There is nothing that can be as traumatic as arriving at an international airport with all the excitement of traveling out of the country only to be turned back at the airline counter for having not fulfilled some of the critical conditions to board the aircraft. International flights are indeed different in so many ways from traveling from one local airport in Nigeria to another.
In fact, hardly will you run into Immigration, Customs, Quarantine, or National Drug Law Enforcement Agency officials at local airports,but their presence is a must at international airports and lots of things could go wrong with them to terminate your trip or even land you behind bars. It is therefore very Important that you know the potential pitfalls and obstacles you may come across at airline counters or with airport security or regulatory officials. Here are some of the things to consider in your quest to travel abroad for the first time.
Passport and visa
All first time international travellers must note that the possession of an authentic passport and a valid visa counts as the number one priority and that they must get those two subjects correct before they set out for the airport. But it is in these two requirements that some first time travellers do get it wrong and suffer their worse trauma. The only exception though being those countries where visas are issued at the point of entry or those where Nigerian nationals are visa-exempted, like within the West African sub-region. That you have paid for a flight ticket does not confer on you any right to board the aircraft as you do on local flights.
Airlines get severely sanctioned whenever a passenger is discovered to have flown on a fake passport or invalid visa, and they have also taken extra steps to prevent such passengers from boarding their flight. But whether it is out of sheer ignorance, or being naive, countless number of Nigerian first time travellers end up patronising touts or falling into the hands of fraudulent persons in their procurement of passports and visas.
Some are persons who have voluntarily offered themselves to be trafficked out of the country by agents who promise them greener pastures in Europe or America. Sadly, the activities of these fraudsters have serious problems for hundreds of first time travellers. Sights of frustrated or disillusioned passengers seeking to travel out of the country on fake passports or visas continue to characterise Nigeria’s major international airports, notably the NnamdiAzikiwe International Airport, Abuja; the Mallam Aminu Kano Airport,Kano; the Akanu Ibiam Airport, Enugu; and the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos.
It is therefore important that you avoid the services of touts. Where in doubt, you can approach the airline days ahead of your travel date to verify your passports and visa status. Airlines have the facilities to verify these major travel requirements for you at zero cost.
Buying a ticket
International travels are often more expensive than local flight fares. While some would go directly to the airline and buy their air tickets them, others would prefer hiring the services of a travel agent to do so. But technology has made life a lot easier these days. So, to be sure that you are being charged a good fare either by the airline of your choice of by the travel agent, it is adviceable to take some time and search online for other flights that are plying that route.
For instance, rather than fly directly and pay more, you could get 20-30 per cent fare reduction on some airlines that offer connecting flights to your destination and enjoy enjoy the benefit of visiting another country and sight-seeing another airport on one trip. Aside comparing ticket prices online, researching online also helps you learn a lot about the cultures, rules and regulations of the country that you are visiting. It also helps you to know what the weather condition will be when you get there so that you can pack appropriately.
Since you are traveling for the first time and hence not so conversant with some of the Do’s and Don’ts about the airport and airline you are flying, it is important to arrive the airport at least two hours before the scheduled departure time. Try to identify the airline counter once you gain access into the airport. Head there straight and join the queue with your passport and online ticket printout. Be sure to keep an eye on your luggage at all times and do not accept to carry any luggage for anyone even if temporary at the airport. And be extra careful in accepting dying minute parcels from even friends who rush to meet you at the airport terminal on your way out of the country. Open and search thoroughly the contents of such parcels to convince yourself they are not contents that could land you in trouble. If drugs or undeclared weapons are found on you, ignorance would serve no excuse once you are picked up by law enforcement officers. The airline staff at the check-in desk will collect your passport and scan it alongside the visa, and match the names on the tickets in the airline computers and once they are valid will issue you a boarding pass and luggage labels for your bags. You will also be issued an Immigration departure card where you will fill your bio-data, carrier information and addresses etc. Ensure that your passport is physically always with you – never keep it in a bag that is being checked in.
Airlines operate on strict safety and security rules. And for this reason, some substances are banned and prohibited from being carried on board an aircraft. It is important to find out these items days or weeks ahead of your travel. Some items may be allowed in check-in bags and not allowed on carry-on luggage. For instance, most foodstuffs have to be properly dried before being accepted by airlines. Try to find out online what’s permissible or not on the airline you are traveling. It can sometimes be disheartening to buy at great cost lots of foods, vegetables etc and pack them to the airport only to be disallowed from flying with them and also having no friend or family member at the airport to hand them over to take back home for you.
Physical cash and excess luggage
Individual airlines have limits on the luggage weight or capacity assigned to each passenger. Therefore, make efforts to be acquainted with what constitutes excess luggage on the airline that you are flying. As a first time traveler on an international route with little experience, it is better to travel as light as possible. Where possible avoid to collect gifts meant for others in the country that you are going to. Nothing can be as depressing as paying the un-budgeted cost of an excess luggage that does not belong to you.
And in as much as you try to carry enough cash with you in order not to be stranded, you should also watch the limits. In so many countries around the world, carrying cash in excess of $10,000 (or its equivalent in naira) without declaring it to Customs can constitute a breach of money laundering law. You don’t want to be on the wrong side of the law for going about with cash that is quite perfectly normal on the street of Nigeria but a crime inside an airport terminal.
Therefore, always count the cash you carry with you to ensure they are within the limits permitted by law or you risk forfeiting them at the country of your destination is caught.
A landing card is an Immigration form that visitors to a country are required to fill. Moments before the flight touches down at your final destination, the airline cabin crew will move around distributing these cards to passengers who are non-nationals of that country. Travelers are required to present the completed form at the immigration desk at the point of entry. The card has spaces for details like your full names, nationality, occupation, residential addresses etc. First time passengers must note that the countries that they are visiting take seriously the details provided in this card. As such, be very honest in what you state. And don’t volunteer to fill in the data for persons you do not know on board the aircraft.
When the aircraft lands and you disembark, remember that you are in another country that offers you limited rights than the country of your birth. It could even be that it’s a country that speaks a different language than English that you are used to. As much as you are fatiqued from the long hours and stress of sitting in one spot inside a moving aircraft, it is important that you stay very alert as you queue to get pass through that country’s immigration post. At this stage you have to take responsibility for just yourself; don’t offer any form help to persons you do not know. Once you are face to face with the immigration officer be very courteous in your responses to questions. They have the right to admit, detain, or even deport you, it all depends on how you carry yourself and what you tell them. Don’t give them any reason to deny you entry. When you are done, proceed to carry your check-in luggage and leave the airport. Lastly, except there are persons around to carry you to your designation in the country or city of your visit, try to use a bus or airport-hotel shuttle or trains. Taxis are usually the most expensive mode of transport abroad.