As exciting as it can be going to almost any island where you expect to see blue or turquoise water, bright sunshine and warm or even hot weather, you still must remember your traveling chores. Packing..check. Purchase airline ticket….check. Get money from the bank to exchange currency or make sure your “non-transaction and foreign” credit card has money on it….check. Boarding pass printed with multiple copies if needed…check. So now you are ready to go. Well not quite. You’ve done your travel chores and you get to the airline counter to check in. All goes well. Your bag/s are within the weight limit. You show your passport and you receive your luggage claim ticket and confirmed boarding pass. Off you go!!
I’ve heard great things about San Andres Island and Colombia as a whole that’s why I wanted to add it to my travel list. The Island of 7 colors it’s called. As I sit on the top floor of my hostel, in the empty bar because it’s midday, I can’t help but admire the beautiful view of the ocean approximately 300 feet in front of me. Most of the shore is rocky and docked with what looks like fisherman boats of small to medium sizes. Nonetheless, the ocean view is breathtaking. Construction is in abundance right now. The sounds of banging, hammering, dredging is the music of the moment. Hard Hats, scaffolding and materials are all around. Not to mention the enormous amounts of cement piles used to keep it all together. Yet there’s beauty in that also.
So in order for me to enjoy this beautiful island I must be able to make my connecting flight and go through Customs. “Houston, we have a problem”! It appears that when I arrived into San Andres Airport at 330am, I did not have a tourist card to enter the island. Some countries/islands require this small type of tax as additional revenue for the government. My origination flight on LAN Airlines out of Barranquilla airport is where I’m told, after the fact, I was to purchase this “tourist card/visa” for $50mil Pesos. ($25US) Well this didn’t happen. So it’s late, I’m tired, I’m hungry and to top it off, I speak English with little Spanish and no one speaks English in the Customers area. What am I to do? As another hour progress until this slow start to my island relaxing gets underway, there is a Customs Agent who comes to my rescue and speaks enough English to translate. I’m told I was supposed to have this Tourist Card before arriving and my connecting flight in Bogota should have asked for it when boarding. The supervisor comes and when she realizes I had no pesos on me to pay she isn’t the happiest and leaves to attend to other flights. I would have gladly paid with my credit card, but that wasn’t an option at the time. So no, I sit and wait til morning to resolve this dilemma. I go to a waiting area and fall asleep until sun comes up.
Morning. It’s approximately 8:30am and that Customs agent has come back to check on me. Wow, great customer service I thought. He walks me down to the office of the airline to speak with a supervisor. It turns out, she was on the connecting flight with me and was sitting right next to me. She speaks no English, but was able to say something to the agent about seeing me at the connecting destination. So I’m thinking I have an ally. Not exactly. She isn’t sure what happened, but made a call to the airline to open a claim about the customer service and the inconvenience I had coming to San Andres. By 10:30am, I finally received an apology and was able to pay for the tourist card and be on my way to enjoying this beautiful island. Whew! What a rocky start, but it’s turned out good afterwards.
So, remember, when travel to San Andres island or almost any place, double check the destinations main and primary websites for current entrance and exit requirements. You want to be able to enjoy your experience of traveling verses dealing with avoidable delays.