You haven't forgotten your toothbrush or passport ... but have you checked whether you need a visa? Simon Calder on how to get past the immigratio n officer
Some people believe that, as a British citizen, there are a variety of far-flung destinations, from St Helena to the Falklands, that you could get to without a passport. Although true in theory, the Foreign Office says this does not work out in practice as you still require proof of British identity. Without the national identity cards of other countries, the British passport is the only proof you could possess. This means that Ireland remains the only foreign destination open to British citizens without a passport. But when you get your passport, your problems could only just be beginning ...


To travel from Britain to other European Union countries, you just need a valid passport. Many other countries, including some in the Commonwealth, require a visa. Make sure you apply for this well in advance, and before committing money for travel. Some non-UK passport holders living in Britain found themselves with worthless transatlantic tickets when the US federal shutdown meant the American Embassy in London could not issue visas in time.

Even when you get a visa, note that it usually confers nothing more than the right to apply for admission - it does not guarantee entry. If an official wishes to deny you entry, he or she can usually do so. I took a day off work to obtain a Honduran visa from the country's embassy in London, prior to a trip to Central America. Having hitch-hiked across (then) war-torn El Salvador to reach the frontier, I was less than chuffed to be sent back into the battlefield. (I later flew in from San Salvador direct to the Honduran capital and encountered no problem at immigration.)

Note that British visitors who take advantage of the US Visa Waiver Program to travel to America without a visa are signing away any rights to an appeal against the decision.

Elsewhere, rules pertaining to visas may be interpreted differently by officials at the embassy and by those in the country itself. Sophistications about single or multiple entry, and permitted points of entry are the most likely sticking point. When I turned up at the Vietnamese road frontier from Phnom Penh, I was told I should have arrived by air. The issue of a new visa took just as long - and cost five times as much - as the bus ride from the Cambodian capital.


On your arrival, if a foreign immigration official decides you are persona non grata, your options are limited. He or she holds all the cards, and all you can do is try to argue your way through. Should the officer take a dislike to you and flatly refuse to discuss your ejection, there is not much you can do besides retreat with dignity.


The official may simply be angling for a bribe, but guessing wrongly and offering cash to someone who is not corrupt can be disastrous. If you feel a bribe may be the solution, and you have no moral qualms, ask "Is it possible for me to pay a fine to solve this problem?" You could, of course, end up paying a "fine" and still get deported.


Your paperwork may be perfectly in order and your demeanour ideal, yet you could still get thrown out if events have taken a turn for a worse while you have been in transit.

If armed conflict breaks out at your destination, then entry may be refused for your own protection. Check your insurance cover before heading for an unstable part of the world, to make sure you will be compensated if you are denied admission and have to return home early.

The panic caused around the world by the outbreak of "plague" in western India in 1994 shows how the world can over-react to what is often a negligible risk of disease. After a modest cholera epidemic broke out in Peru, travellers departing for neighbouring countries were required to undergo medical examinations. The worst case is that you may be required to be vaccinated before being allowed in. Unless you can supply your own syringe, you may prefer to be excluded than to risk infection of hepatitis or HIV from dirty needles.