Tanzania to Switzerland to India…issues (2008)

Getting from Zanzibar, Tanzania to Mumbai, India was no easy or short trek.   I knew I would be flying on 3 planes, walking on 3 continents and be in transit for over 30 hours before I finally got to sleep in my hotel in India and wait for Debbie. What I didn’t know was I almost didn’t get there and had to find a way – any way!

A few of my hiccups along the way…

1. I get to the tiny airport in Zanzibar, in extreme heat where I am dripping in sweat, and wait patiently in line with Rosey and Emma (two English girls I met and spent a few days on the island with).

2. After 25 minutes in line (and we were 3rd in line), we are told the computers weren’t working and they couldn’t check us in.  So we stood in line for an hour sweating.  So much for having comfy and CLEAN clothes to fly the next 30 hours in.

3. When we finally get to the front to check in, we are told our flight to Nairobi has been canceled and they rebooked us PART of way to Dar Es Salem.  They told me I would have to get to Dar Es Salem, get my bags and talk to the transit desk to try to get to Nairobi.   The Zanzibar manager there kept telling me don’t worry, they’ll get me to my final destination somehow.  That’s wasn’t comforting as I was very frantic as I knew there was one flight a day from Nairobi to my next stop and then one flight from there.  I was worried as Debbie and I had a flight the next day after she arrived to Goa and my connections wouldn’t allow me to get there in time.  Yikes!

4. The problem with the Zanzibar airport is it’s so small, there is no information on any boards (they use dry erase boards for departures) and few people speak English there.  So trying to find out what’s happening was a problem.  I finally was quite demanding and got the information I needed so I knew what to expect and that I was screwed if I wasn’t on the Dar Es Salem to Nairobi flight as there was no other.  Crap!

5. Oh yea…there is a special departure tax to leave the island of Zanzibar.  Why???  They are upset they are part of Tanzania and want to be a separate country, so this is one way they are trying to become separate.  This only really matters as the tax you pay when you leave depends if it’s a domestic or international ticket.  Since my ticket was changed to domestic, I paid the domestic tax and all was fine and on my way.  It wasn’t until others behind me in line were forced to pay more that they came to find me and force me to pay more.  All in all, a huge headache.  The payment was either $5 or $30, so something worth discussing.  It’s really a “screw the tourist tax” and they can get away with it.

6. On the flight to Dar Es Salem and all in all ok.  The entire flight was in the same boat, so they finally booked us all to Nairobi and we got through it fairly easily.  I even ran into Dan, Ross and Tom on this flight and they were surprised to see me as we all thought we would meet up at a bar in Nairobi.  I earned my beer on that flight!

7. The real problem…Nairobi!  When I got to Nairobi, the Swiss Air agent asked to see my Yellow Fever card as proof I had the shot.  I had 7 shots in one day and will never forget what I had and when.  I realized then that my yellow booklet that shows I had all my shots was in my wallet that was stolen in the Ukraine in June and I didn’t have it scanned in.  I scanned all my other documents, but didn’t do this one as I’ve never needed it.  Guess India requires it at immigration if you have been to Eastern Africa.  To make a long story short, the airline wouldn’t give me my boarding passes without seeing this.  There was a health department in the airport they took me to in hopes of getting a new booklet, calling my doctor in the US or giving me a new shot (not sure what they hoped for as none of these could really and legally occur).    To finish this up, I really didn’t think I as going to get to leave as there was nothing I could go.  If I can cash in some of my saved up luck, I did.  I used all my charm, sweet talking skills and was able to discuss my situation with the health department official.  Without saying anything to incriminate myself or anyone else as to the process I went through, I now have a yellow booklet with my name on it and proof of having a yellow fever shot and was able to get my boarding passes and fly away.  Whew!

8. The rest of the flight was uneventful in comparison.  Just two LONG flights (8 hours each), with a 3 hour layover in Zurich, Switzerland.  Yes, I flew from Kenya to Switzerland to reach India.  Really makes no sense except I used my miles for my round the world trip and this is how I needed to fly with partners.

9. When I went through immigration in Mumbai, no one cared about where I have been or what shots I had.  All that hassle for nothing.  I was actually kinds pissed off as I almost didn’t make it and no one cared!

Anyways, I thought it would be an easy night as I had my own room at a hotel and just had to wait for Debbie to arrive in the morning from New York.  Only problem is the hotel had a lot of construction and there was so much banging directly outside my bedroom it woke me up early (on the only morning I really could just sleep in – in a room that was all mine!).  I was quite unhappy and said something to management and they moved me to the Superior room (well for this simple hotel) and Debbie and I got to keep the upgrade for the next night, so it was a nice treat.
Now it’s time to wait for Debbie to arrive the next day.

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