Once again, yesterday, I crossed the border from Chile into Argentina and, again, there were no glitches as I passed through Chilean immigration and customs at the Dorotea border post, a short distance from Puerto Natales. The Chilean side was brightly lighted, orderly and efficient, with short lines and quick service – certainly none of the hassle that I experienced in crossing over to Mendoza last month.
On the Argentine side, things were not quite so efficient, to say the least. The Argentine border post (pictured below) is larger but dingy and, though there were two immigration officials at a tiny window, the line – such as it was – never seemed to move. When I finally reached the front, I reminded the young woman there that the receipt for my so-called “reciprocity fee” was in my previous passport, which I also provided her, but that appears to continue to confuse Argentine immigration everywhere except for the international airport at Ezeiza, where I originally paid it.
Perhaps that’s because it’s no longer possible to pay on the spot as I did in March of 2010, eight months before that passport expired. The fee is valid for ten years from the time of payment, but at present it’s only possible to pay online, and arriving Australian, Canadian and US visitors must show a printout of their payment.
I might guess that this young woman is a newer employee who might never have seen a receipt like mine (pictured above), but that didn’t explain the half-hour or more that it took for her to examine every page in my passports – including two trips for apparent back-room consultations and a request to wait alongside the window while she attended another customer – but I eventually got the stamp that admitted me to Argentina. This should be the last time until I fly from California to Buenos Aires in mid-April.
After that, and refilling the tank at the coal town of Río Turbio - where gasoline is cheaper than in southernmost Chile - I made my way to El Calafate, where the weather has turned summery. Meanwhile, I’ve written an op-ed on why Argentina’s government should eliminate the “reciprocity fee” – urgently and unilaterally – that’s due to published in the Buenos Aires Herald. Whenever that happens, I’ll post links here, and on my Facebook and Twitter accounts.