Getting deported: Travel disasters and what I learned from them

There’s a side of travel that people don’t talk about so much… You rave on Facebook about the new cultures you encounter, Instagram shots of stunning sunrises on mountaintops and Tweet about amazing experiences that happened spontaneously in exotic places. You just don’t hear so much about the days people lost luggage, felt homesick and missed flights.

The good part is that you learn as you go, and rarely make the same mistake twice. Over the next few weeks, I’m going to write about some of the travel disasters I’ve faced, and what I learned – so hopefully you can avoid getting into these situations.

Getting deported: In Autumn 2012 I had just moved back to Dubai, but my residence visa wasn’t processed within 30 days, so I needed to leave the country and come back in on a new tourist visa. This is very common, and most people drive to neighbouring Oman to cross the border and come back. I decided to fly to nearby Bahrain instead because an Irish band I love were playing that weekend.

I had visited Bahrain before in 2009 and gotten a visa-on-arrival, and assumed I could do the same thing again. I did not take into account the political instability in Bahrain caused by the Arab Spring (or ‘The Emergency’ as Bahraini Sunnis call it) and how that might have changed things. Somehow, the Bahraini border police knew that I worked in the media and thought I was trying to sneak in to do some investigative journalism. I really just wanted to see that band.

I was 24 years old and more than a little arrogant. Though I cooperated with the aggressive officers’ questions, ultimately I lost my temper with them when they refused to believe the truth. They accused me of trying to sneak into the country to stay, because I didn’t have print outs to prove where I was staying and that my flight back was in just a couple of days. It was incredibly frustrating because they could have confirmed the details I was giving them with a phone call or two – but they wouldn’t. (HELLO – I’m a millennial – who prints that stuff these days?)

Long story short- I was deported back to Dubai six hours later with a form that cited “security reasons” as the cause. When I called my embassy before my next trip abroad (Thailand) to see if this would impede my ability to travel they said: “You’re not on any watch list we have access to”. Thank goodness for that!

The lesson? Maybe don’t go to countries that are politically unstable. If you are going to, print all your travel documents before you get to the airport, try to organise a visa online in advance, contact your embassy to let them know you’re going, and grit your teeth and smile at border police no matter how awful they’re being- you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar!

Next week I’ll write about getting conned into buying a kayak in Vietnam, it’s just as ridiculous as it sounds – subscribe to get the whole story into your inbox.

Have you ever been deported? How did you deal with it?

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