For the second time in my life I have been forced to stay overnight in an airport due to visa related issues, now the location has changed and "improved" from the last time but, it is anyways a painful experience.
The first time was in El Salvador while traveling to attend the international AIESEC conference ALDS 2003, back then I trusted an OC member that assured me Venezuelans did not require a Visa to enter de country, which was confirmed by the AA lady that let me board in Puerto Rico. But that mistake lead to a one night stay in the airport in a police small room with only 1 desk and 2 chairs, sleep on the floor (on some couches pillows borrowed from the immigration coaches while immigration was closed) with 2 policemen sleeping in the same room with me, wait until next day to fly back to Miami, get my Visa and then fly back to El Salvador.
Even though the damage was not major I was delayed by 3 days, as I was a facilitator I was arriving 3 days in advance so it was manageable, but It was a very uncomfortable experience, it put me off-balance, wasted my time, damaged my conference preparation and team-bonding with other facilitators and did not allow me to be at my best for the rest of the conference. At that time I had sworn not to let it happen again.
Yet, here I am writing from Dubai airport waiting for news from my DHL colleagues about when my Visa will be ready.
You might ask "how is it that after that experience I got stuck here again?" Well as usual I had checked my visa requirements online, I had mentioned to my colleagues that I needed a Visa and if it was not to be ready on time it would be better either to postpone the meeting or to change the location, I had suggested to change it to Bahrain as the G-Tech is also going on right now in Dubai and getting a hotel is quite difficult, ... , but I was assured that my visa was going to be ready and worse come worse they can always issue me a 96 hours transit Visa at arrival. Know what? It wasn't ready and I couldn't receive the 96 hours visa!
Some pointers for those of you traveling to Dubai who need a Visa and are planning on getting the 96h visa, here are some pointers:
- You can be issued a 96h visa on arrival only if you are transiting from one location to another one. Meaning for me coming from Europe, I should be going to Asia or another location in Middle East in order to get it.
- Even if you are issued a transit Visa it will cost you some money.
- If you have a hotel reservation they can work out the visa for you, but in my case the hotel's night manager was not willing to come at midnight to sort it out, even after talking to the immigration officer and he confirmed they just needed my visa application form from the hotel. So I had to wait till next day
- Some nationalities can be issued a tourist visa on arrival, just check before traveling.
So for the time being: I couldn't stay in the airport hotel as it was full (so I am not the only one that has this problem), I had 5 hours sleep (not bad for an airport chair), I just had some hot breakfast (because the air conditioning in this place is extremely cold even in the middle of the desert) and I will be waiting for a call on my Visa in order to get out, gather my luggage, get changed, get ready and start my meeting.
I just hope there are no more surprises like this one in the rest of the trip.