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Sunday, September 24, 2023

The Worst Journey Day Ever

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Picture by Mehrpouya H on Unsplash

Since we’ve been travelling for the previous 7 years (excluding the pandemic), typically we get cocky.

We predict that simply because we’ve been to over 50 nations, utilized for numerous visas, navigated advanced public transportation networks, and at all times made it to the airport on time, we obtained this journey factor down. Seems, we had been mistaken. To cite the well-known thinker Chris Rock “ain’t no person above an ass-whooping.”

Let me let you know about one of many worst journey days we’ve had just lately so you may keep away from our mistake.

Ever since 2020, we’ve been attempting to get to Australia. Provided that it’s on the opposite aspect of the world and takes an insane 22 hours to fly there, it’s not a spot to simply hop to. Nonetheless, again at first of 2020, we had been in Bali—only a 2.5 hour flight from Perth. We’ll by no means be this shut the land of kangaroos once more, we thought. So with flights and lodging booked, we started making our Koala-petting plans in earnest.

However this was 2020, and the universe felt in a different way. So as an alternative of flying to Australia, we had been dragged, kicking and screaming, all the best way again to Canada to be locked down for two years to cope with a collection of seemingly endless household well being emergencies. Ugh.

Now that we had been lastly out of the pandemic and care-giving jail and again on the highway in Southeast Asia, we had been able to hop on a 9-hour flight from Hanoi to Melbourne, keen to complete what we began again in 2020.

The day began off regular sufficient, with us testing of our Hanoi lodge by midday. After a 5 minute drive, we arrived on the airport with a whopping 4 hours to spare. Our combat wasn’t leaving till 4 PM. “Wow, a lot time!” I assumed. “I’m going to take a nap within the lounge.”

Well-known final phrases.

We went to the check-in counter at Bamboo Airways to get our boarding passes and had been instructed to return again in an hour as a result of the counter doesn’t open till 3 hours earlier than the flight.

Fantastic. We waited, did some studying, after which headed again to the counter an hour later. Since we saved up our factors and had been flying enterprise class, there was just one different couple head of us. The economic system line, nonetheless, was overflowing. I estimated it might have taken a minimum of an hour to get by. Usually, we’d’ve been capable of by-pass that line with our carry-on baggage however Bamboo Airways is so new that their on-line check-in wasn’t accessible but.

Inside 5 minutes, we’re capable of get to the counter and current our passports and check-in information. At this level, we’re nonetheless very relaxed, fascinated about all of the free booze we’d drink within the lounge.

A member of Bamboo Airways, dressed neatly in a blue uniform smiles and greets me “Good afternoon ma’am. Could I see your e-visa please?”

“Oh my Vietnamese e-visa? Right here you go,” I say, mentally patting myself on the again for being so organized.

“No, not your Vietnamese e-visa, ma’am. The one for Australia. The ETA.”

 “ETA? What’s an ETA?”  The blood begins to empty from my face.

 “The visa you want to get into Australia, m’am.”

 “Butbutbut” I stammer. “I’ve a Canadian passport! That was all I wanted again in 2020!”

“You want the ETA to go to Australia, in any other case, I’m sorry however I can’t test you into the flight.”

Instantly, I can’t breathe. What the hell is he speaking about? What visa? Since when do I want a silly visa to get into Australia? And the way lengthy is that going to take?

Seems, an ETA isn’t precisely a visa, since Canada is on Australia’s visa-free nation checklist. It’s an Digital Journey Authorization that you want to individually apply for and get, even if you happen to don’t want a visa to journey there. I used to be not conscious of this.

It additionally dawns on me that my Vietnamese visa is expiring…TODAY.

So if I can’t get this Australian ETA within the subsequent 2 hours, I can’t depart. However I can also’t keep. What the Hell do I do now?

“Ma’am, you could possibly attempt to apply for the ETA now. I’ve had one other buyer who obtained theirs in half-hour.”

I take a deep breath and briskly stroll to an space close to the flight screens with seats. Wanderer and I sit down, and with shaky fingers, begin making use of for the visas, which weirdly isn’t by the Australian authorities web site however by an app it’s important to set up in your cellphone. A message pops up, saying, that the app will go down for two days for upkeep, almost giving us a coronary heart assault. Fortunately, we’re simply outdoors the upkeep window.

Ping! Inside 30 seconds of making use of, Wanderer will get his ETA, hooked up to an e-mail in his inbox. I’m wringing my palms, ready for mine, however I’ve a nasty feeling in my abdomen. One thing tells me I received’t be so fortunate, since I regularly get scrutinized by US customs, provided that my Canadian passport says that I used to be born in China, whereas Wanderer’s says that he was born in Canada. However that’s the US and that is Australia. I’m hopeful.

Ping! I get an e-mail, however the preview seems to be completely different from Wanderer’s. My coronary heart slams into the ground.

“Your utility has been referred to the Australian immigration authorities for additional evaluation. This might take as much as 12 hours…”


I don’t know whether or not to cry, scream, or chortle. Off target this was going to occur. Lower than 2 hours earlier than our flight to Australia. Once more. Clearly, the universe simply didn’t need me in Australia.

I shove my cellphone at Wanderer “Name the Australian embassy! If that doesn’t work, name a journey company. Name the Canadian embassy. Name a disaster hotline. I DUNNO, JUST CALL SOMEONE!”

I slam my backpack onto the ground, tear open the zipper and begin rummaging round blindly for my laptop computer. I want to seek out us a manner out of right here. Perhaps there will probably be a final min flight to Bangkok or Singapore, and we will determine the right way to get to Melbourne from there. It’s going to be loopy overpriced and shitty, however rattling it now we have no alternative.

Why oh why didn’t I test the silly Australian visa necessities final evening. We had a lot time!

I clamp down the scream of frustration in my throat, whereas glancing frantically at my watch, noticing that now we have lower than an hour earlier than the check-in desk closes.

In fact, as destiny would have it, it’s at this exact second that my cellphone’s information decides to chop out.

I need to scream and tear my hair out. We stupidly solely purchased sufficient information to final till in the present day, pondering we’d be flying out!

I begin jamming random buttons on my cellphone, attempting to connect with the Airport Wi-Fi. I can’t suppose. My thoughts is simply too clouded with panic.  

The airport Wi-Fi additionally doesn’t work.

Fuuuuuuck!!!  I’m now in full panic mode. I run to the Bamboo check-in desk and beg them to let me on the flight. “It’s going to take 9 hours to get to Melbourne,” I clarify, “I’ll obtain my ETA on route!” However they don’t budge. No ETA, no flight.

I begin operating across the airport like a mad girl, looking for out the place I should purchase a SIM card.

After which, by the miracle of all issues good and Holy and with solely 20 minutes left earlier than the check-in desk closes, my cellphone pings.

I cautiously peek on the display screen.

Holy shit! It was all I may do to not drop to my knees and weep with pleasure, as a result of staring again at me from my inbox was my ETA, hooked up to an e-mail. The airport Wi-Fi had miraculously JUST began to work.

We race to the check-in counter. Fortunately, Wanderer has already been checked-in (having gotten his ETA instantly, the fortunate bastard), in order that saves us time. We race by safety like our lives depend upon it, lastly making it to the gate with seconds to spare.

The flight is delayed. By an entire hour.

We’ve by no means been so glad to have a flight delayed.

So by some means, we’d gone from utterly screwed to having further time to go to the lounge! I lastly discover the urge for food to eat the lunch I forgot about from 3 hours in the past and use the Hell out of the therapeutic massage chairs, as a result of rattling it I’ve by no means wanted a therapeutic massage so badly in my life.

And that’s the story of how we barely made it to Australia. If we hadn’t been within the quicker enterprise class line, or if the airport Wi-Fi hadn’t instantly began working, or if the app was in upkeep mode, we’d’ve been completely screwed.

We obtained too smug pondering we had been skilled travellers and obtained our asses kicked. And once we instructed this story to an Australian reader who we met up with, he recounted a time when his American good friend tried to go to Australia final 12 months and obtained blocked by this actual challenge. He wasn’t so fortunate and he missed his flight.

The ethical of the story is: All the time test, double-check, triple-check entry necessities of each single nation you go to, by way of that nation’s official immigration division web site.

Even if you happen to’ve visited that nation earlier than as a result of these entry necessities can change. The EU goes to be introducing an analogous system referred to as the ETIAS in 2024, as is the UK. I anticipate that rollout will coincide with a number of panicked experiences like mine on the airport.

So test your visa necessities and don’t get blindsided like we did. Joyful travels!

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