I smile at the lady who’s checking my passport at Suvarnabhumi airport in Bangkok. She smiles back. Then she kindly gestures for me to come around her counter as if to share a private joke: “you overstay visa!” she beams. F****!
But, that’s impossible I stammer, I have a three-month visa. “No, 60 days.” And now? I ask. “You pay fine.” I sigh, half annoyed at my incapability of counting and half relieved that it seems I won’t end up missing my flight.
The still very friendly immigration lady leads me to a desk behind hers where there is a fierce looking police woman who tells me that I need to pay 2500 Baht for leaving the country on the 22nd of July 2012 instead of on the 17th.
I hopefully take out my visa card. No, only cash. For a second I wonder if I can barter about the price as I only have about 600 Baht left, but decide it might be wiser to go find a bank. I explain my lack of cash as a guy from Ghana pays his fine for overstaying several weeks next to me (he came well prepared with a wad of cash).
I am being led out and told to cut the line when I’m back. The ATM isn’t far and I praise my friend that transferred me money to my British account, when I found out that my German bank (where my salary goes to) has a new policy since a few months, that makes using ATMs with your normal card impossible.
On the hunt for cash
Well, something seems to have gone wrong. No money. I close my eyes take a deep breath and try again. Nothing. Luckily I called my wonderful bank lady when I found out about the new uselessness of my bankcard and now my visa card has more credit limit (I never used my visa much so the limit was still the same as when I was an even poorer high school student).
Unfortunately, since I always had my normal bankcard I don’t have the pin number for my visa. This however isn’t a problem, as I used my visa card at one of the airport exchange counters before to get local currency, or so I think.
No cash, no flight?
I walk to the exchange counter next to the ATM to get the necessary Baht to leave the country and catch my flight. The guy behind the counter however is not willing to help. “The machine is broken, maybe go somewhere else”, he claims. When the next three exchange booths have either no visa machine or a broken one I my doubt of the truthfulness of exchange agent number ones claim rises.
I finally find a place that is willing to save me, probably because of the pure desperation that has by now entered my facial expression. Not without my passport however. No, national ID is not enough. I should’ve guessed. So I go back to the police lady, to explain my idiocy and get my passport.
When I get the desired stamp on my passport and move through security and board my plane I promise myself to triple check all visas with a calculator from now on. Phew, that was exciting.