Beware that if you’re entering Colombia as a tourist, they have an extensive list of requirements that you need to take care of before they’ll let you in the country.
So many in fact, that it is on my To-Do list to put tothether a check-list of these items one day in the hopes that it may save others the headaches and stress that so many must go through.
In the meantime, back to this experience. One of those requirements is a forwarding ticket. That means that you can only get into Colombia if you have a return ticket or you can show proof that you are leaving the country. That could be any type of transportation leaving any location in Colombia and going to any destination.
I guess it is like the song, “You can go anywhere you want but you can’t stay here.”
So I had bought a ticket to Cali from Cancun but I had forgotten about the forwarding ticket requirement. It was two days before my flight and I was lucky enough to have found a smoking deal on a flight with Viva Air from Medellin to Sao Paulo a month after my arrival in Cali.
Problem solved, right?
No chance. I spent my month in Cali and had bought a domestic flight from Cali to Medellin to catch my flight to Sao Paulo. I purchased through Viva Air thinking that would make my trip easier.
My spidey senses were tingling like crazy before the trip but my flight from Cali to Medellin was relatively painless. The attendants at the check-in desk were nice enough but they couldn’t check me in for my flight to Sao Paulo for some reason.
I thought that was odd being that they were the same airline and all. I also couldn’t pay for my bag for the leg from Medellin to Sao Paulo while I was in Cali. Again, odd.
I had a four hour wait in Medellin and I needed every minute of it. When I landed I went to check-in (which I wasn’t able to do online) and the girl said I was too early and I would have to come back in an hour.
I did that and a different girl told me I couldn’t get on the plane. My Spanish isn’t great, she was mumbling through a mask and the only thing that was really clear was that I was not being allowed to board this flight.
I asked if there was someone else I could talk to and she directed me towards the ticket office. The girl there was possibly the rudest person I’d ever met and she made it clear that she only sold tickets. Nada mas.
I went back to the line-up and found a really nice girl to try to get some answers. She couldn’t figure out what the issue was but gave me the number for Viva Air. Turns out the first number she gave me wasn’t in service but we were able to get through the second time.
This time I spoke with a really nice English-speaking girl but again, she couldn’t guess what the issue was except that maybe I was too early for my flight.
I got back in line and felt the sweat dripping down my back as I had been at this for over an hour and I didn’t foresee a happy ending.
This time I spoke to a nice girl and we finally figured out what the issue was. They (Viva Air) were convinced that I needed a forwarding ticket out of Brazil which I didn’t have. And I didn’t have one because it isn’t necessary.
I argued with 7 different people in Spanish before someone finally came over and asked what the issue was. Her staff explained it then I explained that they’re all wrong despite what their list said and her last words were, “Let the Brazilians deal with him.”
The nice girl smiled, charged me $180 US for my one bag and let me on the plane.
As I was sitting there I was thinking a couple of things. First, how many people had their trips ruined because Viva Air doesn’t know the rules? Not very many people are as stubborn as I am and would never have put up a fight like I did.
Had I accepted what they were saying, I would have been out at least $2500 for a new flight and a forwarding flight from Brazil.
Second, I started thinking that maybe I was wrong. Had Brazil changed the rules and I actually did need a forwarding ticket?
You can imagine how the rest of that trip went. However, I did arrive in Sao Paulo and apart from the normal hold-up whenever I fly into Brazil, there wasn’t any issue. I didn’t need a forwarding ticket.
And yes. That wasn’t a typo. Viva Air did charge me $180 US for one checked bag and I see that their baggage fees have since gone up. Crazy.