My first trip to America

A week in America

Oliver Brown
— This upcoming video may not be available to view yet.

I’ve now been in America a week. That’s why I haven’t posted. I can’t really think of anything especially interesting to say except about the fun I’ve had with luggage.

The flight to here (Missoula) went via Minneapolis. I made the connection fine (a 5 hour wait in the airport made bearable by the fact that with my Nokia 770 I could talk to Julia using Google Talk - internet access was $7.95 for 24 hours with Boingo) but my luggage stayed in Minneapolis.

I have to say that lost luggage may not be so bad if you plan a little and look on the bright side. For example I missed a suitcase for a day. There was nothing immediately important in it and for me it just meant I got it delivered to where I was staying instead of having to take it myself. The only possible problem in this case was that we were flying out to Chicago the day after and not having my luggage for that would have been a pain. But in the end it was fine.

Coming back from Chicago was much more complicated however. Our original route was Chicago to Denver, Denver to Salt Lake City and then Salt Lake City to Missoula. The first flight was with United, the other two with Delta. The first flight had its take off delayed by an hour (they tried fixing the problem by rebooting the plane - a worrying sign) so we missed the connection in Denver. Everything seemed okay since we were booked on the next Delta flight to Salt Lake City. Except we were told that flight was also delayed and we’d miss the connection to Missoula if we took it and would have to spend the night. Sorting this out was confusing since we missed a Delta flight because of United and neither were sure what to do with us.

In the end we were put on standby for a flight straight to Missoula (on United). A minute or so before the gate closed they concluded that two passengers hadn’t turned up and let us on. Obviously our luggage was not going to be with us. It wasn’t so bad though since we only arrived half an hour later than we should have done (not bad for an hour delay :P). The story with the luggage is funnier than we’d imagined though. Apparently it was never flying with us in the first place. It took a Delta flight to Denver and made it on time. But to save confusion they let it wait at the airport for us. So it took the second flight (which was delayed), spent the night in Salt Lake City and arrived a day later (this morning). Three suitcases, delivered to Julia’s room (mainly dirty clothes, some books and a very heavy Christmas present).

I won’t need a visa

Oliver Brown
— This upcoming video may not be available to view yet.

I recently said I might need a visa to visit America because of new rules regarding biometric passports. Well it seems I’m okay. You’ll only need a biometric passport for passports issued after October and not just for traveling after October.

This page at the UK US Embassy site has more info.

I might need a visa

Oliver Brown
— This upcoming video may not be available to view yet.

Julia is currently on an exchange program in America and I plan to visit in November. Which unfortunately means I need to get a visa.

America (like a lot of the world) runs a visa waiver programme whereby people in certain situations don’t need a visa to enter the country. At the moment holders of a UK passport listed as British Nationals going for business or pleasure trips of less than 90 days that haven’t been arrested don’t need a visa. On October 24th that will change. As well as the above requirements you will need a biometric passport.

Biometric passports are being brought in over here slowly.Any passport applications may, or may not receive a biometric passport as the increase the volume of BPs they can produce. Which means I can’t just apply for one.

Sometime in “early October” however the change over to biometrics will be complete and all new UK passports will be biometric. But that is cutting it very close. They do have systems in place whereby the application can be sped up (down to as little as one day) but that involves extra hassle and extra cost. Possibly less than that needed to get a US visa though…

The US Embassy

Oliver Brown
— This upcoming video may not be available to view yet.

Julia is going to America next year on an exchange and she needs a student visa obviously (a J-1 if you’re interested). So we had a nice trip to London to the US Embassy this week.

The first problem we faced was finding it. Using Google Maps gives different results depending on whether you use the address or the postcode. I figured the address was right since it at least showed a road with the right name.

Speaking of the road, it’s blocked off. The whole road in front of the embassy is completely blocked to traffic and has armed police patrolling it. For various reasons we needed to find a bank so Julia asked one of the police officers. Somehow feels like misusing resource - asking someone with a gun that big for directions.

Then once Julia was in (I couldn’t get in without an appointment) there was a three hour wait. But they said yes. Even the page full of Arabic in her passport (following a recent trip to the United Arab Emirates) didn’t worry them.