Landing in a new country can be a costly proposition
if you haven’t done your homework.
Photo © 2010 Aaron Saunders 

A cruise vacation is arguably one of the most important purchases you can make; after all, it is your vacation – something that takes both your hard-earned time and money and turns them into an extraordinary experience you’ll remember forever.

Part of the success of any cruise hinges on doing proper research into your ship, stateroom type, and of course your itinerary.

I’ve always loved the research aspect of booking a new cruise; for me, half the fun is learning about the ship and places it will take me, while the other half is actually taking the cruise itself.  But for all my experience, even I was caught off guard recently while researching a potential trip to South America – a destination I’ve always wanted to see, but have never visited.

I was looking at a cruise that would have required me to fly to both Santiago, Chile and Buenos Aires, Argentina.  Which sounds easy enough.  The only thing I was really curious about was whether I needed to obtain a visa for either country (I didn’t), and what immunization shots I’d need to get (yellow fever and malaria).  But while researching these questions, I stumbled upon the answer to a question I didn’t even realize existed.

It was going to cost me money to simply set foot in Argentina and Chile.

For travellers who have not been to South America, they may not be aware of Reciprocity Fees. A Reciprocity Fee is charged by some countries in lieu of having to obtain a Tourist Visa for your visit.  This fee is payable immediately upon landing by cash, credit card or traveller’s cheques and essentially allows you to legally enter the country.  In many cases, you’re given a card or other form of documentation showing that you have paid this fee, and the same document must be presented to authorities before leaving the country. 

The cost for a Canadian like myself?  A whopping $132 US in Santiago and $70 US in Buenos Aires.  A $30 US departure tax is also charged to all passengers departing Santiago.  So before I’ve even stepped outside the airport and into a taxi, I’m out $232 US dollars.

For a couple, that’s another $464 that has to be squirreled away in addition to the cost of your cruise, hotels, transfers etc.  For a family of four, that figure grows to $928 – an amount of money most people aren’t going to want to charge to their Visa at the drop of a hat.

The cost was less for US citizens, and highly affordable for citizens of Mexico.  If you happened to hold a tourist visa for either Argentina or Chile, the reciprocity fee will be waived.

For me, the revelation was that after sitting on airplanes for almost twenty hours to get to Santiago, I probably would have thought the tax was some sort of scam foisted upon unsuspecting travelers and resisted it.  Which worried me, as the good people of Chile and Argentina probably don’t take too kindly to that.  It would have also been a fee I was unprepared for, and set the trip off on a sour note. 

The moral of this story?  Being prepared and adequately researching your destination can save you both time and frustration, if not money itself, and allow you to get your trip started off on the right foot.

 

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