Whatever happened to the passport stamp?


I have this really obnoxious friend that has been to probably 100 or more countries at this point in life. That isn’t the obnoxious part.  But I won’t go into why he is so obnoxious and why it is that he is my friend. I tend to have obnoxious friends and I have made peace with that. That’ll be a story for another day.  But back to his travels. I have always wanted to be like him in that regard.


I love travel. I keep dreaming each day of how I can do more travel considering that I have a demanding job that barely gives out vacation time, I have a son that is in school and they tend to frown upon him missing classes and I live in Los Angeles which tends to have way less direct flights than New York (that is a fact).   Part of  what I liked about my obnoxious friend’s travels was looking at his maxxed out passports.  He would have to get those special refill passports. How cool is that?  My green eye would like for me to be in that type of situation where there is barely any room for a passport stamp.


Sadly for me, as of late, I have not been getting stamped when I enter countries. When I went to Cuba, I got no stamp. I suppose that was understandable. It was before Obama lifted some of the travel restrictions.  Even though I went to Cuba legally, through a public health exchange, they did not stamp US passports. That was their protocol in order to protect those that came in through other means. Cough. Cough. We begged to be stamped but it was a no-go. At least I have my photos.


Then this past month I went to both Hong Kong and Macau.  As we entered Hong Kong, we showed our passports and we then got two pieces of paper per traveler. Each document had our names on it and listed for how long we could be in the country without having to get a visa. Very efficient. The immigration control agent then handed us our passports and said goodbye. Well, I don’t really think he said goodbye. That is my embelishment. I took the passports and thanked him (I actually did) and we went off our merry way. There was no stamp in the book! I was deeply saddened.


Mid-way through our trip, we went to Macau and had to go through immigration control. We showed our passports and we got a small piece of paper again noting for how long we could be there.  No stamp was given.


It would seem that the magnetic strips in our passports now control everything. Just like the rest of our lives, technology has superceded the stamp. Not in all countries but enough to make the stamp seem like a twentieth century, quaint process. I am all for technology. I own two laptops, numerous iPads, an iPod, several cameras and so o. However, I would like to be just a little old school with my passport. The stamp was part of the fun of going abroad.  Maybe “fun” is too strong a word. However, the stamp was definitely part of the travel experience.


If we have to have anything supercede old technology intravel, why can it not be the actual flight. Can’t we just get to the teleportation bit already?  This air travel thing has gotten old and is getting crazy each day. We have people being dragged out of their paid seats by the airlines. We have flight attendants hitting people with baby strollers. We have to pay for icky food.  We have maybe an inch for our knees to extend. Passengers fight over overhead bin space. If there is an antiquated part of travel it is that flight thing itself. I say, let’s advance that technology and keep the stamp.


15 replies »

  1. Think you have hit a nerve there! I can’t stand the stamp-less immigration counters. Lately they are all do it yourself too, whenever I return home to Aus its just auto-magnetic-feed- your-passport-into-the-machine-yourself. Okay, if I have to, but surely cant the automatic machine just stamp my passport? Couldn’t they have counters for travellers who want stamps?
    I look through all my old passports, and reminisce. Especially the times before laptops and phones which take and date your photo were invented ( hush hush). It really peeves me when i go thru customs and get no stamp. then often in China I’m asked when did I last enter the country ( when I stay at hotels). Luckily, China still stamps passports, even if Hong Kong doesnt.
    And while Im letting off steam, the DIY passport machines at Australian airports are all fine and dandy, but when I’ve been away from home for a long while, i want my yearly return to be punctuated with those broad smiles Aussie customs officials ( used to) give and an even broader accent welcoming me home…
    now i travel on the fast speed trains in China a lot, those small close airport seats just dont make the grade…
    okay, enough ranting from me!


  2. Man I’m so with you. I’m a little old school myself with stuff like that (I still hand write my directions for road trips, and prefer paperback books) so I totally get it! Technology is taking all the fun out of life!


  3. I was literally wondering this exact thing tonight, because I’ll take a lot of cruises and they don’t stamp your passport for cruises. Crazy, right?


  4. I went to Vietnam and spent quite a bit of time (and money) obtaining a Visa. Not only did I not receive a stamp, but they did not bother to affix my Visa to the passport. I have memories, but I am a bit saddened by this latest development.
    I guess one day, there will be no pages in a passport, or very few.


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