Empty is Good

Important lesson learned today: Before you leave for an international trip, make sure that you have empty pages in your passport.

There were four people (two couples) at the airline counter while I was checking in this morning. One of the women was in tears, and there was a lot of animated discussion between the group and the airline staff.

At first, I thought it was probably just another tussle about excess baggage charges, seat assignments or another one of the normal irritations you encounter at the airport.

I couldn't help but overhear one of the women (the one in tears) moan: "We can't make it to Manado. We're going to miss our holiday." My immediate concern was that the plane was overbooked, delayed, or just simply not going to fly.

Then I heard the airline representative calmly explain: "When one of our passengers doesn't have any empty pages in their passport, we have to ask them to go to the British Embassy or Indonesian Embassy. Maybe the British Embassy will be able to add pages to your passports, or if not, maybe the Indonesian Embassy can help."

Yikes. The two couples were en route from the UK to Manado for a diving holiday, and at least one of them didn't have any empty passport pages. On the assumption that they were expecting to get a visa on arrival, which many travellers to Indonesia do, they needed to have at least one completely empty passport page for the visa.

I felt really bad for them and tried to think of some way to help, but basically they were screwed. There were two days until the next flight to Manado, and one way or another, they either had to get extra passport pages or convince the Indonesian Embassy to grant an exception.

Good luck to them. I hope they still manage to make it to Manado.

Several countries I've travelled to have adopted the incredibly obnoxious practice of issuing visas that take up an entire passport page. With all the trials and tribulations international travellers have to deal with these days, we really don't need the added aggravation of being turned back for not having enough passport pages. But there's nothing that can be done.

So if you're planning a trip to Indonesia (or anywhere else for that matter) in the near future, remember to double check your passport.