Travelling with a Weak Passport – Raiiq Ridwan’s Story

01 March, 2024 | Blog

This month, we turned to our LPI (Low Passport Index) community to discuss the significant challenges faced by those travelling with a weak passport. To truly understand the impact of these difficulties, we invited Raiiq Ridwan, a traveller from Bangladesh, to share his experiences. Bangladesh holds the distinction of having the 8th weakest passport in the world, providing Raiiq with firsthand insight into the subject.

Raiiq Radwan visiting India

Raiiq Ridwan in front of Taj Mahal, India

Travelling is often seen as a transformative journey. However, for those travelling on a weak passport, it’s a path filled with bureaucratic hurdles and unexpected challenges. With a passport that offers limited access, every border crossing becomes a test of patience and resilience. What should be a joyful experience often turns sour due to these obstacles.

A Harrowing Experience in Senegal

A trip to Senegal once turned into a nightmare when immigration officials detained us for six hours due to a supposed visa requirement that didn’t exist. Despite prior assurances from the Senegalese Embassy in London, we found ourselves in a Kafkaesque situation, held without clear reasons. Our Airbnb host was even told we might be deported. In the end, it took the intervention of the Immigration Chief for our entry to be approved. In a strange turn, I also had to break the unfortunate news of deportation to a fellow traveller from Nicaragua! This only added to the surreal experience.

Raiiq Radwan Profile on NomadMania

Despite travelling withthe 8th weakest passport in the world, Raiiq has managed to visit 116 countries

Denied Entry in Kenya

On another occasion, I was denied entry into Kenya, despite being eligible for a visa on arrival. With a long layover ahead, I had hoped to explore a bit and meet a friend, but was bluntly told to “sleep on a bench.” When I questioned why, it escalated into a confrontation with an immigration officer, showcasing the unchecked power some officials wield. Fortunately, my two visits to Kenya following that trip were trouble-free.

Kenya and Senegalese immigration are known to be particularly “easy” for most nationalities with both countries boasting a good tourism infrastructure (especially Kenya), except it was difficult both times.

.With a passport that offers limited access, every border crossing becomes a test of patience.

Discrimination and Visa Complications

In St. Vincent and the Grenadines, I faced discrimination when asked to present an exhaustive list of seven different flight bookings before being considered for entry. While other travellers breezed through customs without question, my ordeal highlighted the discrimination faced by those with weaker passports.

Raiiq Radwan on the beach

Many destinations require a degree of careful pre-planning, but for those travelling with a weak passport even the countries known to be particularly “easy” for most nationalities can be a challenge.

In Ukraine, despite having all the necessary visas, I was interrogated about my financial situation and travel plans due to lack of internet access. This led to an absurd situation where I had to use the immigration office’s Wi-Fi to provide the required documents. My plans for a restful night before a Chornobyl tour were dashed.

Unequal Treatment within the Schengen Zone

Travelling within the Schengen zone, I encountered disproportionate scrutiny. Slovenian police checked only my documents and bags on a train full of people. At the end, one of the officers asked me a ridiculous question “Do you just have clothes?” Ongoing from Slovenia to Italy, I was stopped again, the only person in a whole train, this time surrounded by five police officers scrutinising tens of details about myself, where I lived, and what I did. These are only a few stories underscoring the unequal treatment faced by travellers with weak

Endless Paperwork and Arbitrary Rejections

Panama presented its own set of absurdities, with officials taking mugshots and requiring me to explain my itinerary in detail, despite having all documents in order.

Applying for visas involves navigating a maze of peculiar requirements, from notarizing forms to dealing with foreign bank transactions. North Korea is known to have some unique demands like a full-time guide for its visitors. Surprisingly, Japan had a similar requirement for me.

Living in the UK didn’t spare me from needing a visa for the Republic of Ireland, a country the UK has an open border with. The application required that I photocopy every single page of every single passport that I have ever had. It ended up being lots and lots of pages!

The South Korean Consulate in London wanted a wire transfer to a German bank. The Philippines Embassy required my form to be notarized. For the Uruguayan visa, I visited three times: to apply, to pay the fee, and to get the visa printed. The Peruvian Embassy wanted a same-day ATM “mini-statement” along with a bank statement, to prove my funds were real.

Raiiq Ridwan, Bangladeshi traveller in front of Machu Picchu, Peru

Posing in front of Machu Picchu. The Peruvian Embassy wanted a same-day ATM “mini-statement” along with a bank statement for the visa application.

Facing visa rejections from Tunisia and Zimbabwe without clear reasons, and enduring a 19-month wait for a US visa (still waiting for that one!), adds to the stress, frustration and uncertainty of travelling with a weak passport.

The Emotional Toll of Travel Restrictions

For travellers with weak passports, the anticipation of entering a new country is tinged with anxiety, transforming what should be an exciting experience into a daunting one. The constant worry of facing bureaucratic hurdles challenges the notion that travel is a universally liberating experience.

Many feel that those with strong passports are often unaware of the extent of the challenges faced by others. Legal barriers, the assumption of scrutiny even when all documents and finances are in order. There’s a call for empathy and recognition of the extra efforts and planning required from those travelling with a weak passport. The community desires more awareness and understanding of these issues. We hope our LPI month will be a catalyst for this change.

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