Houston, We Have a Problem

Until 2pm yesterday I had fully intended to skip the ‘packing’ entry. Every travel blog I’ve ever read (and that’s a lot) has had a packing entry, and they all say the same thing. “Start packing as early as possible and keep lists to prevent forgetfulness, research what familiar products might not be available in your destination, make sure to pack for all kinds of weather, and when in doubt ask your mom.” This is all fantastic advice, and it should all be common sense for someone who intends to travel internationally without parental supervision. What I discovered yesterday at gate E18 of the Houston, TX international airport should also be common sense but as we all know that’s a department where I tend to lack, and our lovely repetitive bloggers never mentioned this little gem:

IF YOU ARE TRAVELING TO A COUNTRY THAT REQUIRES A RECIPROCITY FEE FOR ENTRY, DOUBLE (AND THEN TRIPLE, AND THEN QUADRUPLE) CHECK THAT YOU HAVE PAID IT AND WHICH METHODS ARE ACCEPTABLE TO PROVE THAT YOU HAVE PAID IT BEFORE LEAVING HOME.

I literally cannot stress this enough. This little to-do should be #1 on any of those interminable lists that you, a responsible and sensible traveller unlike myself, are making. This advice also applies to any other travel fees or documents required (proof of various vaccinations, customs forms, ID, etc. etc.).

For me specifically, the reciprocity fee was 160 USD to be paid to the Argentine Ministerio del Interior (Ministry of the Interior, aka Customs), and the easily obtained receipt had to be presented in hard copy, on a piece of paper. When I discovered this I was in an unfamiliar airport-with no business center available-holding a useless digital copy of the receipt out to an extremely irate gate worker. I got lucky. I’m a 20 y/o girl who carries a backpack the size of her whole body filled with books when she travels, and when I tear up (even if I know I’m faking it), people come through for me. In this case it was a kind airport employee who had an office with a printer a few doors away from my gate. Had she not helped me out, there’s a chance that I could quite literally have been deported back to America.  Thankfully  others’ thoughtfulness, a warning on the Aerolineas Argentinas website, and sheer luck prevented that.  I’m happily typing this up from the lovely Aeroparque Jorge Newbery in Buenos Aires.

Now, obviously this is an extreme case. Most people would not have made it all the way through their first flight and 3 hours of a layover before they realized this. Most people would have figured out a better way to get this printed than crying to a gate guard. Most people would probably be going to a country that does not deport people who present digital copies of their receipts. But most people have me to thank that they are so prepared, organized, and warned.

On a happier note, that was yesterday, the past is the past, and today I flew into and fell in love with Buenos Aires. Having only seen it thus far from taxis and the windows of the airport I can’t say whether it’s puppy love, doomed to be shallow and short lived, the result of this summer girl flying directly from gloomy Mississippi February into glorious sunny Argentina March. I can definitely say that I will be returning at a less stressful time to find out. For now my flight to Cordoba leaves in 2 hours and after I unpack maybe I’ll have another travel blog packing list for y’all!! (kidding) (probably) (no guarantees)

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