So I Forged a Visa? What Would you have Done?

Thanks to an issue shipping Anne Murray on the train to Franceville, I fell behind.  I fell way behind.  Now normally, being a little bit late in travel isn’t exactly a bad thing, it means you’re having too much fun to move on.  However, when I applied for my visa for Congo in Yaoundé, Cameroon I hadn’t been planning on going through Gabon.  I certainly wasn’t planning on spending nearly a week waiting in Franceville, Gabon for my scooter to arrive.  This time, being late in travel was about to cause major problems.

Congo

Driving towards Brazzaville, Congo

You see, when I applied for my visa for Congo in Yaoundé, they made me give them near exact days of travel.  I thought I’d travel directly into the Congo from Cameroon and then I’d have plenty of days to get through before my 15 day tourist visa would expire.  My visa would expire on the 10th of the month.

I ended up in Leconi, staring at my passport on the 9th of the month.  One day to cross the so called “worst road in Africa” and cover nearly 400km to Brazzaville, and then get across to Kinshasa?  Not a chance.  Unfortunately, I was left with few options.  I could cross all the way back to Libreville, setting myself back at least 2 weeks and more money than I ever dare to think, or I could add a little tick to the 10 on my visa to turn it into a 16.  I did what I had to do, this is Africa of course, rules are never really fixed are they?

Congo Border

I passed through the country without anyone offering even the slightest hint that something was wrong with my passport.  Everything in regards to border crossings in Central Africa is done on paper and pen.  Information about my visa is probably filed away with thousands of other trees in some warehouse in Yaoundé.  No one would ever have a clue.  In fact, throughout West and Central Africa there have been few instances where a little forgery couldn’t get you anywhere you need to be.  Borders are all soft at best, and nothing is done on computer.

Congo

In the end, this is, thus, not a story about forgery, but one of development and corruption.  You see, as long as these parts of Africa are left behind when it comes to technology, there will always be ways around rules.  There will always be doors left wide open for corruption and abuse of laws.  The one thing that has surprised me more than anything in Africa thus far is the lack of communication technology, and if Africa is ever to pull itself from the shadow of corruption, this is the aspect that needs to change first.

Of course, what I did wasn’t exactly right, but it raises an issue which I think is important.

What would you have done in my situation?

  1. Fudge the visa numbers?
  2. Go back to Libreville (cost of 2 weeks + about $1000 in expenses and extra visa)
  3. Gone home and quit


Author: Brendan van Son

Author: I am a travel writer and photographer from Alberta, Canada. Over my years as a travel photographer, I have visited 6 of the 7 continents and more countries than I have any desire to count. If you want to improve your skills, be sure to check out my travel photography channel on Youtube . Also, check out my profile on . to learn a little bit more about me and my work.

Share This Post On

26 Comments

  1. Glad to hear the forgery worked out for you. I’d like to think that I’d do the same thing (but probably would’ve chickened out and wasted $1000 instead).

    This reminds me of how the Tanzanian border guard changed my visa into a multiple entry visa by simply writing the words “Mulitple. Paid. 100USD.” next to the stamp. I’m guessing that you could modify a lot of African handwritten visas without anyone ever noticing.

    Post a Reply
    • Definitely Ryan, You can get away with a lot down here can’t you?! It really blows my mind haha.

      Post a Reply
  2. I once had a similar issue… with Ryan Air.
    I fumbled the date of a connecting flight and I had to modify it with tip-ex.
    I made it past 2 security check points into the airplane! But, just as the plane was ready to close doors, I got caught and blacklisted from that wonderful airline. Fortunately we’ve patched things up now.

    Post a Reply
    • Haha, well done. I guess when they have computers it’s a little bit more difficult.

      Post a Reply
    • This story is brilliant. I bet you thought you had got away with it. So close too, and all with the use of tipex.

      Post a Reply
  3. I probably would have sweated it out a lot, looked a dozens of others prospects, before the simple visa modification would have come into my mind. I would have done it. I would have been terrified. And then two weeks later I would have felt like a bit of a fool when I realized that it was the easiest, simplest, safest path imaginable of all my options.

    I think the only place where this can likely still be done without much issue is rural Africa. Like fersou said – don’t try this with airlines!

    Safe travels everyone!

    Post a Reply
    • Yup Vanessa – The funny thing is that after I did it, I completely forgot I had. So every time I met an official along the way I wasn’t nervous at all, I had forgotten haha.

      Post a Reply
  4. What an amazing story!

    I think i would have fudged the number as well. On my Indian visa the embassy screwed up and crossed out single and wrote in pen “double” and no one questioned anything on my second entry. Maybe these things are more common than we think.

    Post a Reply
    • Yeah Adam – That’s how the idea came to mind. I had an official change a date on my visa and I figured no one would even care. Gotta love it.

      Post a Reply
  5. I would probably do the same and then be teetering on the edge of a heart attack every time an official would ask for my passport. Haha!

    Post a Reply
    • Haha, it’s never a good feeling knowing you could be going to Congolese jail.

      Post a Reply
    • Exactly man, for me there was never another option other than forgery.

      Post a Reply
  6. Tough question, but you got cojones… of steel. 🙂

    Post a Reply
    • haha, cojones: still my favourite word in the world.

      Post a Reply
  7. You certainly have bigger balls than I do. I can’t imagine I would have the nerve to do it. I’d be the sucker spending the time and money to go back. Glad it worked out for you though.

    Post a Reply
    • If I had time or money, I’d probably have done that too Jim. But I’m a broke travel writer with a deadline to get to Cape Town haha.

      Post a Reply
  8. I’m glad you got through ok! I think I would have changed the date – and then completely panicked and started pleading with the boarder guards to not arrest me. They would have likely been a bit confused.

    Post a Reply
    • haha, the truth is I could have likely just slipped the border official $20 and they would have made the change for me. Gotta love Africa.

      Post a Reply
  9. haha I would have probably done the same thing and have done in the past (but would never be so outlandish to admit so on an online forum 😉

    However, I hear them Congolese jails ain’t so flash…..

    Post a Reply
    • Haha, I’m banking on two things: 1) that the congolese officials don’t go online too much, and 2) that I won’t be back in the Congo any time soon haha.

      Post a Reply
  10. Been there done that… I once ripped the page with a European black stamp out of my passport, so i could return. worked

    Post a Reply
  11. Hi, just in case other travelers/readers need this information: Going from Franceville to Libreville to make a visa can surely cost less than 2 weeks and less than 1000 usd. The Comilog passenger train is not so reliable but there are daily bus shuttles via the route économique.
    However, regarding the visa for Congo, there is no need to return to Libreville. A consulat général of Congo opened in Franceville two years ago. I got a visa done this morning within hours. Much faster and easier than in Yaoundé, and not limited to 15 days.

    Post a Reply
    • Good info JB and thanks for the update. I had asked around in Franceville and no one mentioned that. I’ll update my visa-chasing information for Congo/Gabon too. Cheers.

      Post a Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Real Time Analytics
Shares
Want to improve your photography? Subscribe to my Travel Photography YouTube Channel! You will not regret it!

Get a Free Copy of Vagabundo Magazine

Sign up for my newsletter and get a free copy of Vagabundo Magazine. You'll also get information regarding future travel photography workshops. Right now, we're booking for PERU!