You get your packing checklist complete, know what sights you want to see, and have your Passport in hand, ready to go on your long-awaited vacation. Your overseas flight lands and you make your way off the plane, only to be stopped before you can leave the airport. Why? Because you don't have a travel Visa.
This happened to hundreds of cruise passengers flying into China recently from the U.K. News articles describe the confusion and chaos that occurred in a Beijing airport terminal. Passengers were originally told that since they were just landing and getting on a cruise ship, they wouldn't need a travel visa but could take advantage of a 144 day visa that could be issued when they arrived. The thought was that they could save time and money by getting the visa at the airport. The problem was that for some reason, hundreds of the U.K. passengers were told they would not be issued the needed visas to leave the airport and told arrest would occur if they did not get flights out of the airport within 24 hours.
What recourse did they have? They could schedule a flight to the first cruise port and board the ship there, IF they didn't need a visa for that port, they could fly home, or stay and face arrest in China.
It's important to keep in mind that, as American travelers sometimes forget that foreign nations don't observe the same 'rights' that are often taken for granted of in the U.S. While for the most part, you can travel without any issues. However, when traveling to another country, it's good to know the political climate in that area before you leave. Are policies in place right now, at risk of being rescinded because of political instability or conflicts with U.S. policies? What happens if I get there an I'm denied entry? What if I'm stopped outside of the airport and questioned about my travels? If there is some kind of rash political decision or uprising at your destination, what are your options?
As a travel planner, I am very cautious about sending clients on a voyage that will be fun/adventurous/relaxing and SAFE. I also like to make sure that ducks are in a row and there are contingencies for the unexpected or emergencies. If you are traveling to a country that may need a visa, I will strongly recommend that you check with the State Department to verify that status. For any travel, particularly international, I also strongly recommend travel insurance.
In the case of the stranded U.K. travelers, they had to sit and watch as those who applied for visas ahead of time walked out of the terminal and toward their vacation. Then, they had to secure flights either to the first cruise port or back home. With a couple hundred people looking for last minute flights, they surely didn't get a 'deal' on that airfare. Those who had purchased travel insurance prior to leaving will have the ability to make a claim for the airfare and any other expenses they incurred because of this entry denial.
What are their options if they couldn't get a flight out and were arrested? Hopefully, they would have the ability to call the U.S. embassy or have someone in their party do that on their behalf. While they cannot just get you out of jail, they can contact local authorities and visit you to make sure you're being properly cared for, provide you with a list of English-spe
aking local attorney's to assist in your case, and help you contact your family, friends or employer. You will be liable for any legal, court, or medical fees that occur and you will also be subject to the local laws.
If you're planning on international travel, be sure to research not just the fun activities in the area. If you're using a travel planner, please consider any recommendations they suggest. Being prepared to keep your vacation stress-free goes beyond packing the right clothes and taking sunscreen. Always have a plan!