Overland Borders are always unpredictable. They are vulnerable sometimes even if you are super-duper innocent. The security measures keep changing from time to time. Therefore, sufficient research and preparation are compulsory before reaching the borders. Some borders are only open for a few months in a year due to weather issues, example as Karkara Valey Border which only opens from June to October every year due to the extreme weather. The hassle and the danger in overland border crossing must not be compromised in any situation.
1. Proper Documents
Make sure you have acquired all documents such as visa, permit required by the visiting country before reaching the border. If the visa is to be granted on arrival, make sure you have prepared the passport size photographs in a few copies in advance preferably 2 copies for each country and other supporting documents required. Most of the overland borders doesn’t have the facility to take photos. Don’t overlook the information captured in your passport. We normally only care about the name and passport number. Keep in mind that a simple mistake of your height noted in the passport could easily lead to chaos, even a few centimeters just like what I faced at Laos-China border.
2. Operating Hours of The Borders
Since the security measures changes from time to time, the operating hours of the particular border changes too. Best way to know exactly, ask the local people, especially the truck drivers who are heading towards the border (if they are friendly ask for a hitchhike). Do not approach the taxi drivers. They may manipulate the information just to grab your money. Another ways is, try to google for the the Federal Council/Custom Department/Immigration Department of the particular country.
3. Be Confident, hide your nervousness
The chances for interrogation is very high during overland borders especially when you are solo or when you are a very uncommon traveler in that route. It also a very painful process sometimes. So, be cooperative during the checking. The process can sometimes irritate you. Don’t show your anger. Try to be polite with the officers even if they are rude. The process can easily put you under stress, but try to hide your nervousness and show confident body language to avoid deeper extended checking.
4. Pack your kindness until finishing your crossing
Overland borders are targets for many forms of syndication among few countries. That is beyond our control. To escape from being a scapegoat, simply do not help anyone to carry their bags even they are handicapped. Pack your kindness tightly until you finish your crossing. Do not entertain anyone during your process of crossing borders. I have experienced during China Kazakhstan Border crossing, where one of the passenger (elderly man) was very helpful and friendly to me during the journey asked me to carry one of his bag. without second thought I helped, luckily nothing happened. After the cross I regretted for my immature action and the reason for it was I am obliged to him.
5. Do not carry any prohibited items.
Be rational when taking some items crossing the borders. One man’s meat is another man’s poison. A legal item in your country can be illegal in other countries. Respect their systems and law. Importantly, make sure your smartphone /whatsapp message box/gallery and your laptop are not corrupted with inappropriate pictures and videos. Maybe it could be not yours truly, could be a forwarded picture from your friend. But remember, when you get caught no one will be there for you to help. So, make sure they are completely clean. The officers have all the rights to check your phone and camera thoroughly. Additionally, do not try to photograph the facilities and officials around the borders, especially the army around the border.
Rely on a Miracle to Happen in ferry terminal
“High chance you can’t enter South Korea by ferry, sir. I really do not wish to give you false hope. However, I will send the request to the Incheon Immigration department. If they can accept your arrival, I will issue the ticket, otherwise you have to fly….”
It was unexpected news..
The news any traveler would not wish to hear and the news which really made me completely rely on a miracle to happen…
” You have to wait at least 2 hours to know the respond/answer from the Immigration department of Incheon. Looks like now is their lunch hour… But, my suggestion is, better you go back to your hotel, and to be frank normally they don’t accept to enter South Korea by ferry sir”…
She was repeatedly throwing the words I did not wish to listen.
100% hope for the 1% chance
I decided to come back to the terminal after a few hours. The chances were very slim, but my hopes were too big. Furthermore, I have already completed 2/3 parts of my journey. My aim is not to South Korea, but by ferry to South Korea. The Weidong Ferry service is only available 3 times per week from Qingdao to Incheon. Monday, Wednesday and Friday. So, I put 100% hope for the 1% chance.
But, Qingdao did not disappoint me. It was a very unique city. Initially I didn’t know much about Qingdao, however, the German touch of architecture on street buildings triggered me to dig more about its history. Qingdao was occupied by Germans from 1814-1891. During the colonial period, the Germans left a distinct mark on Qingdao’s architecture that can still be seen in its historic center and train stations. The train station has undergone a recent overhaul that has tried to strike a balance between maintaining its colonial heritage while modernizing to be the terminus of the high speed rail line to Beijing (source: wikitravel)
Qingdao was too cold for me, about 6-10°C. Furthermore, the thick foggy weather retained me within the Nordic Osheania Hostel most of the time. The interior classic architecture of the Hostel very much impressed me. I managed to upgrade my room to double bed for 12 USD. The permanent resident (picture below) of the hostel was too friendly to me and turned out to be my best companion there.
After spending a few hours in the hostel, I decided to visit the ferry terminal to try my luck. It was a long walk in the cold 8°C weather. The moment I reached the counter, she responded to me ” very sorry sir, to make you wait longer”. The sorry word really triggered some kind of disappointment in me immediately. My heart pumped faster filled with adrenaline. My face flushed, she continued, “the Incheon immigration accepted your arrival, be here by 2 pm tomorrow, we will issue the ticket for you”. I froze. For a moment, i could not accept the overwhelmingly happy news. I was elated…..Yayyyyyyy
Seriously, it was a complete miracle for me.On the following day, I reached the ferry terminal earlier with full of excitement. Excitement because I’m going to complete my final leg of the journey and I’m going back home after visiting South Korea.
only a few passengers appeared. The ferry terminal was in dead silence. Thick foggy weather brought down the temperature badly to 7°C.
Once I reached the counter, the same lady, her eye narrowed after saw me. I was pretty sure she going to say some bad news to me.
Her ” Sorry sir”, again it triggered millions of dissapointing thoughts. My face flushed again. Adrenalin rushed lavishly.
” The ferry which is supposed to reach Qingdao port will be delayed very much due to the thick foggy weather. We are not sure what time the ferry will touch the port. So, I’m unable to issue the ticket for you at this moment. In the worst case scenario we may cancel today’s departure to Incheon.” She explained the situation clearly. I had no questions to ask. I saw a few passengers who regularly travel by ferry to Incheon from China frustrated and disappointed.
Since there was no any other better choice, I decided to wait, wait and wait…Around 4 pm in the evening, the ticket was finally issued. The ticket price was surprisingly cheaper, RMB 480 than I expected could be due to the low season. Around 6 pm, announcement for the departure took place. wow… long waited ferry and the moment arrived.. The sleeping compartment was really clean and comfortable.
Bad news brought good news
It was too cold to be outside of the cabin longer. The ferry was still anchored at the port. After my dinner around 7 pm, I decided to go to bed as I was bushed. The dinner was expensive for me as I paid 6000 Korean Won for the meal but it was tasty.
I had a very good night sleep and got up around 4 am. checked out of the window, shockingly, the ferry remained anchored at the same place I boarded. I rushed to the reception area and found out that the thick foggy weather didn’t allow them to sail. They told that the ferry was scheduled to start sailing around 1 pm but was not confirmed. The reception did announced a good news to pacify me. Starting now till the ferry reaches Incheon port, all meals will be free of charge…. yasssss