No way out • Los Angeles Times travel
Istanbul, by Mary Forgione. I had a little time before my cruise left Istanbul for the Mediterranean. It wasn’t my first time in Turkey so I felt comfortable exploring; then I’d meet up with a bunch of my college classmates for a shipboard reunion. The cruise was good, and then it was time for us to scatter again to the four corners of the world. From Rome, I returned to Istanbul, where I would catch my flight home. I never gave immigration another thought until the Turkish agent asked how I could be returning to Turkey when I had never left. I was confused. Of course I had left. Hadn’t I just spent eight days in the Mediterranean? But my passport said otherwise. It didn’t have an exit visa. And what dawned on me over the next 16 hours as I sat in detention at the airport is that the cruise line, which had my passport while I was bopping around Istanbul, hadn’t stamped it with an exit visa. But no amount of explanation would convince officials of this country, which was then overwhelmed with refugees, many of whom were sneaking in illegally, that I wasn’t trying to pull something over on them. As I used social media and my phone repeatedly to contact my husband, my LA Times colleagues and the U.S. Embassy, four important lessons came to me: 1. Always have your phone and your charger with you. 2. Don’t rely on the U.S. Embassy for help. 4. Make sure you have a credit card with enough room on it to charge your new flight home or whatever expense you rack up 4. Always, always check to make sure you have an exit visa—something I’d never done is all my years of traveling. I’ll never forget that again.