We enjoyed our final days in Livingstone, Zambia at a pretty relaxed pace. We saw the falls, canoed, and walked with Rhinos. Even getting to Livingstone we took our time and explored the small towns along the way, getting a better feel for the place. On our last day we bought snacks with our last kwacha so we would leave the country with no local currency to waste.
Our Intercape bus took us to the Namibian border where we had to get our exit stamps from Zambia and then enter Namibia. We had a 10 minute walk between border posts so we chatted and continued through the whole line. I (Tan) got my stamp and moved on. Lu was getting her stamp then the border agent just said ‘it’s cancelled.’ What!!!??? What do you mean cancelled!??? We argued with the border guards, then with our drivers who in turned argued with the guards. Slovenia is one of the few EU countries that actually need a visa but more importantly we were told they issue visa’s at the border….. turns out not true (this is not marked clearly).
After a long discussion we found out the only option is to go back to Lusaka to get a visa from the Namibian embassy. This doesn’t sound that bad except that the Namibian border is in the middle of nowhere, and Lusaka is an 8 hour bus ride away from Livingstone, which is two hours from the border….and we have no more kwacha…… But fortunately there is an ATM right at the border. Whew! We put our card in the machine, but the machine- just like us-is also out of money. So no visa, no money, no transport, we are in a great spot right now.
We discover that we have enough money just to get a cab to the bus stand, from there we have to promise the driver of our long distance cab that we will pay them when we get to Livingstone. The cab ride was fun though; everyone laughing about our border problem, joking that it doesn’t matter where you are from the borders can suck!
We arrive in Livingstone then the next day (Monday) take a bus to Lusaka, racing to get to the Namibian embassy before it closes. We run into the embassy an hour before it closes only to find out that the only day they do visas is Thursdays. It continues! This also means out Zambian visa will expire before we leave, which if it does we could go to jail. We also are limited with days as Tuesday is a national holiday for the funeral of their president. This leaves one day to get the extension and one day to get a visa. Not the best timing. Fortunately the Zambian visa extension was possibly the easiest bureaucratic thing we have ever done; it took less than 30 seconds at the immigration office in downtown Lusaka.
We return to the Namibian embassy on Thursday, and fortunately the woman is very nice and takes care of us the same day. The visa was 50 dollars which was our single biggest expense for the whole trouble.
We are now waiting for Sunday to get on our second bus to Namibia.
So lesson learned. When travelling make sure to check the official website for the country you are going to, don’t trust your guide book or what people on the street tell you otherwise you could be a week delayed like us. Also remember when there is a problem you do have time to fix it, one though that popped into our heads was to ‘throw money at the problem’ or to sulk at our misfortune and eat out or stay in nice hotels. But that wouldn’t have helped our long term goals. So we still got cheap group taxis, took the public bus, and stayed at the same cheap places where we could cook.
There was a positive though; we got to retrace our steps back. This may sound bad but it was relaxing feeling like we already knew the place. We stayed at the same places as before and everyone remembered us and welcomed us warmly. People actually cared about our situation and were willing to help us even though they didn’t know us well. Then at bus stands or stores or in cab rides we already knew where we needed to go and what we needed so it actually wasn’t as stressful as we imagined it at the border when we heard that word ‘cancelled’.
We had our first hiccup and we survived, hopefully there are not more but we are now better prepared. I hope.