It was our first vacation together – RV and mine. That is the husband, by the way. Also, individually as well as as a couple this was to be our first International trip. And the ever helpful Internet nearly wreaked it. That is right…it did!
Internet research though largely helpful is a dangerous swamp to wade into.
Internet is a unmatchable boon and travellers will vouch by it. We plan our entire trips on the internet. Right from the commute and hotel bookings to what to do, where to eat, what not to miss to even street views of how our hotel looks for real. We did it all too. We were heading to Phuket, Thailand from Kochi, India via Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. And being the maiden trip, we were all but very very careful. So armed with all that our numerous Internet searches told us – ticket printouts, travel insurance, passports, bank statement et al and a lot of excitement – there we were at 05:00 AM at Kochi International Airport ready to check-in.
“Sir, can I see your visa for Malaysia, please?”
So the thing was that we had a few hours at the Malaysian airport before our connecting flight took off to Phuket and therein lay the hitch! As per all the reading we had done, since we just had a few hours of stopover and weren’t getting out of the airport into the country, no visa was required. So we never applied for any Malaysian visa; we did not have the darn thing he was asking us to show!
This day was starting off on a real lousy note. First, early morning RV had to rush to the medical store to get us medicines. A paracetamol for my fever and an allergin for an eye infection for him and now this! And it was just 5 in the morning. The day looked real promising!
So, while we did try convincing the airline officials, based on whatever we had read about the visa not being a mandatory requisite, they very patiently told us in clear terms that we cannot board the flight without a Malaysian visa. So the matter here was a slight technicality which, possibly because we were first time international travellers, did not strike us (and none of the articles online said anything about it!) Since at Kuala Lumpur, we had to check out our luggage and to do so we had to clear immigration and that requires a visa. Bummer!
We cannot clear immigration without a visa and Malaysia would not give visa on arrival to passengers travelling from India with an Indian passport. Though curiously, while travelling back from Thailand, Malaysia will give visa-on-arrival to passengers holding an Indian passport. The value of a Thai seal, we did realise was gooood…but we were stuck! Our entire week’s plan looked like it would go for a toss.
That is when the good airline lady came to the rescue, though it did come with a price.
The only solution to our problem she said was to buy a direct ticket from Kochi to Phuket. They will put a tag on our luggage indicating that we have a connecting flight and tada! no immigration…no check-out…and no trip cancellation. Though the tickets that we had got for INR 13000 per head now cost us INR 31000. Quite a reversal of digits there and quite a swipe on the credit card too.
So, apparently we should have applied for a Malaysian visa, online, a few weeks before our departure and we could have saved ourselves all this airport heartbreak. But then no article said that. Only the good airline lady did.
Internet is undoubtedly a great buddy but next time you need to travel out of the country please do a bit of offline research too especially concerning the legalities. There are many consultants, some even with online consultation services. Don’t forget to use them and be 100% sure. You don’t want to come back from the airport without making that trip and swiping credit cards at the airports is such a no no!
If you have had any such travel bummers please do share in the comments; I would love to read them. 🙂