Just another banana republic?
They have our passports. And, our airline tickets out of here. What would have taken a couple of minutes at the airport as we arrived has taken more than a week to run through the Seychelles bureaucracy.
We bought our inbound one way tickets through a travel agent in Maun, Botswana. I had spent hours fighting with the Air Seychelles website, and never was able to get them to like my information and my credit card company to like their third party credit card processor. Because we would be continuing our wanders to the east, she suggested we wait until we arrive in the Seychelles before picking up our onward ticket. In retrospect, it would have been better to either buy the ticket to Singapore or just pick up round trip tickets from Johannesburg, paying the extra couple hundred dollars to avoid the banana republic hassles.
I guess it’s because our travel habits are more backpacker than tourists, at least for this trip around the world with our kids. Having spent more than a month with sketchy internet in Botswana, we’d not done a huge amount of research on the Seychelles. I just knew I’ve wanted to go there for a long time, and it was roughly on our route from Africa to South East Asia. But, the Seychelles government does not like travelers that do not fit onto their boxes.
We’ve seen entry visa requirement lists that included a continuing or round trip ticket and either reservations or proof of funds in other countries. Arriving with kids in tow and plenty of luggage, this is the first time we’ve ever been asked for them. I think this is our tenth border crossing for this journey. We’ve gone to great lengths adjusting our travels to fit within tourist visa limitations; we’ve never overstayed.
At passport control, we were detained and taken to an agent who booked us a tentative flight two weeks out while our children sat with the luggage in the passenger unloading area. I think the agent was supposed to take us out front and make us pay for the tickets immediately, but the immigrations officer said it would be OK if we followed up later.
We left the airport agreeing to buy our onward tickets and take them to the immigrations office in Victoria and ask for an extension before our two weeks they granted ran out. If we’d arrived with a ticket in hand, a 30 day visa is granted without questions. Well, other than the name and address of where we are staying. Thankfully, we did have reservations for the first several days, and we did not choose to wing it and find a place after we landed.
After making a hasty decision about when to fly out and picking up our tickets to Singapore, we headed downtown to the island of more red tape. The official first seemed surprised that we were allowed to leave the airport without paying for our onward tickets. Perhaps the border control officer had taken pity on us and stepped outside the box; we hope we did not get him in trouble.
It was fairly obvious that our bureaucrat did not like our lack of plans: we did not know when we would be headed to the other islands. He retained our passports and our fight tickets. He also seemed very unsure about our one way tickets to Singapore. I’m not really sure what he is afraid of; that they’ll deport us back to the Seychelles? He said they would be ready in a week.
They are not. We’re on another island, now. Our hostess at the guest house here on La Digue is helping us sort things out. We hope…