Monday, January 12, 2015

Stranded in LA (My Horror Story)

stranded in los angeles header

Little did I know that making a small decision like leaving my Australian passport at home when I boarded the plane inbound to Mexico City that I would be setting myself up for a big disaster on the way home. Why would you do something so stupid as leaving your passport at home?? Well, in fact I am a dual citizen, which grants me the right to hold two passports legally.

Flashback to my South America trip in 2011 when I only took my Australian passport with me. When we arrived at the Buenos Aires airport we were informed that as Australian citizens we must pay a reciprocity fee of $200USD (if I remember correctly). This time we thought we could beat the system if I took only my 2nd passport that did not require me to pay this reciprocity fee at the Argentine border.


Sure, we did beat the system when I arrived in Buenos Aires because I did not have to pay the fee. However, as we were boarding the plane inbound to Australia from Mexico City we were informed by the airline staff that I was not permitted to board the plane because I did not hold the right passport. Well, couldn't I just enter Australia with my 2nd passport on a tourist visa? A very big fat "NO!" they informed me. Apparently, as an Australian citizen it is illegal to enter the country with a tourist visa if you are a citizen.

It was becoming very clear to me that trying to save a few hundred dollars was turning into a very big mistake. Frustrated and getting anxious, our boarding time was drawing near. We were given two options; 1. Stay in Mexico City and get an Emergency Passport from the Australian embassy in Polanco 2. Go to LA and try to get an Emergency Passport from there. We were lucky because since we had a stop off in LA on our way to Mexico City we already had the American Visa necessary to spend time there. So we decided to take option 2, and spend a few days in LA where we could get an emergency passport from the Australian Consulate.

We changed our final flight to three days later from LA to Australia as we were informed it could take up to 48 hours to produce an emergency passport.

my passport and emergency passport

So our attempt at saving a few hundred bucks turned into a very costly mistake. We ended up having to pay extra money on changing the final flight tickets, paying for the emergency passport, paying for hotels plus all the other expenses associated with having a short trip in a city for a few days. Although we were told it would take 48 hours to make the emergency passport, it was done in less than an hour in LA.

How can I avoid a mistake like this next time? I think the best advice I can give is to make sure you do thorough research on all visa decisions I make the next time I travel. I now know for certain that if you are an Australian citizen it illegal to hold a travel visa for Australia at the same time. But this is not true for all countries (such as New Zealand, as I was informed by my New Zealand friend). Research, research, and research again. Don't make the same costly mistake as me when you go travelling.
Image attribution:
"Stuttgart Airport at dusk" by Andrei Dimofte // CC BY 2.0 *
* changes were made to the original materials

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