After much consideration I have decided to tell you of our trip to Eastern Europe in 2014.

It was after this trip that I was convinced that a travel site, with particular advice for Senior Citizens, would be helpful. There are many things that specifically pertain to us, such as medical insurance, but we are also more likely to have missed some of the intricacies of travelling to different countries, especially as the world has and continues to change.

In the past 100 years the borders of European countries have changed a few times as a result of wars won or lost. The USSR rose and fell, Asian countries’ economies have grown exponentially and the European Union (EU) developed and is already showing cracks in its makeup. African countries have also come to the fore and now all are fully independent states.

All these changes made travel requirements change with them. Persons living within member EU countries could travel freely as there were no longer border controls between these countries. US citizens who had enjoyed travelling to some European countries without a visa, no matter how long their stay, now require a Schengen Visa for all EU countries for a stay of more than 90 days. Then, travel in Africa for South Africans opened up from 1990 with many African countries now allowing entry to South Africans where this had previously been denied. Until a few years ago South Africans had not required a visa to visit the UK or Switzerland but both countries have now introduced this requirement.

This means that those of us who are now 60+ have experienced many changes to what we need to have and do to be able to fulfil our desire to travel. For some of us, travel has filled our dreams and been a big reason for saving.

Why have I detailed so much with regard to visas and having the correct paperwork? This is because I made a serious error for the first leg of our journey to Eastern Europe in September 2014. We planned to travel from Durban to Sarajevo, Bosnia where we would join a group tour of Bosnia-Herzegovenia, Croatia and Slovenia. Our travel agent booked us on Turkish Airlines – who are excellent by the way – landing in Istanbul and taking a connecting flight to Sarajevo. All went well until we landed in Sarajevo. We had a Schengen Visa and I had read that this was acceptable on condition we spent no more than 7 days in the country. What did I miss?

Travelling as an assisted passenger and taken into the arrivals hall in a wheelchair, I think had a positive effect on what happened here. While on the ‘plane I had been chatting with a young Bosnian man who was coming home from the USA to visit his parents and I said that I was a bit worried that there may be a problem with our visa. He replied, “Don’t worry. All will be OK but if there is a hitch, you can just bribe them.” Well, the lady on duty was huge and determined so I would not even have thought of bribing her. It turned out though that she was a real softie.

In the visa conditions as shown on the web, there was a short sentence which I missed. It stated that a Schengen Visa was acceptable for a stay of less than 7 days AND the tourist must arrive in Bosnia via an EU country. Unfortunately for us, Turkey is not an EU country. The official had every right to deny us entry and send us back to Istanbul but she and a couple of others arranged for us to take the short flight to Zagreb, Croatia which is in the EU. It cost us 500 Euros but saved a lot of time. I learnt to ALWAYS READ THE SMALL PRINT.

As the flight only left at 15:15 we were given the opportunity to spend our wait in the Business Lounge and could eat & drink anything that was there. At 14:45 ‘Softie’ returned and took us to the departures hall where we caught the flight to Zagreb. It is just a 40minute flight but the return flight only left at 21:45 so we had another long wait. No problem. The officials there were just as good to us. We were taken to a coffee shop overlooking a main road and a beautiful park. We had coffee and cake and just relaxed until we were once again fetched by some officials who took us to board our plane back to Sarajevo. This time we went through Immigration without a hitch and got the hotel bus to our down town hotel; a little shabby due to their civil war, but excellent food and service. Finally our tour of this part of E. Europe had officially begun. Tomorrow we would find the rest of the tour group and discover Sarajevo with the assistance of a Tour Guide.

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