The Tarawa Airport where I was denied entry
The Tarawa Airport where I was denied entry
Yesterday, I was refused entry into the nation of Kiribati.

You read that right. They wouldn’t let me into the country.

The reason is one for the ages…..the ink used by the pen of the official in the Kiribati Embassy bled off the visa stamp (which was visible), so I was denied entry.


The stamp is very clearly a stamp from the Suva, Fiji embassy. On the opposite page are clearly my entry and exit stamps from Fiji two weeks ago. Moreover, on other pages are clear stamps showing where I’ve been in the two weeks in between.

If you have been reading this site, you know the only reason for my previous visit to Fiji was to visit the Kiribati embassy. Getting the visa was the only reason I made the trip and I had contacted officials from the Kiribati ministry of tourism about getting a visa. I jumped through every hoop asked of me.

The immigration official could have made a call to the Suva embassy to verify my visa but didn’t make the effort. I clearly had a visa stamp. I clearly was in Fiji in the last two weeks. Moreover, the visas are issued for three months and the stamps in my passport have been nowhere but the Pacific for the last three months. Kiribati doesn’t have anywhere I could have gotten a stamp other than Suva or Honolulu.

The other people working at the airport couldn’t believe what this guy was doing. It was ridiculous. I am normally a very reserved person. I take everything in stride and just deal with things. ….I threw a shit fit. Grade A, world-class shit fit.

They were going to put me back on the Our Airlines flight to Honiara. I told them to put me in jail till Tuesday when I could make my Air Pacific flight out of the country. I also told them that they’d have to get the police to drag me onto the plane.

The airport manager (who has zero say over immigration) talked to me, saw my passport, saw my tickets, said it was bullshit but there was nothing he could do about it. Thankfully, there was an Air Pacific flight to Nadi arriving in an hour and I could get on that flight. It was the same flight I was supposed to take on Tuesday, so when all was said in done, my ‘trip’ to Kiribati got compressed from 4 days to 3 hours.

I’m still furious after twenty-four hours. I can deal with different cultures, poor food, crappy rooms, bugs, people trying to rip you off, and boredom. I cannot, however, deal with clueless bureaucrats who view their job in life as “is there ink on the paper”. This problem would have been so easy to solve in a way that would have been acceptable to everyone, yet taking that extra action was beyond the scope of his imagination. In his world, it is a simple question of “is there ink”, not trying to enforce an actual policy.

I should also note, that I was unable to send an email to Kiribati from the Solomons. All my attempts to email hotels in Tarawa were immediately kicked back and I had to have Amy do the reservations for me.

I am now in Hawaii. I basically just accelerated the next two weeks and skipped Tuvalu for a later time in my life.

I’m going to veg out here for the next week, see movies I’ve missed all summer, buy the new Dune book that comes out on Tuesday and regroup.

The South Pacific part of my journey is now officially over.

I hope to finish Micronesia in August or at least the first week of September. It should be much easier as flights are handled by one major carrier for the region (Continental)

UPDATE: After I got back to Fiji, I sent off a nasty email to the Kiribati Minister of Tourism explaining how no one won here. I didn’t get to visit, I didn’t get to spend money, and I didn’t get to talk about Kiribati on my website. I had everything booked and a flight out, so there was no danger of me staying. Moreover, a simple call to the embassy in Suva could have straightened out everything.

He forwarded that emailMinistere Prime Minister of Kiribati!!!!

Three months later, Americans no longer need a visa to visit Kiribati!!

12 thoughts on “ACCESS DENIED!!”

  1. Dude, don’t complain. If you see how things happen for tourists going to the USA you wouldn’t be complaining that much. Is not a matter of third world but a matter of incompetent people working on border points, everywhere.

  2. Hello Greg,
    I am from Kiribati, living in Australia, and reading your experience in Kiribati makes my blood boil. Like Tawita, I will also use your experience as an example of our incompetence (at times) when speaking to the Immigration Dept. I don't think the department would want to repeat the same mistake in future.

    Greg, I hope this has not prevented you from planning another visit to Kiribati. All the best and hope to see you in Kiribati one day.

  3. I can’t even fathom the hissyfit I would have thrown in the same situation. Needless to say that official would being going through life with one less eyebrow.

  4. Mate, that sucks! What a sad end to the Pacific leg of your trip.

    I know it’s after the fact, but I don’t know too many government offices that offer public apologies on blog posts though – good on Tawita.

    Enjoy Hawaii!

  5. Sorry, the Principal Immigration Officer’s email address was stripped from my previous comment. It is mfa[at]tskl[dot]net[dot]ki.

  6. Dear Gary
    I work for the Kiribati government, and I wanted to offer my apologies for the way you were treated yesterday. Please understand that this is not the way we want our visitors to be treated. We have had some recent issues with questionable travellers and all Immigration officers have been instructed to scrutinise visitors more carefully. I want to stress that this was in no way a veiled request for a bribe – that is not the way we do things in Kiribati (no matter how low our salaries). It would have been a genuine – if misguided – attempt by the Immigration Officer involved to do his job. This is not to excuse this particular individual’s conduct however. You may be surprised to learn that we see very few tourists on Tarawa – maybe only one or two per flight, and there are only three flights per week. I will make sure that your experience is brought to the attention of the Principal Immigration Officer, and ask him to investigate. You may wish to contact him directly – his name is Elliot Ali, and his fax number is +686-21466, email . Best wishes with the rest of your journey.

  7. “Well sir, I don’t think that the ink is bleeding from this crisp green bill I have right here….”

  8. I feel stupid Ben. I hadn’t even considered that option until you mentioned it. I need to start thinking more Third World.

  9. I can’t imagine how you didn’t start beating that man about his head. You would think that a country that makes 20% of their GDP from tourism would be a little more welcoming.

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