Thursday, January 3, 2013

A wee passport snafu


Well traveled idiot here.

Cool fact: we're going to Thailand in 17 days.

Another cool fact: Thailand requires all U.S. passports to be valid for 6 months past the entry date into the country.

Cool, no?

No.

As we were checking into our EVA Air flight from Seattle to Taipei, something the receptionist said caught my attention.

She told Sean he would have to pay a hefty fee upon arrival because his passport was not valid for six more months. But we whipped out our trustworthy A.R.C. (alien resident cards, yeah, its got a snappy name) and the crisis was adverted.

Phew.

Until I sat up in bed three days later, vague recollections of reading entry requirements for so many countries on all of our backpacking trips rolling around the back of my head, wondering:

Does Thailand have a similar rule?

Nope.

It's way worse.

You see, Thailand won't let Americans into the country if their passport won't be valid for six months post entry.

I had this terrible realization on Wednesday December 26.

Then I had another realization: Taiwan does not have an official U.S. Embassy because, you know, the U.S. does not officially recognize it as a country.

So then, after much panic followed by a second dose of even more panic, Sean and I discovered the American Institute of Taiwan, a quasi-U.S. embassy. But then we also discovered you could not just pop by and take care of business.

No, you had to make an appointment.

And they were booked.

So we called.

And they spoke Chinese.

Sometimes, living in Taiwan makes the simplest tasks absurd challenges.

Finally, we (who am I kidding? I) discovered how to book an appointment  online (for two days later because they were booked thank you very much) and then poor Sean had to ride the HSR and MRT alone to get to AIT.

As it turned out, they would not or could not rush his passport because at that point we were leaving in less than three weeks and the average processing time is four.

So, we basically mourned the loss of our Chinese New Year vacation because let me tell you, when you live in the 8th most densely populated country in the world and said country only gets one extended vacation, every airline is sold out months in advance.

The best part?

We didn't get flight insurance.

You see, we never do even though every time we travel we learn from experience that I am a horrible planner and should not be allowed to come up with these mischievous ideas with insuring them... but do we learn?

No.

Bye bye $$$.

So then when we got a phone call (in English too) tonight from AIT saying Sean's passport will be delivered tomorrow we were:
A. Hysterical with relief
B. Incredulous... huh?
C. Peeved that they made us think it wouldn't work
D. Giddy with excitement
E. Suddenly very tired of this extended Asia moment
F. All of the above

And, for our future travels, will we have learned anything valuable?

Knowing us, probably not.

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