Thursday, 15 January 2015

Escaping the Czech Republic: Holiday disasters and how to avoid them - Pt. 2

Escaping the Czech Republic: -

I am a stickler for following the rules. I don't do things I'm not supposed to - even little things like jay-walking. This is especially so when I am in a foreign country. David on the other hand has a more casual approach to life which is how we found ourselves in the Czech Republic without entry stamps in our passports.

We drove across the border from Austria, in a rental car with Austrian number plates, following a long line of other Austrian cars.  No-one else stopped at the border, no-one else even slowed down. D was driving.

"Don't you think we should stop and show them our passports. I am sure we are supposed to", I said to D. 

"Why, no-one else is", he replied, and kept driving.

In retrospect it is clear the border police thought we were Austrian. Austrians don't need entry stamps, but it turns out Australians do.

Cesky Krumlov


Two weeks later, we tried to drive back into Austria. The Czech border police signaled us to stop. They inspected our passports closely. They looked perplexed. They indicated a small parking bay by the side of the road and where they wanted us to pull over. They didn't speak English. We don't speak Czech. They were polite, but firm and just a little bit scary. 

They took our passports. We waited and waited and ...... waited. We started to worry - but we were trying to leave the country not get in - surely they had to let us out eventually. After a while an Austrian border policeman, who spoke some English, came over and explained that the Czechs couldn't understand how we had entered their country without having our passports stamped. The Austrians were very pleasant. They re-assured us they would happily admit us into Austria once the Czechs let us go. They didn't care that we had apparently sneaked into the Czech Republic.  After 45 minutes or so the Czechs came over again.

"Sprechen sie Deutsch?"

"Nein." I replied.

This wasn't entirely true but six weeks of classes at our local evening college wasn't going to cut it in a conversation where we might end up in jail. If the situation was about to deteriorate I wanted an interpreter. I should perhaps explain that I once worked, briefly, as an immigration lawyer. The trouble with having been a lawyer at all and especially an immigration lawyer is that it can make you acutely aware of how badly things can go wrong and just how much trouble you can get into - especially in foreign countries.

Finally the guard smiled - and waved us on. I think he was just trying to explain things.

We fell into the welcoming arms of Austria and David has never sailed through a border without stopping again.

Prague

Cesky Krumlov


Lessons we learnt from the experience: - 

  • Stop at borders and show your passport - there are absolutely no exceptions to this rule.
  • Stay calm and be polite.
  • Try not to look too much like interpol might be after you.
  • Learn to speack Czech.

To read Holiday Disasters and how to avoid them Pt 1: Our Great Cairo Catastrophe - click here

41 comments:

  1. Yikes, sound like an easy mistake to make but it looks pretty, well worth sneak in.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Tony, I recently read a story about an Australian girl who entered Mexico by foot, didn't get her passport stamped and ended up in jail. The problem is that not every country stamps passports when you enter now so it's hard to know if you need one.

      Delete
  2. I could imagine your heart palpitations as you waited - not quite so patiently before they kindly waved you through.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Sally, Yes, exactly. We weren't hysterical about it but it was a bit of a worry for a while there.

      Delete
  3. Pretty scary story. I don't think I would have liked to be in your position. You seemed to had your fair share of misfortunes in your travels...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Anda. Actually we have been pretty lucky in our travels. We travel a lot so it is hardly surprising we have the occasional hassle. The worst thing is getting sick and, touch wood, we haven't had much more than holiday colds for a very long time.

      Delete
  4. Funny the things you take for granted as a European! Glad they let you go though! :D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi and thanks. We were reasonably confident they would let us go eventually and they were polite the whole time so all in all not a terrible experience.

      Delete
  5. I'm glad the Czechs let you out eventually. If they are such sticklers for correct procedure, they should make sure people entering know they have to stop! That must have been a bit scary.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Jolanta, I'm sure the Czech's thought we were Austrian when we drove in. It was definitely our fault for not stopping. I don't blame the border police at all. It would not have been so scary if we had spoken Czech or even German. At least we would have known what the problem was right from the start. Still what fun is travelling without a few war stories to tell afterwards.

      Delete
  6. A little scary but as you say these are where the stories come from. Thanks for being a part #wkendtravelinspiration

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Paula, It is not the worst experience we have ever had at a border. That one belongs to the border between Chile and Argentina and again it was our fault - long story but again being fluent in the local language would have helped a lot.

      Delete
  7. Oh wow, how crazy! We actually travelled all through Eastern Europe including Austria and the Czech Republic without our passports at all - they were at the Russian embassy getting stamped with visas!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Talia. - I hate being without our passports. You never know when you might need them although I do try to leave them in the hotel safe when we are out and about. Losing them or having them stolen is just too horrible to think about.

      Delete
  8. What great pictures! Your story could be me and Hubby. I ALWAYS follow the rules and I would be extra careful in a foreign country, no matter how civilized.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Bettyl. It is very hard for us ultra law-abiding people being married to legal risk-takers - lol.

      p.s David and I are headed to the Land of the Long White Cloud on Friday for two weeks of cycling and sightseeing in the North Island. We love New Zealand and manage at least one visit each year. I always feel that being in N.Z is the next best thing to being home.

      Delete
  9. Wow! I thought that Czech was part of the Schengen and once you were in, you didn't have to worry. Good tips! Thanks for linking up with Weekend Travel Inspiration!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Corinne. I just googled it and you are right The Czech Republic is part of the Schengen Zone but there is a difference between a visa and an entry stamp although sometimes an entry stamp will set out the terms of your visa. We didn't need a visa but apparently it was routine to issue entry stamps to all but some nationalities and the Czech police couldn't work out how we got into the country without the appropriate stamp. Maybe they thought we sneaked in somehow. In the end I think they realised it was just some sort of oversight.

      Delete
    2. You are free to travel within Schengen, without stamps for any particular country. They do not stop people routinely either, which is why your story surprises me- I have passed between these countries many times, and never been stopped.

      You were not in danger of being arrested I think. Sometimes border police stop people just for the sake of doing something that day. But if you entered Austria on a tourist visa, you certainly had the right to travel into Czech without any stamps.

      Delete
    3. Hi Anonymous,

      Sorry it has taken me so long to reply but I am travelling as usual and we are in a very dodgy area for internet.

      My son had a similar experience recently with a missing stamp - it turned out it was there but very faint and the customs guy couldn't find it . He got through in the end but there were a worrying few moments.

      cheers

      Lyn

      Delete
  10. I would have been stressing the whole time I think about being there illegally! But a simple mistake to make. Glad they let you out!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Jess. I'm glad they let us out too otherwise I would have had to learn Czech and I'm guessing it's a pretty hard language to master - lol.

      Delete
  11. Oh my goodness, that could have turned so horribly wrong and I am so glad it didn't. It is always hard to understand the rules in other countries. I remember driving through Italy, doing eleventybillion km/hr (because thats how fast they drive ok!) and there was a man (looking very "village people") standing on the road waving some flags at us. Not knowing if he was police, roadworks or just some crazy we decided we should probably stop. As we got closer he started waving his flags more furiously at us. Apparently he was just letting us know that they were doing roadworks and he shook his head at us like we were the crazy ones. Not as scary as your experience but we felt just as clueless.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Malinda. Driving in foreign countries is one of the most nerve wracking things you can do and David insists on driving just about everywhere. Mind you I think your crazy guy with the flag was just down the road from my house today- lol. Every time I want to go to the supermarket lately I have to run the gauntlet of crazy flag guys outside a nearby construction site.

      Delete
    2. It certainly makes trips interesting. :)
      Thanks for joining in my #wednesdaywanderlust link party x

      Delete
  12. Lol. Yes that kind of is important. My in laws had a similar situation at the Mexican border. It can be quite scary. Thanks for the picture of Prague. Ahh how I love that place.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Renee. The Czech Republic is one thing. I would be a nervous wreck if we had problems in Mexico. Hope your parents got through okay.

      Delete
  13. Huh. This is so strange. I live about 40km from that border and have NEVER once been checked in over two years of going to and fro across the border as I pleased, so I can only chalk your experience up to bad timing. I don't speak much Czech but a knowledge of German language is so helpful for living in this area of the world :) Glad you got through OK!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Cynthia, I'm pretty sure the police thought we were Austrian given that we were driving an Austrian car. The locals didn't seem to need entry stamps.

      Delete
  14. I would totally freak out - the Austrians could be friendly as technically, you weren't their problem...glad it was sorted in the end.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Lydia, lol - and I thought they were just being nice.

      Delete
  15. Definitely not that easy getting from Canada to USA! We were stopped in the train with armed guards, dogs, and a device that screened for explosives and nuclear matter. Woah!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Jess, That sounds serious. I'm guessing you weren't actually carrying any nuclear material - lol.

      Delete
  16. Huh, I already speak Czech but I also know that the Czech border police is not the nicest in the world and I'd do anything to avoid the experience you had. So glad it ended without any complications...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Zof, Thanks. The police were just doing their job. I'm sure that if we had spoken the language and understood what was going on it would not have been so stressful.

      Delete
  17. Hi Lyn, that's a good lesson learned for all of us travelers. I'm sure it was nerve wrecking as it was happening, but I'm sure you can laugh about it now and have a great story to tell. I did really enjoyed reading your post the way I enjoy watching a sitcom:) Nicely written.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Marisol. Thank you for the kind and encouraging words. I sometimes think that travelling is really only a long succession of stressful experiences that you look back on through rose coloured glasses and laugh at.

      Delete
  18. Hi Lyn, wow, what an adventure! Next time D should listen to you! Haha! Thanks for sharing your experience with Mum-bo Monday, great story

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Kelly. You are absolutely right. Next time D should listen to me - but he won't - lol.

      Delete
    2. Congratulations Lyn! This post received the most clicks at Mum-bo Monday Link Up 9 and will be featured at the party this week!

      Delete
    3. Hi Kelly.

      Wow and thank you.

      Lyn

      Delete