Immigration Blues

Written by Pieter Jan on Mar 10, 2020 — 4 min read

From: Woburn Bay, Grenada
To: Le Phare Blue marina, Grenada

We really needed to clear in to Grenada, so we moved the boat to the Phare Blue marina on Monday. Navionics warned me about Customs and Immigration in Phare Blue: “Very lazy workers. I was fined EC$ 700 (about €250) for late check in. Hateful people work here." Full of trepidation, I went to the office. By the time I got to the office though, Immigration had left the building. Granted, it was 15:55. Then again, opening hours where nowhere to be seen.

The customs officer didn’t seem too chuffed with my late arrival. Even though the stickers on the door proudly proclaimed “We accept Visa and Mastercard”, the officer did not. He would only accept cash.

“I don’t have cash.”

“How come you don’t have cash?”

“Well, I just arrived in your country from Tobago. They don’t use Eastern Caribbean dollars.”

“Customs only accepts cash.”

He pointed to the desk next to his.

“Immigration has the card machine, but Customs cannot use it.”

“Ok,” I said, “is there an ATM nearby?”

“No, but there is one on the other side of the island”

Sigh. Of course there is.

He gave me the papers to fill in. “The young lady from Immigration will be here tomorrow. You can give her the papers.” And off he went. It was 16:00 after all.

I went back the next day at 10:00, to be sure the were open. The words “young lady from Immigration” made me hopeful. I was picturing a svelte 22 year old supermodel with long eyelashes and probably a grass skirt, ready to hang a flowery lei around my neck. I might have my islands mixed up.

A towering dragoon of humongous girth in a stern uniform awaited me. She pointed one of here lengthy fake pink nails at me.

“It’s 10 o’clock already! You have to check in within 2 hours of arrival! Customs warned me about you!”

“I’m terribly sorry,” I stammered, “I didn’t have cash yesterday.”

“Do you have cash now?!”

Every sentence she spoke seemed to have a stern exclamation mark attached to it.

“No, I thought you could access the Immigration card machine.”

I pointed to the credit card stickers on the wall and to their card machine.

“We only accept cash here!”

She folded her hands over her ample bosom and made her nails click menacingly, like a rattlesnake.

“Ok, ok, I’ll take the bus to the other side of the island to go to the ATM. How much cash do I need?”

She started calculating the entrance fee on a calculator, mistyping several times with her pink talons.

“EC$ 155!”

Whew, I thought, that wasn’t too bad. At least no EC$ 700 fine.

“Ok, I’ll get it.”

“I’ll be here until 15:30, you get your act together and do what you need to do!”

I swear that were her words.

I went to the very bored looking marina receptionist and asked her about the ATM.

“I need to get to the ATM in St. George. Can I get there by bus?”

“Yes, walk to the main road and hold out your hand if you see a bus with number 2 on it.”

“How much does the bus cost?”

“2.50.”

“Could I borrow 2.50? I don’t have any cash and I need to take the bus to get cash.”

She considered this catch-22 for a minute. Then she went to ask her boss if she could lend me EC$ 2.50 (less than €1).

With the $2.50 in hand I walked to the main road. A nice half hour walk in the midday heat along the bays of the Grenada south coast. Once on the main road, I saw several minivans with the number 2 driving past, unfortunately all in the wrong direction. At last a minivan pulled over and a guy jumped out.

The vans here have a driver and a propper, whose job it is to collect money and play human Tetris with the (19!) passengers and their luggage at every bus stop. The bus stops are wherever somebody sticks out their hand at the side of the road or wherever a passenger wants to be dropped off. Very convenient. The tropical landscape whooshed by as the driver floored it, fueled by his pumping Jamaican dance hall music.

In the end, I got out, by chance, right in front of an ATM, got the money and a sim card and arrived back at Immigration around 14:30. She was just getting ready to leave.

“You have the cash?!”

“I certainly do.”

I gave her EC$160.

“You don’t have 5 dollar?! I cannot give you change!”

I went to the bar to exchange EC$20.

“Good. Next time you need to clear in within 2 hours!”

“Welcome to Grenada,” I thought.

 

P.S. Le Phare Blue is a nice marina, if a little expensive. It has a pool, hot showers and the Tropical Fever bar has great cocktails and tasty food. We stayed for a few days.

Enjoying cocktails...
Enjoying cocktails...
...in the pool
...in the pool
Tropical Fever bar
Tropical Fever bar
The Phare Blue lightship
The Phare Blue lightship