At what point can you say, “I have visited a country”? This has never been an issue for me, as I really believe in seeing as much as possible when traveling and getting to know a place. But for a few days we have been dancing around Zambia, just along the border. We went over into Zambia to see their side of Victoria Falls, but we didn’t get a stamp. Then we flew out of Zambia and that’s when we were forced to pay for a visa and when trouble ensued.
ATM’s are supposed to be 24 hours, a solution to closed banks. But so far in Africa they have been anything but. So when we set off to the airport, we knew we were cutting it close money wise and just hoped we had enough to pay for our visas into Zambia. The banks had been closed the day before and the ATM’s had been “closed” as well. So we weren’t exactly surprised when we arrived at the immigration counter to find that we didn’t have enough US dollars and they didn’t accept any other currencies. I immediately went to the ATM located at the border but, surprise surprise, it didn’t work. I mean really, how can there be so many ATM’s that just don’t work? Next I went to the bank that happened to be open just outside of immigration, to try to change my Singapore dollars to US dollars. The woman behind the counter barely answered me, using an in between to let me know that she would only take US dollars or Euro, neither of which I had. This is when we were forced to rely on the kindness of strangers. The couple sharing a bus with us was gracious enough to loan us Euros, which of course had to be changed to dollars first, after the bank took their generous cut. So after maybe 45 minutes of what should have been a five-minute visa on arrival process, we were off.
Both my boyfriend and I were very concerned with getting this nice Aussie couple back their money, so when we reached the airport I went to find a working ATM while he went to check us in. I soon found that I was up against similar forces of banking evil. Some of the ATM’s didn’t work and the one that did work gave such a small amount that I had to look elsewhere. I found a Barclay’s ATM outside of the airport that seemed to tick all of the boxes. But just as I entered my password and amount requested, a funny thing happened. It didn’t give me any money and worst of all, it refused to give me my ATM card back. Instead I got a little slip of paper saying they’d be keeping it. What the hell? Could they do that? I ran inside to the bank itself to ask for my damn card back, and instead I was met with a cold stare from the bank teller that clearly said, “I don’t care about your problems, lady” as I tried to explain the situation. I was shut down. I wouldn’t be getting my card back or even a sympathetic smile.
Having zero access to your money sure puts a damper on things. And the only thing worse than the banking situation in Zambia and Zimbabwe seemed to be the internet, so it would be a while before I could notify my bank of the situation. Luckily, I was able to contact them and have them ship out another ATM card, though I haven’t received it yet.
The moral of the story is that I won’t be counting my trip to Zambia. Clearly I need a do over and a chance to experience more than a bitchy bank teller. Shout out to the Agnews of Australia for loaning a complete stranger 100 Euro!