Most of us feel less pressured while visiting a country that is visa free. I had the same mindset until I got denied entry on my first visit to Singapore in August 2017. Nowadays, My heart beats at a very high rate when I’m headed to a destination without a visa at hand, hoping to get a stamp at the POE. I love leaving home with visa t hand because I’m sure I wouldn’t have as much trouble as vice versa.
Now,…..Mmmh! This is going to be one of my very sensitive, emotional and personal blog, and I hope it helps someone.
I’ll start with a brief story of my one entry denial ever, in my 3 years of travel. The first time I went to Singapore (as a Kenyan Passport holder) I was denied entry despite having been to 8 countries prior. Some say that when you have a few good stamps, it’s easy to access some countries, and so I thought, too. Well…, NOT SINGAPORE !
By the time of this travel, I had stayed in Asia for about 8 months in total traveling around and my exit point was Malaysia. My Visa was expiring and we also had plans to meet in Singapore with hubby at his yearly work leave. Having met African friends in Asia, I had had both good and bad stories about this country, the reason why one should interact with fellow Africans when they travel to a new destination. The good stories that I heard made me wanna explore the country and the bad made me curious.
Being a Kenyan, I knew I would get a 30 days free visa at the airport, no hustle. So my husband and I made the bookings through Airbnb for accommodations and flights. I was to land few hrs ahead of him and was looking forward.
With me I had;
– About enough money in cash, more than 1000 USd.
– My return ticket to Malaysia (this country has and will always be my exit place from Asia wether to Africa or any other continent because it gives me cheaper flight range. Idk why).
– Our confirmed Airbnb accommodation bookings
– My huge suitcase (remember I had been traveling for 8 months?) BIG MISTAKE!
Me and my luggage on that trip
In my mind, being that risk-taker-go-getter girl, I knew I would be fine. Girl, think twice and watch out especially after reading this, while visiting Singapore. Mostly (and only) when on an African passport.
My airport drama that lasted forever;
I landed at the airport, headed to the immigration, the queue was short and moving, so I got to the counter within minutes. Handed over my passport to the officer, and he immediately asked an assistant standing few meters from him to guide me to a tiny room at the side. I knew there and then that it, the shit I read on google was beginning to go down. Just like you all have read on my blog things-i-research-on-before-i-travel-to-a-destination-hey, I had researched about Singapore’s POE and so I knew what was going to happen from here.
I was ushered into a small room that had some “we don’t care who you are ” faced officers, and few other people. No whites, most were Asians, and was asked to sit and wait. After a few minutes, about 10, my name was called and I went into an inner room. There were 3 immigration officers. One male; older looking, and two female. No jokes here. One took my phone and started going through it without my consent (I understand they check on your messages if you are into black market), the other took my handbag with my consent and started looking inside; item by item, pocket by pocket, side by side. Meanwhile, the male officer was right in front of me asking me the following questions;
– Why you come Singapore (bad English accent)?;
Me; I’m meeting my husband (big mistake of an answer because he was still a fiancée back then) here for a small vacation.
– For how long;
Me; For a week then we fly to Malaysia.
– Why you choose Singapore?
Me; My husband has always had Singapore and Japan on his bucket list and we already did Japan so we chose Singapore and Malasia for him this time.
– How much money do you have with you?
Me; I said what I had, and he asked to see, which I showed.
– Why you go round round Asia? You only one time Europe. Why you not go back home?
Me; Officer, I’m an online business woman whom, however much I travel, my business still goes on back home and internationally.
-Ooh, you business woman? You have invoices to show of your business?
Me; sure. (I get into my bag and remove all the receipts of anything I have ever bought and imported back home or to my husband’s, for myself, friends or family, in bulk or in singles, then showed him. I could tell he was impressed.)
– Him, little convinced. Where is your husband coming from?
Me; The States.
– Can i see his flight itinerary?
Me; (And that’s where I started having trouble. I had not saved nor printed my hubbies itinerary and I did not have my phone with me neither the airport WiFi connected to it, for me to be able to go around looking through emails. That already, to them, was a red flag.) I blubbered!
– Can we call him to confirm?
Me; I stood there looking at them blankly because my husband was on air. Unreachable..
– Do you have your marriage certificate?
Me; I had not yet been officially married. In fact I was shopping for a gown. (Those questions still linger freshly in my mind!) No sir….
They talk in Singaporian then …..
– (The Lady Officer). Do you have another luggage?
Me; Yes. It’s at the baggage claim.
We get out to go look for my said luggage and there it was, standing by itself waiting on us because it’s now almost an hr since I landed. All the other visitors were long gone by now.
We reach to it, they wore gloves complaining to me why I had traveled with such a big suitcase if I was sure I was only coming for a week, then they started checking my bag thoroughly, again. At this point I was t-i-r-e-d! They finished, took me back to the tiny office, took my finger prints and blankly told me I wasn’t eligible to enter the country. Damn, my cursed African passport!
Arrrrghhhhhh! I hated them ( I know! strong word!) at that point and there was nothing I could do. Like, My husband was on his way, I had to waste money to travel back to Malaysia (apparently on entry denial, one is always sent back to where they came from), and I felt devastated. Abused of my rights, mistreated|racialised|discriminated, everything put together because I had not done anything wrong !.
I was then guided into a private room; where guys denied entry are taken in to, to rest until their time for flying out comes. I booked my flight with their assistance, (the next one available back to Malaysia), hoping I’m able to catch a hold of hubs before he checks into our Airbnb! Booooy, I was going crazy because my phone and any other thing was taken from me and kept in a locker! (Luckily I did when I landed in malaysia). Was given food (which I couldn’t eat), and some clean beddings then was shown where the beds were, so I could rest until my time of flying out. Cut the chase, an hr before my flight, my name was called and I was asked to go and pay maintenance fee (for the meal and resting place I had) which apparently, with my friendly self, an Asian lady who was in a situation like mine had adviced me not to pay if they ask. It was around 100USd. She said and I quote, “they don’t need it, they just want to see if you can pay.” I didn’t! I just couldn’t!
My flight time came, I was called, given my luggage, and escorted to the check-in area. Twas like I was gonna run! *rolling my eyes! I left telling myself that I’m never going back there! Ha! But guess what, I was there mid last year hehehe! The life and curiosity of a traveler pushed me, and I’m glad I did because I entered Singapore this time!
Myself back in Kuala Lumpur after the trip
– Singapore is (to me) a country with one of the very strict immigration officers in the world. They just don’t care who you are.
– They do not need your money, it’s a rich country on its self.
– They try to know if you are sure of why you are going in.
– Their main intention of all that drilling is to prove that you are into black market.
-Carry less luggage. As less as none! They like people going to do shopping in their country. Any country does.
– Show money is a must, of not less than 1000 USD in cash.
– Have your return air and hotel ticket booked and confirmed because they make calls to confirm.
– Under dress.
– Don’t put lots of makeup or any at all.
– Don’t loose your temper however nasty they get.
– Have all details supporting the reason you give for your entrance on you. Eg; Marriage certificate, your spouses itinerary, business invoices, work permits |letters, etc
– They will push you to the core, so you get intimidated and loose it. DON’T!
– They try as much as possible to not let Africans in.
However much I never wanted to go back after that denial, hubby insisted on taking me there again (side by side this time) in June 2018 and after few hiccups here and there at the airport to clear my finger prints, which I was prepared for, i was in their country. I must say, they do know why they deny ‘us’ entry. It’s among the most beautiful, clean, organized (not like Japan to me on this), rich country I’ve been to. If you can follow the advices I’ve given here, it’s a country I think you should visit!
It’s in this country, from this questions, experiences and observations that I learnt more on how best to travel on an African passport! One of the reasons this blog exists!