In a couple weeks, I’m flying to Buenos Aires for a month and a half, and I’m looking forward to it – earlier this year, I was there only briefly and spent most of the time in bed with bronchitis. While searching for a flight – I was fortunate enough to have sufficient miles for a free one – I learned an important new fact about Argentina’s so-called “reciprocity fee,” the visa charge that’s really an opportunistic retaliation against countries that require Argentines to pay for a visa application.
This fee, which applies to Australian, Canadian and US citizens, is not inherently unfair, but anything that discourages foreigners from visiting the country is bad business. In effect, it takes money that a visitor is likely to spend in Argentina and diverts it directly to the government, which is not known for transparency in either raising or spending revenue.
The new twist is that, instead of paying the fee on arrival, visitors from these countries will now have to register and pay the fee online, in advance of traveling to Argentina. According to LAN Airlines’ web site, “The new system will work parallel to the regular collection service at Ezeiza Airport until December 28th, 2012, and at Jorge Newbery Airport [commonly known as “Aeroparque”] until October 31st, 2012. After the dates mentioned, the only method of collection would be online.” Visitors arriving without evidence of payment could be immediately deported.
This arbitrary measure could a major nuisance - Chile has had a similar requirement for decades, but arrivals at Santiago are still able to pay the fee on the spot. Travel agents are particularly annoyed – an Argentine friend in Southern California tells me that it undercuts them because “it doesn’t let the travel agent handle it directly for the client, because it’s a personal transaction.” The government’s own immigration page is pretty vague on details, but it will apparently require every visitor to create an account that he or she may only use once in a lifetime. That could put personal information at risk.
In a sense, this rule change mirrors the hoops through which Argentines themselves must jump in order to buy dollars or any other foreign currency to travel abroad. Fortunately, from my own point of view, I last paid my fee about two years ago, so I won’t have to deal with the issue until early 2020.
Without spending much more time on this, I will note that LAN’s description says the fee has risen to US$160, but I cannot find any confirmation of that on the government website. Until now, it’s been US$140 for US citizens, but less for Australians and Canadians because those governments require a lower fee for Argentine visa applicants.
App News: Argentina Travel Adventures is an Android!
Until now, my Argentina Travel Adventures app has only been available for the iPhone, iPad Touch, and iPad, as the upper-right advertisement indicates. A few days ago, though, ATA went live for Android-based phone and tablets. At only US$2.99, it’s a bargain for planning for your trip to Buenos Aires and beyond.
In related news, my Chile Travel Adventures app should be released soon on both iTunes and Android.
Tango by the River
As announced recently, there’s been a postponement of my digital slide lecture on Buenos Aires at Tango by the River in Sacramento, which will now take place Friday, October 26th, at 6 p.m. The date’s getting close, though – just a shade over two weeks.
Limited to a maximum of 50 people, the event will also include tango performances; admission costs $10 at the door, or $8 in advance. I have spoken here several times before, and we always sell out, so plan in advance. Signed copies of my Moon Handbooks on Argentina, Buenos Aires, Chile and Patagonia will be available at discount prices.