The Disappointing Discovery of Reciprocity Fees

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Paddle Paddle 5625854722 l 249x167 Reciprocity Fees in South America

When I began planning out my trip to South America around this time last year, I was elated upon realizing that only two of the countries I was planning on visiting required entry visas: Bolivia and Brazil. Even better, I learned I could obtain my Bolivian visa at the country’s border with Peru and my Brazilian visa in the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires.

What wasn’t such good news, however, was my discovery of “reciprocity fees.” In layman’s terms, reciprocity fees are supplementary the governments of certain countries in South America require nationals of certain foreign countries to pay when they enter by air, aimed at making the reciprocal immigration process more fair.

Unless you travel through South America exclusively overland as I did, there isn’t any way to avoid paying reciprocity fees, so build these dollar amounts into your travel budget before you depart.

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Reciprocity fees exist to make immigration more fair

Reason for Reciprocity Fees

I won’t mince words: It’s absolutely difficult for nationals of South American countries to get tourists visas to the United States and, to a lesser extent, Australia. One young man I met in Brazil told me that the process takes several months, hundreds of dollars and often ends in rejections.

Although having to pay a hundred (or more) extra dollars just to enter a country seemed unfair at first, I now see reciprocity fees as what the countries who levy them intend them to be. Namely, reciprocity fees aim to level the immigration playing field. These fees don’t exist for holders of E.U. passport, since E.U. immigration restrictions are much less stringent than those for the U.S. and Australia.

The silver lining of reciprocity fees is that you need only pay them once for the life of your passport. If your passport is getting full, this is another reason to consider adding pages to it as oppose to replacing it.

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If you fly directly to any city in Argentina (such as Buenos Aires) from outside Argentina, you must pay a $140 fee


Agrentina Reciprocity Fee

Argentina is one of two South America countries that levies a reciprocity fees to passengers arriving by air. The fee, which is $140 (payable in U.S. dollars) as of January 2012, is due for all U.S. citizens who arrive on flights originating from outside Argentina’s borders.

This means you have to pay the fee not only if you take a flight from Chicago, New York or Houston to Buenos Aires’ Ezeiza International Airport, but also from anywhere else in South America to busy airports serving Argentina’s second-largest city Córboda, the wine-producing region of Mendoza and Ushuaia in Patagonia.

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In Chile, only the airport serving capital Santiago levies the $131 fee

Chile Reciprocity Fee

Chile also charges a reciprocity fee to U.S. citizens who arrive by air, although its implementation of this fee (which is $131 as of January 2012) is less strict than that of Argentina.

Specifically, you only need to pay this fee if you enter Chile via Santiago International Airport. If you are coming directly to Chile from the United States this is hard to avoid, but if you’re coming from elsewhere in South America, many other choices exist, such as entering by land after touring the Uyuni Salt Flats in southwestern Bolivia.

Avoiding Reciprocity Fees

If you want to avoid reciprocity fees in South America altogether, your only real option is to travel South America entirely by land. This might seem daunting — and distance-wise, it no doubt is — but I highly recommend traveling by land, if only because it enables you to see vast swaths of South American nature you might miss otherwise.

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