With a short connection in Buenos Aires, you can fly to Iguazu Falls from almost anywhere in the world. But, with our days of travel coming to end, we are trying to save every penny we can. Long-story short, we made the extended journey to Iguazu. After a few days at the beach in Punta del Este, Uruguay, we took a bus to the country’s capital, Montevideo, spent a night there, and then hopped an overnight bus to Salto, crossed from Uruguay to Argentina, and finally caught another overnight bus. 72 hours later – we finally arrived in Puerto Iguazu!
All in all it was a pretty smooth 72 hours, but we did have a three-hour delay at the Uruguay-Argentina border near Concordia. Considering how many land borders we have crossed in the past year, it is surprising that this was our first major hassle. As our bus pulled up, Amy mentioned to our friend Adam who has been traveling with us since Buenos Aires, “Great, this should be a quick and easy border.” It must have been that comment that jinxed us. The three of us were stamped out of Uruguay, no problem. Adam was first to approach the Argentine immigration counter, and they stamped him into the country, no problem. Then it was Amy’s turn; they took one look at her passport and then asked for Adam’s passport back, as well as Mike’s, and carried them all into the immigration commander’s office. We could see them making phone calls and using a black light and scanners to scrutinize our passports. They must have noticed us watching, because they shut the office door to privately discuss the situation. After nearly an hour of waiting, and with no explanation for the delay, they stamped our passports and told us we could get on the bus.
As the bus was about to pull away, an immigration official came running out, yelling for the bus to stop. The three of us were ordered off of the bus and our luggage was unloaded. The bus pulled away without us, and we were again left waiting. After another hour of people reviewing our documents, we were presented with papers saying that we had been denied entry to Argentina and the entry stamps in our passports were crossed out and voided. Turns out that we crossed into Argentina on the exact day that a new policy took effect, requiring US citizens to pay a reciprocity fee online before arriving at ALL borders. Previously the fee was only collected at airports. What are the chances? The fee cannot be paid at the border, and the very stern-faced captain of the immigration officers was ready to send us on our way walking back to Uruguay. Luckily for us, there was a kind-hearted, non-military woman who worked for the National Department of Immigration who got him to relax and helped us get internet access and a printer from the adjacent customs office. We paid the fee online, printed our receipt and went through the entry process again. This time, things went a lot smoother, and in a matter of minutes we were again legitimate visitors to Argentina.
A few comical notes about this entire situation are that Adam had already paid the entry fee at the airport in Buenos Aires, and despite scrutinizing his passport like it was a newly discovered gospel, no one seemed to notice. So his passport now bears a denied entry marker, just like ours. Also, when we finally made it into Concordia, we ran into a guy who was on our bus and he asked, “What was the problem with your passports? I was laughing inside because I am from Bolivia and always have trouble with borders. That is the first time I have crossed without a question, while three Americans get detained for hours! Hahaha.” Now when we fill out immigration forms, we will have to check the box next to “have you ever been denied entry to a country?” Joy!
In the end, the lengthy journey and troubles at the border were well worth it. Iguazu Falls is the most incredible natural landscape we have ever seen. More on our visit to Iguazu in another post…