If you are on a group tour and get delayed at the border, can you be left behind?

Marty Schonberger booked a trip to Petra, one of the world’s great archaeological sites, with Fun Time tours. Everything went perfectly until the group’s bus got back to the Israeli border. Then, as he wrote to us, suddenly it wasn’t a fun time.

While visiting family in Eilat, Israel, the Schonbergers decided to take a tour bus to Petra, Jordan. They boarded a Fun Time bus to Petra and returned to the Israel border at night. That’s when things went awry.

“Because my wife was born in Israel many years ago, the Israeli border guard talked to her extensively about why she was not using an Israeli passport,” he recalls. “When we went to passport control, to our horror and that of the border guards, the tour bus, without the driver even communicating with us, left the area to return to Eilat.”

Schonberger said that they waited over 40 minutes in the hope that the company would be professional enough to send a car. He told us that border control tried to contact the various companies involved, to no avail, then finally called a cab for them. He added, “This was a very scary incident that could have and should have been avoided had the driver simply communicated with us and advised us that a car would be arriving to pick us up.”

He’d like a refund of $390, the cost of both their tours.

His story raises important questions about responsibility when traveling. When you pay for a service from a travel provider, what responsibilities does each party have?

In its response to Schonberger, once our advocates got involved, the tour company provided its point of view.

In this case we can’t hold all the travelers in the bus while only one person is being held back for security reasons. You booked a group excursion rather than a private trip.
We cannot hurt the entire group and delay it because of one hiker who was detained at the border.

The company went on to point out that other members of the group had flights to catch. And disputes the claim that they didn’t send a car.

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“Our travel sorter sent a taxi to look for you after the bus left but did not find you. The distance from the border to your hotel is about five minutes away and there are taxis available all the time. We are willing to pay you the cost of the taxi.”

Schonberger offered a compromise.

“Let’s try a different approach,” he says. “Since the total cost of $390 was for round trip and they provided only one-way transportation, let’s ask for a refund of half, plus the $11 for the cab.”

But ultimately they were only reimbursed $30, instead of the $390 they initially asked for.

It seems clear that the Schonbergers didn’t suffer a great financial loss. But they were robbed of something more valuable: their delight at having just visited one of the world’s great wonders. In their correspondence with us, they noted that the trip to Petra had been perfect until they reached the border. But the memory of that trip will now be forever marred by the incident there.

That could have been easily avoided with better communication. Did the Schonbergers know that the fact that one of them had dual citizenship but wasn’t traveling on an Israeli passport might be questioned by authorities? If so, they could have alerted their tour guide so that they could have been put at the front of the line, and be given instructions on what to do if they were held up. Even though this was just a day trip, any trip that involves going through border control has the potential for bureaucratic delays. As a traveler, especially when you’re traveling with a group, it’s your responsibility to ensure that your documentation is in order.

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On the other side of this issue, the problem might have been avoided had the tour guide made an announcement aboard the bus as they approached the border that went something like:

In the unlikely event that you are delayed by officials during the border crossing, we will do our best to wait for you. However, because other members of the group may have flights to catch or other obligations, it may be necessary to leave without you. Should that happen, officials will call a cab for you, and we’ll be happy to reimburse you for that expense.

But, apparently, that didn’t happen in this case, and given the emotional distress the Schonbergers experienced, did the tour operator do enough to help the couple when they were detained at the border?

Did Fun Time tours do enough for this couple?

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Dale Irvin

Dale Irvin is a semi-retired writer and editor, now living in south Florida after three years roaming around North America in an RV. You can read about those adventures at fabulousfifthwheel.com.

  • Nathan Witt

    Fun Time’s failure here is only that they didn’t communicate properly. It doesn’t seem fair to hold them liable for the actions of the border guards, since they obviously don’t have any control over that. And if they’d waited for the Schonbergers, this letter to elliott.org would have been from another bus passenger complaining that they’d missed their flight because of the delay. Covering the cost of the cab seems reasonable, along with a real apology for leaving customers behind without notification.

  • SirWIred

    I think if the driver had approached them before leaving to state that they had to go, it would have been acceptable. But after just driving off, I think the request for more than just the taxi fare is reasonable.

    That said, why would one wait 40 minutes to straighten things out when the hotel was so close by?

  • BubbaJoe123

    Paying for the cab seems like entirely reasonable compensation. The letter writer’s description has more than a bit of drama; “emotional distress”? They weren’t marooned somewhere in the middle of nowhere, it’s a major border crossing location (assuming they used the Rabin crossing) very close to Eilat. In 40 minutes, you could walk to many of the hotels in Eilat.

  • Chris_In_NC

    Request for taxi fare… reasonable
    Request for refund of half of the fare + taxi.., unreasonable
    Especially if the trip from the border to the hotel was only a $11 taxi fare!
    The only failure for the tour company was the possible lack of communication.

  • Dan

    I agree the bus driver should have not have deserted the LW and his wife at the border and I would feel completely betrayed if it happened to me. But I like to quickly take action to get on with my journey rather than sit around waiting in hopes the tour operator would send a car – I never have that much time on vacation. A cursory google maps search shows that Eilat is less than 5 miles from the border so immediately calling a cab and paying $10 out of pocket would have been preferable to me.

  • Dan

    Yea when I read the first half of the story I too thought they were being left behind in a remote desert border crossing with no means of transportation. Turns out they were left a few miles from town with many hotels and an airport – there must plenty of cabs on call. Simply not worth an hour plus of my holiday time siting around waiting for the tour company to do the right thing when the solution is so simple and cheap.

  • finance_tony

    ” But they were robbed of something more valuable: their delight at having just visited one of the world’s great wonders.”

    Oh, come on.

    The driver should have told them, absolutely. But for crying out loud, they missed the last five minutes of a bus ride, with plenty of taxis to finish the trip.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    The OP and his wife did visited the site…the issue was the delay at the border and the cost of a 5-minute taxi ride from the border.

    First, the problem was caused by the OP’s wife not having her Israeli passport. She should have known how Israel do their security; how they feel about dual citizenship (i.e. you are considered an Israeli citizen first); etc.

    Second, the cost of a 5-minute taxi ride is minimal. Again, the OP’s wife caused the problem by not having her Israeli passport.

    The issue was communications or the lack of the communications from the tour company. We have been on day tours as well as regular tours around the world…the communications about getting lost; being on time; having your documents in orders; etc. have always been communicated clearly.

    When you go on a non-charter/non-private tour, it is not about you anymore…it is about the group. We have been on tours and there are always ‘someone’ who doesn’t want to think about the group, follow the rules; etc. On our tour of Europe, there were two sisters from South Africa that wanted to start their day much later than the daily departure time of 7:30 AM. On our tour and river cruise of China, there was a mother & daughter from Canada that went off shopping on their own and never return to the ‘gathering’ point on time…the first day, they went ‘missing’ for two hours (it was clearly communicated to return at a specific time) which put our tour severely behind schedule and there were three individuals that left the tour because they became ‘sick’ due to having lunch at 3:00 PM instead of noon.

  • C Schwartz

    I agree that the tour company lacked in communication and taxi reimbursement with an apology is appropriate. When one is a dual citizen it is the responsibility of the person to know if there are restrictions — Israel may require its dual citizens to use their Israeli passports when entering the country.
    This is also a case of the traveler asking for too much compensation. A refund for the entire trip? No. And then requesting a compromise of half reimbursement saying the company only provided one way transportation? Um no. One way would mean being left at Petra. The drive from Eilat to Petra is what 90 minutes each way, so they lost 5 minutes of a 180 minute trip and want first a complete refund and then proposed a 50% refund for what basically was a self-inflicted wound. Yes there was a lack of communication at the end, but we do not know if there was an announcement made at the beginning of the trip as to contingency plans for border issues.

  • MarkKelling

    ” But they were robbed of something more valuable: their delight at having just visited one of the world’s great wonders.”

    No. Just no.

    I have had many transportation issues in my many travels. None have ever “robbed” me of the enjoyment of the sights I saw on these trips. Most have given me what are now humorous stories to tell over cocktails.

    All that happened to them is they were slightly delayed getting to their hotel after visiting the sight, at no fault of the tour company. Yes, the bus driver could have said something, but we don’t know where the couple was at the time the bus had to leave. Maybe they were in a closed room that was not accessible to the driver.

    I would have been upset at being left behind as well. And the couple may not have known the area well enough to know they were practically walking distance to their hotel. But a refund of the entire trip or even part of it beyond the cab fare is just being greedy.

  • Evan

    Totally agree with you. The first point you made about the wife’s passport was what made me become less sympathetic. My wife and I are planning a trip to Israel and Jordan, so we have researched the border crossing process…extremely complicated to say the least. I can’t understand a person who was born in Israel and was visiting family in Israel at the time of the predicament would not even consider her Israeli citizenship as an issue.
    According to my research, when you cross the border, you have to get off the bus, go through Jordanian checks, cross the border by foot, go through Israeli checks, then get back on the bus. In addition, the bus you get on is not necessarily the same bus you got off of (some busses don’t cross the border…there is one bus on the Jordanian side and a separate one on the Israeli side–the Fun Tours website is vague on this point, but it says “once you cross the border, the Jordanian company is responsible for the tour”…that indicates a bus change at the border to me).
    Finally, my research states the same thing the tour company stated…taxis are available at the border crossing all of the time (the border closes daily).
    My point of all of the above is to show that you need to do your homework when you are planning on crossing any border. Know the ins and outs the best you can and develop a plan B. I know it may sound a bit much, but considering the area of the world the OP and his wife were in, I see the planning as a must.

  • sam

    It’s also entirely possible, depending on the configuration of the border crossing, that the driver on the other side of the border couldn’t approach the couple who were still trying to get through immigration control. I’ve crossed many borders in my life and I can’t remember a single one where people were free to walk around and approach people who were still waiting to be cleared by the authorities.

  • Bill___A

    Most countries want their dual citizens to use the passport of the country they are entering. I believe the United States has a policy that American dual citizens should use an American passport and Canada wants dual citizens to use a Canadian passport when entering Canada. When you have dual citizenship, you need to spend a little extra time learning the rules, It is unfortunate they got detained at the border but upon finding their hotel was only a few minutes away, they should accept this as being their fault and not the tour company’s fault – so I’m agreeing with you.

  • C Schwartz

    It has been a long time since I went through one of the borders but it is my understanding that tour buses do not cross the border. For the return — Jordanian tour guide drives them to the border. On the other side is the Israeli bus waiting to take the tourists back to hotels/airport. So the Israeli bus driver may not have been able to speak to the travelers as the travelers had not crossed into the county. I cannot imagine that an Israeli bus driver would risk going into the secure immigration are to look for missing passengers.

  • C Schwartz

    It has been a long time since I crossed that border — it is my understanding that some things have not changed — one being that tour buses do not cross the border. So one takes an Israeli bus to border, gets out, crosses into Jordan, and there is a separate tour bus with Jordanian license plates taking people on the tour. And to leave it would be the reverse — the bus driver on the Israel side may have waited and had other passengers getting anxious about the wait because of their travel plans. The Israeli driver likely could not go into the secure immigration area to ask about the delay.

  • Failing to communicate is not an “only” when you are responsible for someone. And they were responsible because they had taken money in exchange for guiding.
    Abandoning your client is a severe failure of guiding protocol. At a minimum, the bus driver should have communicated that he could not wait and that a cab would be called.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    According to another comment who research the tour: “when you cross the border, you have to get off the bus, go through Jordanian checks, cross the border by foot, go through Israeli checks, then get back on the bus. In addition, the bus you get on is not necessarily the same bus you got off of (some busses don’t cross the border…there is one bus on the Jordanian side and a separate one on the Israeli side.”

    It seems like there was a different bus and driver for each side of the border. It seems like the OP has cleared the Israeli check, he could have asked the Israeli crossing guard if he could leave his wife and go to the bus to inform the driver that his wife was having difficulty then walk back to the Israeli check.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    Thank you about sharing the information about the border crossing. I am sorry but the writer of the article should have done some research about the border crossing logistics and included it in the article. Given the switching of buses and drivers and how Israel conducts security, this is not the typical border crossing.

    totally agree with you about planning options especially in that part of the world.

  • Carrie Livingston

    I think the onus for this is on the wife without her Israeli passport. Being a dual citizen, especially of Israel, with higher security than most places she should have known she needed her Israeli passport. Although the tour company should’ve sent a cab but if there were cabs available, why did they wait 40 minutes to summon one for 5 miles? They could’ve walked back in that time.

  • C Schwartz

    Thank you, that is what I suspected — one should be using the passport of the country when entering the country. I am not a dual citizen so I have never bothered to learn.

  • C Schwartz

    I did a land border crossing decades ago, and I see from Evan’s post that little has changed. When I went Jordan would not allow tour buses to cross. So in Israel one would be on a bus with Israeli plates and in Jordan one would be on a bus with Jordanian plates

  • AMA

    This is Israel, not Canada. They do NOT mess around at their borders. The woman who was born in Israel should have been well-prepared to answer questions about why she didn’t have an Israeli passport.

  • C Schwartz

    I would not call it abandoning a client.

    The client likely did not tell the tour company about the dual citizenship issue so they were not expecting any such problem

    And when one is held by immigration — well it is not an easy area to reach — I do not think someone, even another person on the trip, can back track into immigration when another person is being questioned.

  • y_p_w

    It really depends on the country. The US State Dept definitely says that one must be a passport holder, although I’m thinking that they mean a US issued document since there are other documents that US citizens can use to enter the US by land/sea. I’m thinking a passport card, enhanced driver license, trusted traveler card (SENTRI/NEXUS/etc), or an ID and birth certificate for a closed loop cruise.

    However, not all countries that acknowledge dual nationality required that. Canada still allows Canadian/American dual-nationals to enter Canada on a US document. Apparently they allowed that for other countries until last year.

    Exception: If you are an American-Canadian dual citizen with a valid U.S. passport, you don’t need a Canadian passport to fly to Canada. However, you will still need to carry proper identification and meet the basic requirements to enter Canada.

  • y_p_w

    Part of the problem is that some people who naturalize in another country might not really know if they’re dual-citizens/nationals. Israel is one country that doesn’t consider naturalization to mean automatic renunciation. Neither does the United States. I know quite a few naturalized US citizens originally from China, and it gets pretty complicated because they don’t allow dual-citizenship. A friend was thinking of just reentering China on her unexpired Chinese passport, but I talked her out of it. She would still need a US passport to reenter the US, but was concerned with the cost of a visa to enter China. She ended up just doing it by the book, which also required that naturalized former Chinese citizens present any unexpired Chinese passport, which would then be cancelled.

    You get stuff like what happened with Ted Cruz, who didn’t really think of his dual-citizenship until such time as he was ready to run for President. He ended up renouncing his Canadian citizenship.

  • y_p_w

    Again, it really depends. Israel generally wants their citizens to enter Israel on an Israeli passport. It does sound like she might have entered Israel on this trip using her US passport. So there could have been inconsistency when she entered vs reentry during this side trip to Petra. I just watched Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade again last weekend, so I realize how spectacular this place is.

    The big thing is that some people don’t even realize they’re dual nationals. Ted Cruz apparently didn’t think about it until he thought of running for President and eventually renounced his Canadian citizenship. While the US naturalization oath specifically mentions renouncing any other allegiance, it doesn’t legally mean renouncing citizenship depending on the country. That might require a formal renunciation of citizenship.

  • y_p_w

    I’ve mentioned it a few times in these comments, but one difficulty could be an assumption that when she naturalized as a US citizen that it was a legal renunciation of her Israeli citizenship. Israel requires a formal renunciation at an Israeli foreign mission. One possibility is that the 40 minutes they spent arguing was about whether or not she was still an Israeli citizen. It certainly sounds to me like she entered Israel on a US passport, so this border agent could have been more particular.

    An Israeli citizen wishing to renounce their Israeli citizenship must voluntarily declare at the Consulate that they wish to do so. Their application is submitted to the Ministry of Interior and will be subject to the consent of the Minister of Interior. Until the Minister of Interior gives the approval, the Israeli citizen is still considered Israeli and must enter and exit Israel with a valid Israeli passport.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    It is my understanding that Israel is one country that encourages dual-citizenship. From a Google search: Israel allows its citizens to hold dual (or multiple) citizenship. A dual national is considered an Israeli citizen for all purposes…

  • y_p_w

    When I checked, they require a formal renunciation of Israeli citizenship to lose it, and there’s the possibility that a renunciation request could be rejected.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    “The big thing is that some people don’t even realize they’re dual nationals.”

    That might be true but in this situation…it is hard for me to believe that a person who was born in Israel; given the history of Israel and her people; given that Orthodox Judaism considers individuals born of Jewish mothers to be Jewish even if they convert to or are raised in another religion; the tight security procedures; Jewish people living in Europe after World War II that didn’t went back to Israel were considered to be Israel nationals…not to know that they’re dual nationals.

  • y_p_w

    Like I’ve said, there could have been an improper assumption that naturalizing as a US citizen meant a loss of Israeli citizenship.

  • y_p_w

    Here’s the first part of the US oath of naturalization:

    I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen

    Many over the years have assumed that this is enough to legally renounce citizenship, regardless of the particulars of citizenship law.

  • jsn55

    What a tempest in a teapot. But merely unpleasant. Stuff happens when you travel. Deal with it. Do not expect others to take care of issues. It would have been courteous for the driver to inform them that s/he was leaving them there, but … as pointed out … stuff happens when you travel. If you can’t deal with a minor issue like this, you shouldn’t leave home. The tour company should have been pro-active and contacted them with an apology. Stuff happens. Deal with it.

  • C Schwartz

    I have some friends that have recently become naturalized US citizens in the past 5 years and they were all informed that from the US point of view they could keep their other passport — if that was an issue with the other country they had to deal with that on their own but the US does not force anything. Unless one country forbids dual citizenship one usually has to renounce it — like the Facebook guy Saverin did so he would not have to pay capital gains tax — or do something really bad like fight in an opposing war, war crimes, lying on application…

  • y_p_w

    I’ve studied this stuff before. I think what you refer to is what the State Dept calls “potentially expatriating acts” such as fighting for an opposing military. However, someone with only US citizenship wouldn’t lose it. It’s got to be someone with another nationality to fall back on.

    There are some really tricky situations when a child is born a dual national. I’ve known a lot of people from China, and they heavily limit “jus sanguins” citizenship to their citizens who are not “settled” in another country. However, they don’t believe in dual citizenship, and applying for a US passport would likely put their Chinese citizenship at risk. This is a very important thing with “birth tourism”. Parents usually just hold on to the US birth certificate if it might be useful in the future, but they’ll apply almost immediately for a Chinese passport for their child. I was following the case of an Indian consular officer whose husband was a US citizen and whose kids were born in the US and had US passports in addition to Indian passports. That was apparently a big deal with her employer since that was supposedly a violation of their laws.

  • C Schwartz

    The dual citizenship can be complicated — I have a friend who has 3 passports– but with my friends none of the countries have restrictions on having other passports. As you pointed out some countries are very restrictive — and if one has a sensitive position– government, intelligence that can cause further complications.

  • KanExplore

    Agreed. Way too dramatic. Memories forever marred? People need to learn to move on. In the larger scheme of things, this is a minor glitch. They are owed an apology for insufficient comminication and the taxi fare.

  • RichardII

    Well, I did say “generally…” ;-) However, in the specific case of Israel, there is no doubt… if you are a citizen of Israel, you must enter and leave on an Israeli passport. See: http://www.countryreports.org/travel/Israel/entry.htm

  • Bill

    I agree with both Kan and Tony. Why do people think the first glitch wipes out the whole experience? Because they think the world SHOULD be perfect, but it isn’t! Time to be a grown up.

    The other part being overlooked here is ” the Israeli border guard talked to her extensively about why she was not using an Israeli passport”. Extensively? Are we talking 3 minutes or 60? That bus might have waited for an “extensive” time before leaving. I agree SOME communication was in order, but if they had taken their own fate in their own hands, this could have been resolved in minutes for a few dollars. Then follow up with a phone call and a post on Trip Advisor.

  • Mel65

    Everyone keeps saying that they should have communicated with the couple. That may not have been possible. I have not been across this border however, I remember going to East Berlin when we were stationed in Germany. At that time you had to travel through what was called the corridor and various checkpoints (Alpha, Bravo, Etc). I presented my papers at at one of the checkpoints and was detained by the Russian guards. I had gotten married in Germany and the name on my passport and the name on my military ID and travel orders was not the same (although there was an amendment in the back of my passport). Since the guards didn’t read English they did a letter by letter comparison. I was pulled into a room sat at a desk and detained for almost 2 hours. My husband had to wait outside this entire time and was unable to be with me or talk to me–so assuming that the bus company driver even *could have* communicated with them is potentially an invalid assumption.

  • Blamona

    Taxi ride refund makes her “whole” the rest is windfall (and not refundable) and where’s her part of the blame? (Not knowing what ids are needed)

  • joycexyz

    Agreed. The tour bus operator can’t possibly be aware of, or communicate to the passengers, every possibility. The onus is on the travelers to be aware of problems dual citizenship can cause in the areas they are visiting. Similar to knowing what visas are required. But they should have been informed that the driver needed to leave with the other passengers and that a taxi would be sent for them (along with a phone number).

  • joycexyz

    Not another “my trip was ruined!” (by a little glitch). They visited the site, I assume enjoyed it, and did return to their hotel unscathed–not like they were thrown in jail. Get over it!

  • y_p_w

    Well yeah it gets complex because every nation has its own rules and it’s own considerations. I remembered particulars about the Indian case incorrectly. The children were born in Mumbai while she was serving in the Ministry of External Affairs. They qualified for birthright US citizenship on the basis of their father being a US citizen. So apparently they hold the case that an Indian citizen born in the United States (where there is jus soli citizenship) can be a dual-citizen, although there might be rules on choosing a citizenship when reaching adulthood. The kicker in this case is that her government employer claimed that she never informed them that her daughters had US passports or that they had taken affirmative steps to claim US citizenship. And on top of that she had gotten them diplomatic passports as the children of a member of their diplomatic corps.


    The US generally considers children to be incapable of giving up their citizenship, and that it’s nearly impossible for parents to renounce a child’s US citizenship. Other countries (such as India or China) seem to regard a parent’s actions as possibly renouncing that right.

  • pauletteb

    Having missed out on a feature of a tour because two women turned a bathroom stop into a tea party and the tour leader held the bus for them, I have zero sympathy for the OP.

  • pauletteb

    So the rest of those on the tour should have been made to suffer, and possibly miss flights, for his wife’s passport issues? The tour company rightfully looked out for the best interests of the many.

  • At no point did I ever say the rest of the group is held up. Never! A competent tour company would have a contact number for when things go wrong. They would also know that they were missing people on the bus and call back to headquarters to alert them to the situation. You don’t just strand people.

  • y_p_w

    There are some obscure multiple citizenship/nationality details that many don’t think about until such time as it becomes an impediment. Some countries have laws that allow someone with distant ancestry to claim it, such as Italy, but unless a parent was an Italian citizen at the time of birth it’s not automatic. Some types of citizenship are automatic and theoretically never expire unless formally renounced. US citizenship by birth never expires, although demonstrating it becomes more difficult as one gets older and documents are lost or people are no longer available to provide affidavits. I’m sure there have been dual US/Canadian citizens who got caught up in the formalities when they realized it, whether it was a US citizen born in the US who naturalized in Canada thinking that their US citizenship was automatically renounced, someone born in Canada with a US citizen parent who never thought of apply for the documentation, or someone whose parents did but they never bothered to get a US passport.

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