The Short Sentence You Never Want to Hear a Border Guard Say
“I’m sorry but I can’t let you in.”
I’ve just landed in Croatia and the border guard ahead is not happy.
Before traveling, I’d read and re-read the rules of travel to make sure I was allowed into the country. But seeing the British couple in front of me refused entry suddenly made me incredibly worried. I’d intentionally chosen to join the line behind them to see what happened to some fellow Brits trying to enter Croatia but I’m instantly regretting that decision. Sometimes ignorance is bliss.
Since selling my house and becoming a nomad 6 months ago I have no home and my whole life is packed into my suitcase. What do I do if I get turned away and told to go home? I literally don’t have a home to go to.
What countries am I allowed to travel to from here? The 48 hour Covid test result validity expires 3 hours from now; how do I get another one done in time to catch a flight out of here? Are there even any flights out of Croatia this evening?
As the British couple continue pleading with the border guard, his face becomes ever more exasperated. Various colleagues come over to look through the couple’s documents before slowly shaking their heads, shrugging their shoulders and walking off. I crane my neck to try to hear what is being said.
“I’m sorry but the answer is no.”
I anxiously try to hide my British passport and join the line in front of a different guard.
While I’m waiting, I fire up the Croatian immigration website on my phone and read through the rules again. I convince myself that I’m ok. I’m coming from another European country. I have a negative Covid test. There doesn’t seem to be anything to say that only essential government-approved travel is acceptable.
But it does little to help my nerves. My hands start to shake slightly as I wait my turn and get my documents in order for the hundredth time.
Eventually, I get to the front of the queue.
“Yes, but I’m coming from Spain”
“How long have you been in Spain?”
“Nearly 5 months.”
“Ok. When was the last time you were in the UK?”
“October… last year?”
“And you haven’t been back to the UK since then?”
“And your Covid test?”
“Here.” I hand him my PCR test certificate.
“Where are you staying?”
“I have an Airbnb in Zagreb.”
“Why are you here?”
“To travel around and experience Croatia. I haven’t been here for many years but I’m excited to visit again.”
“How long are you staying?”
“I’m not sure. Maybe one or two months.”
He checks my passport again. Rifles through its pages. Picks up his stamp. Hovers over it for what feels like an eternity but is probably less than a second.
He stamps my passport.
“Thank you. Enjoy your stay.”
I hurriedly gather my documents and rush through before he’s had a chance to reconsider.
“Welcome to Croatia.”
I think I need a beer after that.