Monday, February 23, 2009

Passport pirouette: Tunisian bureaucracy


I went to Tunisia a little by chance. Suddenly realising that our Bratislavan jobs would give us a two-week (unpaid but compulsory) vacation over Christmas, I ran to the travel agent to book a flight to somewhere warmer. Most places were sold out but a friendly guy told me a flight to Tunis was the way to go. I went home and googled it, and agreed.

When we arrived in Tunis, it didn't start too well. We had to get a visa on arrival - fair enough - but we had to pay for it in the local currency (dinar). To get the local currency, we had to pass through immigration.

The stalemate didn't last too long - immigration simply held me hostage (and our belongings) while my then boyfriend wandered out into the Tunis airport to change some money. Somehow they trusted that he would return. In the meantime, a woman with three small children was noisily having a major panic attack on the bench next to me. Her husband was, I guessed, trying to tell her to snap out of it, but she could barely breathe and eventually the immigration officials got her a wheelchair and a doctor.

But for a trip that started a bit oddly (we did get released through immigration eventually, along with the pretty stamps above), it turned into one of my all-time favourite trips. I've mentioned Monastir before, but that was nowhere near the highlight of the country, so I promise to give you all a better overview of my Tunisian travels soon.

2 comments:

  1. I've read this twice and I'm not sure what made you use the term "hostage" though?

    Is that because it is an Arab/Islamic country?

    What happened to you is nothing in comparison to what's happening to Tunisian travelers (there aren't too many anyway because they don't even give them visas) in a regular basis.

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  2. No, no, nothing like that! Just in the sense that immigration kept me and our stuff so they'd be sure that my boyfriend would come back once he got the money, rather than illegally enter Tunisia. Please don't take that the wrong way!

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