Don: After two weeks visiting family in Sweden, and three weeks staying with family in Montreal we began our journey to South and Central America with a flight to Buenos Aires via Atlanta. We try to avoid taking flights that stop in the U.S.A. because of the additional levels of security. Our flight from Montreal to Atlanta was a case study. We tried checking in online, but couldn’t get a seat assigned for that portion of the trip, so we had to check in at the airport. We handed over our passports and the temporary “non-boarding” passes we’d printed out. We were asked for proof we’d paid the Reciprocity Fee to the Argentinian Government, which we had. So far so good: then we were asked how long we planned to stay in Argentina. Two months we replied. Do you have proof of onward travel from Argentina within 90 days of your arrival? No we don’t. We can’t board you without proof. When we asked what we needed to do we were told that we would have to provide printed proof of onward travel out of Argentina such as an airline or bus ticket.
We went to the airport hotel and used their guest office. A very good thing that we’d come to the airport three-and-a-half hours before our flight! We had to make a decision as to when we’d leave Argentina and where we’d go. After checking the calendar and having some remarkably stress-free discussion we opted to book a one-way flight from Ushuaia to Santiago, Chile for November 20. That gives us some flexibility for travelling around Patagonia. With the flight details printed we headed back to the airline check-in counter. Now we would be allowed on the plane! We still hadn’t been assigned our seats and were told we’d get boarding passes at the gate. We still had only the “non-boarding” passes we’d originally printed out. From the airline check-in counter through U.S. immigration to the secure departure zone these were scrutinized and scanned no less that six separate times. At the gate we were finally given boarding passes after someone had volunteered to relinquish their seat on the overbooked plane.
Alison: I don’t understand how the United States gets to have its border crossing on Canadian soil in Canadian airports. It’s been since 911 of course, and I guess they don’t want those terrorists even getting on the plane, but it makes me wonder if other countries with flights into the U.S. have U.S. immigration checks at the airport of origin or if its only Canada that allows this. And the checking of our boarding passes! Six times! The level of paranoia made me sad. It reminds me of Robin Williams speaking about Canada: You are a big country. You are the kindest country in the world. You are like a really nice apartment over a meth lab.
A ten hour red-eye from Atlanta to Buenos Aires, Don slept, I didn’t, whiling away the time watching old episodes of Smash until first my, and then Don’s laptop batteries were exhausted. It took forever to get through Argentinian customs. We were not asked for proof of onward travel. Sigh. The same happened in Thailand. Same law, so we’d bought a flight from Bangkok to Phnom Penh, choosing some arbitrary date, and were not asked for it on entering Thailand. We so wish to travel free, to not be locked in by dates, and we know that mostly proof of forward travel out of the country is not checked, but what if it’s the one time you get an immigration officer who’s having a bad day, or is seriously anal and follows every letter of the law? Not worth the risk we decide. And the flight from Montreal to Atlanta – that counter clerk made it very clear we were not getting on the plane to Atlanta without proof of onward travel from Argentina. Sigh. Again.
Even though Don slept on the flight we were both brain dead on arrival, me especially – slightly sick and dizzy from lack of sleep. Don’t do as well with lack of sleep as I used too. Very thankful for a pre-arranged trustworthy driver at the airport to take us to our apartment.
Don: It took us over an hour to get there through heavy traffic in downtown Buenos Aires but Mariana was waiting for us and very helpful in making sure that everything was to our liking. She even lent me one of her cell phones to use while we’re here. The apartment is funky and noisy but there’s plenty of hot water for showers, the beds are comfortable enough, we have a small galley kitchen with a gas stove, and there’s a nice table for meals, security is good and it’s in a safe area. After an afternoon nap we went out shopping for the basics and found a great local store for cheese and cooked meats then came home for a ham and cheese sandwich. Ali had another long nap and then we went out for what was, for us, a late supper, but the normal dinnertime for Porteños (=people of the port), as the locals here call themselves.
We’ve been warned a number of times to watch out for thieves and pickpockets in Buenos Aires, but so far we’ve felt completely safe wandering the streets. We don’t have flashy jewellery or cameras with enormous lenses. We keep our backpacks close to us, we dress down rather than up and we keep our eyes open as we walk around.
What I’m noticing is that the more we travel the easier the transition to new surroundings seems to get. Even the hiccup about having to have proof of onward travel caused us little or no distress. We just did what we needed to do and moved on.
Alison: And here we are in Argentina. Today is day 6 and we are well settled into our new home. The transitions become easier and easier – apart from the brain mush and sore eyes that come from overnight flights.
And on day two we found the best ice-cream store in town 🙂
Photo of the day: Tango dancers, Buenos Aires, Argentina
All words and images by Alison Louise Armstrong unless otherwise noted.
© Alison Louise Armstrong and Adventures in Wonderland – a pilgrimage of the heart, 2010-2015.