Hello all!! Happy February!
So I was inspired to look back over my various border crossings of my past travels and do a blog post about it as I got talking to a girl on my Instagram and we swapped stories of border control and this new era of ‘taking back control.’ (re: Brexit, Trump)
Crossing from one country to another for me has ranged from the chaotic to the peaceful and has been a case of simply walking across, to being asked for a bribe to get back into my own country! :o(
So here are a few of my tales…..
UK to USA
Aged 16 in charge of looking after my lil’ bro and being the first time we had flown by ourselves! Eek! So imagine our horror when the USA officials wouldn’t let us through because we didn’t know the address of where we were staying. My parents had bundled us off for the summer to spend with our cousins but had not supplied us with my aunt’s address.
Cue excessive panic from me! I told the officials all I knew was that we were staying with my aunt and she was going to collect us as the airport and she was waiting for us. They thus proceeded to announce my aunt’s name over the tannoy system at one of the busiest airports in the world Baltimore-Washington International Airport. This had little effect. They said I should contact my parents, but made no offer in giving us a phone to do so and this was before the days of having a mobile. So quick thinking me did a reverse call charge (as I also had been bundled abroad with no American change) home to speak to my parents and get the address.
The form was thus completed and we made it through to a very worried aunt who wondered what was wrong as we had been held back for at least 2 hours. This border crossing just highlights the coldness of the USA border control and it has never made me like going through American airports for this reason. I mean we were kids for goodness sake!
Switzerland to Germany
This crossing could have just been an accident by myself if my uncle was not with me to inform me we had crossed over into Germany one beautiful spring day. It was my first time to Switzerland and I was visiting my uncle who lived there. It was such a peaceful beautiful day and I loved that one minute I was in Switzerland and the next by a simple walk across I was in Lorrach, Germany (where Milka the chocolate is made).
Nicaragua to Costa Rica
Around many borders you can find so many hustlers each trying to play on your ignorance about the country’s rules and regulations. During my Pan-American adventure my friend and I had just finished a volcano trek up, Volcan Maderas and were now heading to cross the border to relax on Playa del Coco in Costa Rica.
We got a taxi to the border as it was super close from where we stayed and then we had to disembark and that is when hawkers descended upon us trying to sell us border crossing papers for $1 each. Papers they insisted we had to have to exit the country. However we had read about such ploys in our trusty guide book (really you should not knock having one on your travels they can be so informative) and thus we politely and firmly told them we would be fine without them. The guy was very persistent but we were having none of it.
The same papers they were offering we completed at border control, paid $2 each (= 90 corodobas) and then we got stamped to leave. We walked over to the Costa Rica side and thankfully avoided the massive queue that formed behind us and got entry stamped in. This was truly a hectic crossing!
England to Wales
This border crossing was quite humorous because it was unexpected. I was driving up with friends for our friend’s wedding. However what she failed to tell us was that our hotel was in Wales! Cue panic when we saw the ‘Welcome to Wales’ signs. I thought I had the wrong hotel address or gotten lost but was reassured later when calling the bride that yes we would be staying in Wales but she would be getting married in England. Thank goodness for the beautiful United Kingdom and that we have no issues of crossing between Scotland, England and Wales. It is all with great ease, that it can all be unconscious. (Northern Ireland is a little harder due to the little matter of the sea!)
Ghana to UK
This crossing makes me MAD!!
I have the privilege of owning two passports – a UK one and a Nigerian one. My Nigerian passport allows me the luxury (similar to the UK passport within the EU, well for now *sigh*) to travel to 14 other countries in West Africa under the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). In 2014 I travelled to Ghana for a wedding entering the country on my Nigerian passport and exiting to go home to the UK on my UK passport. One of the chief border control guards in Ghana decided to hold me and 8 of my family and friends up who were doing the same, saying it was illegal for us to do so (its not!) and that we would each need to pay $150 in cash in order for us to catch our flight to the UK. Most of us didn’t have that kind of money in cash on us. Initially my dad and aunt argued vehemently with the guard on behalf of the group, with my aunt (who is a lawyer) demanding for him to present us with the documents stating that this was not permitted.
As it got closer to our flight with the risk of us missing it, my aunt then offered to pay on her credit card for the whole group. This did not please the guard as we all knew this was him trying to get a bribe out of all of us thinking Christmas had come at once, so conveniently he stated the card machine was broken! Really at an international airport?!
So how did we manage to get back home? So only by the very fortunate fact that we were travelling with the groom’s father who happened to be a diplomat and noted that we had not followed through the gate to the flight area. He came back through the area and thoroughly berated the guard at his treatment of the group and trying to extract money illegally. We made our flight, thank goodness but it certainly left me angry about this man person being in such a position to cause such distress. Sadly I’m sure such practices all around the world continue and ours is not an isolated incident.
Brazil to Argentina
This border crossing shows that some really are just humdrum and uneventful. My epic trip to Brazil last year saw me comparing both the Brazilian and Argentinian sides to view the magnificent Iguazu Falls. You have to pay a fee to get across (I forget the amount) from Brazil into Argentina. We were luckily enough to have it all organised through the hotel we were staying at, but when you get to the border you just hand your passport to the driver and he does all the work for you. I thought it a bit weird that they don’t check to see we are who are passports say we are! I also get a bit apprehensive when I hand over my passport to anyone I don’t know on my travels (even in hotels), always worried it might get ‘lost’ or tampered with. This crossing all went on without a hitch and was seamless.
That rounds up my stories for now, I’m sure there are many more to come! Maybe you can identify with some of them? What are your border crossing stories?
Hope you found it enlightening!
The 5 to 9 Traveller