Travel Adventures - The Bad Passport Photo

Usually around this time of year, I start thinking of extended time off from work and a trip that would allow me to recharge my batteries and more importantly, renew my spirit. But while I love the destination and the adventures that come with a vacation, I hate some of the other stuff, like packing, hotel hunting and trying to stay within budget. One of the things however that has drastically improved over the years?

My passport photo.

No...that's not me. Mine was much worse.

Let's go back several years when I was still in high school and therefore obligated to my parents for everything. My mum took my brother and I to get new passports, and this meant passport photos. My teen years were not cute by any stretch of the imagination, and worse than that, passport photo take-outers don't have any consideration for your awkward teenaged looks. The result therefore was catastrophic! It was simply the most hideous photo ever and my mother did not even bat an eye. She did not offer to have it re-done. She simply paid for them and took them. I would be stuck with this gruesome identification marker for ten years!

Not even babies are immune
from the bad passport photo!
Fast forward to my first trip to Barbados, and I am no longer the awkward teen but a young professional, with movie star looks (okay, okay...maybe not movie star but cute enough). I step towards the Immigration desk, passport in hand and smile an award winning smile. It was a trip that held a lot of promise and excitement and it showed in my entire being. I was beautiful and beaming. Beaming...until...

Immigration guy: This is you?
Me: Yes, it is.
IG: (looking at me, then the pic, then me, then the pic) This is not you.
Me: Sadly, it is.
IG now calls Immigration woman.
IW: This is not you, man. What is your name?
Me: (annoyed, I give my name)
Together now, they now contemplate what to do next but one thing was certain, they were not contemplating letting me in the country! lol.
IW: You have any other ID?
Me: My US visa is in there. The pic is better.
They scan passport for my US visa pic and sure enough, stamp my form and send me on my way, but not before...
IW: I would change that photo, miss.

I was really expecting to be taken to the back room you see on tv - you know the one with the one dim lightbulb and the metal chairs? Needless to say, short of losing one's passport and going through the runaround of getting a new one, you're pretty much stuck with this heinous photo until your passport expires.

After that, I had a chronic fear of the Immigration desk. I would stride confidently to the desk when it was my turn in much the same way a drug smuggler would approach Customs - brimming with fake confidence to distract the authorities from the sheer panic he feels while carrying a suitcase full of 'blow'.

I was also stopped a couple years later in Paris and almost not let back in London because of said photo. Again my US visa and my Schengen visa as back up, saved my ass. While flattered that all these border officials thought I was too damn cute to be the creature in my passport pic, it was a real pain and slight embarrassment, lemme tell you.

London Gatwick - many a tale I can tell about my passport here

So when my passport finally expired, I made this photo thing into a real production - back in the day when you took your own photos to the passport office. I made sure my hair was camera ready, took some time on my makeup, wore a flattering colour (I was in black in the heinous photo cause I was almost goth in high school with the black) and accessorised. It still managed to not be the hottest thing ever but it was a vast improvement. Never again did I have to send people to the back of my passport to my visas to avoid being put back on the plane or sent to the little back room. I had been properly traumatised from those incidents and from that photo. And now, with the photos being taken at the office, even more time and thought goes into the passport photo get-up, not to mention, strict attention to timing because when that photo is snapped, most of the times by a surly Immigration Officer, you want to make sure your facial expression is passport-friendly!

Still, it was not as bad as someone I know who was forced to remove her wig at the Immigration Office before having her picture taken, because 1. the hair covered her face and 2. the Immigration Officer had no sense or decency to simply offer her time to brush it back. What was under that wig was NOT camera ready and after waiting months for an appointment, she simply could not go through with having her passport marked by a photo of her with nashy "under-wig" hair for 10 years!

Travelling has so many twists and turns. So many different factors make up this amazing adventure. How do people not love it??


  1. I came over from the SITS saturday thingy and you made me spit my tea back into the mug laughing! Oh my, if the passport control person advises changing your photo that must be bad! Passport photos are supposed to be pretty bad though aren't they (I thought that was the law!) no smiling, you have to look like you've been delayed at the airport for 14 hours so it matches when that really happens.
    I do remember the whole babies need their own passport rule coming in when our youngest was 2 months, I couldn't be in the picture so I sat in the photo booth with a white table cloth over my head with him balanced on my lap, trying to stop his head flopping to one side and keeping him from crying - happy days!

    1. A white cloth over your head? LOL. Now that is something else!!! Passport photos are just epic for everyone!!! Happy SITS Saturday and thanks for visiting!!!

  2. Oh man!! I wish we could have seen your passport photo after all of your descriptions. I mean, usually they aren't very flattering--but the fact that they seriously questioned whether you were the same person is pretty hilarious!

    1. That passport photo has been buried!!!!!!!! Never to resurface! lol

  3. Stopping in from SITS sharpest. I love to travel and trying to think of where to go this year. I'm thinking we'll keep it in the states and head to FL. Never had any passport problems. Nowadays they don't even let you smile for your passport or drivers license photo so mine looks like a true mug shot.

    1. My driver's permit is the best of the lot. I always get a nice DPphoto so I tend to use that as my primary form of identification. Thanks for stopping by.

  4. Stopping by from the #sitssharefest!! This post is hilarious!! But I gotta say, I think the babies passport picture is cute! Great read!! :)

    1. The baby creeped me out. lol. Hope the parents don't see this. lol. Thanks for popping by

  5. Remove a wig?! I would never. I don't wear a wig but I've worn extensions on a trip to Vegas and I was so worried they'd set off the metal detectors. They didn't, thank God!

    Visiting from SITS Sharefest!

  6. I can't wait to put a new one in mine. I look like an umpa lumpa.... The picture is orange, and I am a goof 40 pounds over weight..... Not now, and year after next I will SHINE!!!!!!! I to have been asked, is this you now.... Yes that was me, now this is me.

  7. My first passport photo was actually pretty good. My second? Not so much.

  8. OMG, girl... you crack me up :) I thought I was the only person who got the multiple glances when I revealed my passport. I totally want to see a picture now to tell you that my mine is 1000x worse.

    OMG, that poor woman and her wig!

  9. I SO feel you on this. My passport pics have been awful. And P. in her baby passport - well, it looks like a drunken mugshot!

  10. Such a good read . . . I will be back for more. Found your blog via Caribbean Bloggers community.


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