After a multi-delayed flight (from Kuala Lumpur), and having four hours to get over that experience, entering Dhaka (Bangladesh), was also anything but plain sailing. I had, innocently, opted for a VOE (visa on entry), to be obtained after landing and before exiting through Immigration. This had been mainly because of my experience in others countries, which had led me to believe that a VOE would probably be easier. It was a bad choice.
To prepare in advance, I had dutifully downloaded the visa form from the Bangladesh Visa site, on the World Wide Web. I had typed the relevant information, name, date of birth, who my father (deceased) was, who my mother (also deceased) was and all the other very personal information required, onto that electronic PDF. All this with due care and attention, and had been terribly proud of my use of technology. I had securely attached the three, somewhat severe, requisite photographs onto the (printed out) form and made certain that the required 50 USD had been enclosed, as I had folded the form and placed in my yellow Cambodian fishing next bag (designed in Italy), next to my passport and travel documents. There that was done.
To say that obtaining a visa upon entry was a disaster, is an understatement. I spent nearly as much time trying desperately to get the visa (to begin my stay), as I had spent in the air. I had joined a queue. The sign, indicted that the queue was for visas. After maybe half and hour, with the queue remaining static, a gentleman with a tag around his neck, approached me. He had motioned for my documents. I had given them. This very plain, nondescript, individual had taken one look, looked sceptical and had asked me just where I had obtained the form from. I told him “The Embassy visa website”. “Cannot use it” he replied. I wanted to argue, but reason gripped me and I followed as the gentleman led me to a stack of forms. “This one, then there, and there.” He had pointed to a cubical, wherein sat a gentleman receiving money, and handing out receipts from the Sonali Bank Limited (Landing/Visa Fee Deposit Slip). Then he pointed to a different queue. He added “I can make this go faster for you.” “Sorry, pardon, I don’t understand.” I innocently replied. “I can help you, no need to wait.” Then it clicked. I was being asked for a bribe. “I’m sorry” I said “I am not a rich man, only white”. The last was said sotto voce. He disappeared.
Next, I paid, not 50 USD as I had been lead to believe, but 52 USD (ie USD 50 + VAT 15%) or so the receipt slip informed me. You can have VAT even on visa charges? Well, apparently, you can.
And, so, I joined another queue. It too had appeared static, but had been, in fact, moving at a very minuscule pace. There was something vaguely reminiscent of both Arlo Guthrie’s Alice’s Restaurant, and any number of Franz Kaftka’s stories about this whole mis-adventure. I had finally reached my destination, after countless people had pushed in front of me and had gained visas to multiple passports, long before mine was considered. I was a foreigner, alone, without the advantage of the local lingo, my hands were metaphorically tied. All I had was my patience, and that was slowly ebbing away. I had recalled a friend’s recent experience with visas in China. He was kept over night. It was this sobering thought which prevented my ‘Englishman abroad' attitude. I had stepped forward, hopeful. I had even gave a brief smile.
My passport had been snatched from my hand. I was given the third degree. Why was I wanting to enter Bangladesh. For what purpose. Where was I staying etc etc etc. Hmm, all that information was on the form I had just given this very officious Police Immigration ‘gentleman’. Firstly he had wanted to deny my visa. The visa I had just paid 52 USD to obtain. So. I had challenged him. He had gotten angry, and had re-started his interrogation. Where was I staying. I had told him I was staying with a friend. He had pointed to the address I had written on the form. “Here”. “Yes, there” “No hotel” “No, I am staying with a friend and their family”. His look told me that he, obviously, did not believe me. “This their telephone number” he had barked. “Er, yes.” I had been begun to doubt my own name by this point. He had given a snort. Challengingly he said “I will call this number”. He had obviously thought that I was lying, and that the telephone number would prove not to exist. It had rung. He had spoken in his own language, then had thrust the phone to me. I then has spoken to my friend and had asked him to put my host on the line. He did. I had handed the mobile phone back to the Police Immigration official. He had grunted, then stamped my visa. As he was giving my passport back to me he had hung onto it, momentarily, grinned, and said “I give you until the 9th March”. My return flight was on the 11th. He had taken a very petty revenge, for being caught out.