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Have you checked your passport’s expiry date?

Real Life Story by one of our readers –

invalid-stamp

It is with a heavy heart that I write this.

Two weeks ago, I received an exciting invitation for a Press Trip to Bangkok and Pattaya. I had been working hard for the magazine, filing all my stories on time and going beyond my brief to deliver good quality articles. So, when the Editor called to ask if I would be interested in this five-day trip, I was beyond thrilled! I thanked her profusely for the opportunity, but she said I totally deserved it, and yes, I thought I had.

This would be my second international trip, after a whistle-stop tour of Dubai. We would be put up at a stunning luxury resort, and our days in Thailand would mostly be spent shopping, enjoying local cuisine, meeting some fashion designers and relaxing by the beach. Summer is still a good month away, so the weather would be beautiful too.

How well it was all mapped out in my mind.

During the drive from home to the airport, my mind was occupied with small concerns of all kind. Had I remembered to pack my black dress and heels? Would the other journalists on the trip be sweet or those ultra-smart types? And I hoped my baggage would not be overweight…wish I had weighed it before leaving home.

The policeman at the entry gate examined my passport and ticket, threw me a disinterested but careful glance, and let me in. I strolled over to the check-in counter, where a brisk young man greeted me warmly, and asked for my passport. I handed it to him, and as he began clicking on his computer, I began, “Could  you please give me a window seat upfront? Some legroom would be nice..”

He mumbled something like ‘Let me check,” and continued typing. A few seconds later, when he spoke, his face looked grim and his voice was different. “Ma’am, I’m sorry, but I cannot let you check in.”

I would not have been so shocked had the heavens fallen in front of me. I think my mouth dropped open and stayed open. “Wh..y?” I managed.

The man looked sympathetic, but firm. “Your passport is not valid for six months.”

“Of course it is,” I said, indignantly. Hadn’t I checked? Wasn’t it valid till August end? Of course it was. So what was this guy talking about.

“No, ma’am,” he said, holding it out toward me. “See? Aug 31, 2013.” And today is March 5, 2013.

“So? That makes it six months, no? “

“ Actually, no, madam. Your passport is five days short of the six month validity period.”

My brain was badly scrambled by now, but with great difficulty, I counted. Sure enough—I was indeed carrying a passport that was invalid for travel. But I couldn’t let this happen to me…and it was…only 5 goddamn days, right?

I said so the gentleman, but he shook his head. “Even if I allowed you from here, you wqould be sent back from the Immigration counter. And even if they allowed you to pass through, you would be sent back from Bangkok Airport. They’re quite hard and fast about the six-month validity rule. And you wouldn’t want a deportation stamp on your passport.“

“No, I wouldn’t,” I said. My heart had sunk down to the boots I had bought specially for the trip. I knew, for a certainty now, that I would not be getting into that aircraft today. I called up my parents, who were still half-way through to back home, and asked them to turn around and pick me up.

And I picked up my suitcase and began walking toward the exit, thinking, it was overweight indeed…

How To Protect Your Passport

Millions of people report stolen passports every year! Don’t be one of them. Here’s how to keep your passport safe:

  • Buy a leather case for your passport. Looks good and keeps it damage-proof.
  • Memorise your passport’s number, issue and expiration date so that you don’t have to keep pulling it out each time you need to fill a form.
  • How safe is a hotel ‘safe’? Nobody knows. We suggest you keep your passport pouch in a thin ‘money belt’ worn under your shirt or inside your trousers.
  • Pack an extra set of passport photos. Also scan and email yourself the passport’s information page. Keeps you consulate-ready if you lose your passport.
  • If you go to a bar, restaurant or café, be careful to keep your purse, whether or not it has your passport in it, hooked over your knee.

Got a passport tip or experience to share? Email us on travelsecretsmag@gmail.com

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