel souvenir.  Filling a passport is something that sounds exciting, but if you’re in a foreign country it can be a major pain in the ass.

The realization that I might be in trouble didn’t hit until I was in Vietnam, getting ready to make my way to Cambodia. I was looking through my passport shortly after arriving in the country when it dawned on me – ‘uh oh, I have no space left.’ Granted there was room for a stamp here or there, but not enough space for the full page visa that so many of the Asian countries require. A lack of pre-planning and some spontaneous decisions had left me with no space. Oops!

After arriving in Sapa, I decided to get a couple of passport photos taken, should I need to get a new passport all together.  Everyone claims to have the worst passport photo possible, but let me tell you mine is downright horrible. I’d spent the previous day travelling from Yuanyang, China to Sapa via bus. After two flat tires and numerous delays on a smoke-filled bus (smoking cigarettes and spitting is perfectly acceptable) I made my way to Vietnam.

China-Vietnam border crossing chaos

The next day, still exhausted, I scoured the town in the rain to find somewhere to get these photos taken.  I look completely beaten down and miserable in this photo. Had I been thinking straight, I would have had another photo taken – but no, I just wanted to get it over with (and therefore look slightly deranged).

Grey and rainy Sapa

After making my way from Sapa to the capital city of Hanoi, my first thought was to make my way to the Cambodian embassy. I had hoped that they’d agree to put the new visa over the one I’d received the previous year when I visited the country.  Batting my eyes and pleading with the stone faced government employee didn’t work one bit. I was stuck and in need of a new passport.

Some frantic calls home were made over Skype and my family contacted Passport Canada. My birth certificate was verified in Toronto, faxed to Ottawa and the information then made its way to the Canadian embassy in Vietnam.  Family friends were called as references – unfortunately in the middle of the night! The corners of my passport were cut and I was told to pick up my temporary passport a couple weeks later in Ho Chi Minh City.

The craziness of Ho Chi Minh City

It was with a huge sense of relief that I picked up my temporary passport.  It was crisp and white and only three pages, which doesn’t leave you much room! The fact that my visas for both Vietnam and Australia (I was returning there afterwards) were in my old passport did cross my mind, although I was assured by both Vietnamese and Australian government officials that it wouldn’t be an issue.

The following day when crossing the border from Vietnam to Cambodia I watched as the Vietnamese border officials examined both of my passports. My heart sank as they shook their heads. In my head I was screaming at them, but kept my mouth shut. I handed over the additional cash they demanded in order to leave the country. Problem solved (got to love corrupt border officials), or so I thought.

Angkor Wat – who wouldn’t want to go see this place?!

After a stop in Cambodia and a couple of days back in Thailand, I made my way back to Sydney. I’d been assured by an Australian embassy official that this new passport wouldn’t be a problem and that my electronic visa would still be valid. Apparently this was not the case. As I went to board my flight to Sydney I was told, “I’m sorry Miss, but we can’t let you on the plane, as you don’t have a visa.” My heart stopped for a moment as the panic sunk in. Thankfully, Australian visas are pretty much the easiest possible visa for a Canadian to acquire and I was able to get one online in a matter of minutes.

Now that I’m travelling much less frequently, my passport spends most of its time sitting in a drawer and I long for the day when its pages will be filled. My passport is 48 pages (For a $10 difference, I opted for the larger version this time around) and chances are I won’t come close to filling it just yet.

Have you every experienced a passport disaster?

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adventure seeker.traveling lover.occasional PR professional.

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2 Comments on “Passport Perils”

  1. the lazy travelers Says:

    haha oh god, we have horrible passport photos too. someone once asked me if that was actually me in the photo. the worst part is that i’m smiling REALLY widely, so i look so proud of myself.

    that all sounds so stressful! i had to get a new passport once my name changed and that was a bit of a headache but no where near what you went through. xo! the romantic


    • AdventuressAbroad Says:

      I almost think people are supposed to have bad passport photos – I’ve never met anyone with a good one!
      It was definitely one of the more stressful travel experiences I’ve had. Sounds like yours was a bit of a pain too. I now have a 48 page passport which I won’t come anywhere close to filling, but at least I won’t run in to the same problem again 🙂


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