Just over a week ago, I headed to the airport for my flight from Lima, Peru, to Buenos Aires, Argentina.
After leaving during the pandemic, I was finally heading back to Buenos Aires. I had anticipated this return all week.
I heard about the distance to the airport and left Lima about 4 hours before the flight time. It was a Friday evening and peak traffic hours. This brings me to the first mistake.
Mistake 1– Not factoring in enough time for distance to the airport and traffic.
Learning 1- Always give an extra cushion for traffic when heading to the airport (especially in high traffic times). For international flights, aim to arrive 3.5 to 4 hours before departure, given changes due to Covid regulations.
I arrived at the airport with 2 1/2 hours to spare, which I thought was more than enough time. At the start of the check-in line, the attendant started to ask for a list of items, including my Covid test results. “I need a Covid test?!” I asked. She responded, saying Argentina requires PCR or antigen test results when traveling from Peru. I froze. I had assumed that my vaccine card was enough to travel to Argentina.
Mistake 2- Not checking the specific requirements for travel to Argentina from Peru before heading to the airport.
Learning 2–Check requirements for travel to your destination city before booking, three days before, and the day of your flight. Ensure you check the requirements from your specific departure city to your destination city. They can vary and are constantly shifting. A triple check is worth the peace of mind. (A week later, they removed the Covid test requirement to travel to Argentina.)
I immediately panicked and started punishing myself with thoughts. How didn’t you check this? This is 2022. How could you forget to check the requirements?! Then I realized that this wasn’t serving me and went into problem-solving mode. I asked for the closest Covid testing center and sprinted with my life full of bags from the airport through airport traffic to the parking lot testing location. I ran up to a representative, told them my situation, and begged to cut the line to expedite test results. Within 30 minutes, I had taken an antigen test and had forty minutes to an hour wait before I could get my results. There was no email or text message option; I had to pick them up in person. Time was ticking.
I frantically ran back into the airport and used this waiting time to fill out another requirement, the online questionnaire, Declaración jurada.
Mistake 3- I had assumed I would fill out any questionnaires in person at check-in based on recent travel experiences.
Learning 3– Always check the requirements in airline emails, the CDC website and government websites for any required questionnaires 24-48 hours before your flight. It’s also always better to complete these online beforehand to save time at the airport.
I then approached the counter again to see if it was possible to check-in while waiting for the Covid results. The attendant said I needed all of the requirements to check-in and mentioned I had 20 minutes before they would close the counter. My heart dropped…yet, I still felt hope.
I again sprinted with all of my bags back through airport traffic to the parking lot testing center. I let them know I had 15 minutes to have the results before I’d miss my flight. Luckily, they were ready and they printed my results. I took another mad sprint back to the airport entrance, where there was now a line to get in the door. I made it to the counter and showed my negative antigen results with 10 minutes to spare.
“Can you show me your ticket booked to leave Argentina?”-she asked.
As a slow traveler, I hadn’t yet bought my ticket to exit the country. I told her I could buy my ticket to show her. So I scrambled, browsing Google flights for a ticket from Argentina to Brazil, my next planned destination.
She noticed it was taking time and told me the counter was closing. I begged to check my bag and finish booking the exit flight just after. The attendant shook her head no, handed me a small piece of paper and told me to use the information to rebook the flight. I felt defeated.
Mistake 4– Not having my flight to leave Argentina booked.
Learning 4-Always have your return flight or exit flight booked before traveling to Argentina (& anywhere to be safe). This is not a requirement I’ve found anywhere online, but better safe than sorry.
Let’s be real, I didn’t have the kindest or most sympathetic attendant at the counter, but a lot of this could have been avoided if I had prepared. This was one of the most frustrating and overwhelming airport experiences I’ve had. It showed me how much times have changed with travel and constantly shifting requirements. I’d gotten overconfident about knowing what is expected for traveling, which brings me to the final lesson.
Mistake 5- I got overconfident from frequent traveling.
Learning 5-Don’t get overconfident on the travels. Remember things are constantly shifting, and stay up to date on changes in travel requirements. A triple-check is a good idea.
In the end, I headed back to Lima and had to book an entirely new flight. I’m still working on the refund.
Let’s recap the learnings:
- Check on timing to get to the airport where you’re traveling. Give an extra cushion to account for traffic, especially during high traffic times. For international flights, arrive 3.5 to 4 hours before traveling to be safe given changes due to Covid regulations.
- Check travel requirements for your destination city before booking, 3 days in advance, and a day before your flight departure (in case of changes due to Covid). Be sure you check the requirements for your specific departure city to your planned destination.
- Check for any required online questionnaires in your airline emails, the CDC website and government websites 24-48 hours before your flight. Ensure you complete these before heading to the airport.
- Have your flight booked to leave the country before traveling to Argentina. It’s likely best to have this for any country to be safe and avoid a hassle.
- Don’t get overconfident from frequent travels. Remember things are constantly shifting, and stay up to date on changes in travel requirements.
Resources for checking requirements:
- CDC website– Check traveler’s health by destination
- Local government website for your planned destination
- www.canitravel.net– Another resource for travel given the latest Covid travel restrictions
- Airline emails and airline websites often share links and resources for travel requirements. However, be sure these are up to date and match CDC/local government requirements.
Argentina specific resources:
For foreigners/non-Argentine residents planning to travel to Argentina, here are the detailed requirements:
- Submit the DDJJ, Declaración Jurada, online within 48 hours before departure and bring the email to the airport to show at check-in.
- Show evidence of medical travel insurance that includes hospitalization, quarantine, and transportation coverage for COVID-19. Airlines require evidence of the sworn statement and medical insurance. They are firm and strict about seeing this documentation.
- Flight booked to leave the country (exit flight). (This was required at check-in but I have not found it anywhere online)
Note– As of this past Friday, Argentina no longer requires a PCR or antigen test for travel.