It took a minute, but here is the second blog about The Motherland – Cote D’Ivoire aka Ivory Coast, and my emergency passport episode.
So, I had a great time in Dakar, and the next stop was Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire. I did all my research… apply for a Visa ✓ Yellow Fever vaccine ✓ COVID-19 vaccine ✓. Then it happened — at the airport, and this is how it all went down!
Before going through Customs, you must go to the “Visa room” as they need to place the visa onto a page in your passport. I had no idea. I thought it was an online visa. Anywho, the gentleman asked for my passport, and I handed it to him. You have no more visa pages. I looked at my passport and said, “yes I do”. The pages are the pages where visas are not allowed. When I tell you that, I teared up. I almost pulled a “crying Karen.” Before the tears dropped, he placed the visa on the last page and covered the writing. I was so appreciative that I finally exhaled.
Then I started looking at my passport and realized I have no pages for a visa and I have another country (Ghana) on this adventure. I started Googling the U.S. Embassy in Cote D’Ivoire on how to get an emergency passport. I went ahead and just emailed them. They responded quickly and gave me an appointment two days after my arrival at 10 am. The Embassy had instructions – payment in US Dollars, passport photo, application, passport and copy, and social security number. I asked whether you need the SSN card. They said no. Whew!
Journey to the US Embassy
The cost of the emergency would be $180. I only had $26. My travel mates were running low on the country’s currency (CFA), so I told them I would exchange it for them. I went to the ATM, and my card didn’t work. I called the bank, and they said there is not a block and they don’t see an issue. Okay, I will use my debit card. They both expired. I gave up on the day and decided that this could wait until tomorrow. I will not let this ruin my trip.
The next day, I converted the $26 to CFA. I would have enough money to pay for the driver and the passport photo. The first stop was the bank. The ATM ate my card. I went inside, but they kept me waiting; I gave up. Then I called my bank and said nicely “I have 3 accounts with 4 accounts with you and 3 cards in my wallet, make one of them work now.” The next stop is the passport photo. In the first photo, I look angry. I said no, we need another one. I am satisfied with the retake.
We head to the U.S. Embassy. I go through multiple security checkpoints, and they made me leave everything electronics. I said, “Wait a minute, let me tell my travel mates that I will not have my phone.” The wait to start the process took less than 10 minutes. Then it was time to pay, and I handed over two crisp 100 dollars as the cost was $130.
The lady asked if I had smaller bills. I said “no”. She then asked if I had CFA. “No”. I then asked the gentleman next to me if he had change. He doesn’t. Finally, she said, “I will make it work”. Now, during the exchange, the gentleman asked for my number. I gave it
Anywho, processing time took less than 30 minutes, and I was told to come back at 3 pm.
I head back to the hotel to use the ATM. It works and I have money. I repaid my travel mates. At breakfast, they said, “What about your Ghana visa?”. “Uh!” “It is associated with your old passport. “WTF!!!!!!
Nat, stay calm and don’t panic. Google again. I can pay at the airport, but it is $150. I sent an email to both the US and Ghana Embassies. They responded! As long as I have my old passport, no problem. Another exhale!
I head back to Embassy to pick up my emergency passport. The staff remembers me (the bald head ), and I go through my multiple security checkpoints. I get to the counter. The machine is broken. This is true Nat! The lady was very nice. She said I don’t want you to sit here as she doesn’t know how long it would take to fix. She said she would call me. I headed back to the hotel for drinks.
What did I learn?
- I am fallible. I admit my faults
- I can now guide my future travelers
- I need to take a conversational French class.
- I can’t stress about the things I can and can not control
Sh!t happens! How you respond is what matters.
Finally, I did get my emergency passport — the next day.
BTW – With the emergency passport, you are given a list of instructions. The main thing to know is that the Emergency passport is only good for one year, and you are not allowed to add any visas. There is no additional cost to “trade it in” for the real passport. Here is a link about the US Passport https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/passports/get-fast.html
Now, you are probably wondering did I get to enjoy Cote D’Ivoire. “Yes, I did” Next is all about Abidjan.