I’m sitting down, in my room for the next two weeks, with some mate provided by my host. My first day of travel, about 25 hours or so in airports or in a plane and then some time relaxing with my host, trying to get settled in. Some things were hectic and unfortunate while also very relaxing and surprising. Yes, you can say this is day one and day two of my journey, but quite a few hours in the planes were sleeping, those I’m not counting. Let me tell you about the adventures of my travels up to this point while my mate cools down.
The First Leg
My flight schedule was quite relaxed for the most part, especially flying out from home and into San Francisco. For those that aren’t aware, flying into San Francisco is a test of luck, fly too early and there’s a chance you could be delayed due to fog. I left at 11am and we got word we might be delayed but the fog cleared up and we left on time. Even landed early, but when it comes to landing early, doesn’t mean you arrive early. This flight is one of the little puddle jumpers, your standard carry on luggage doesn’t fit into the overhead bins. One hour later and I was in San Francisco, with a 2 hour layover.
San Francisco airport is familiar territory for me, been through many times, some with delays, others without. Two terminals over, about ten minutes with my two carry on bags. Yes two carry on bags, I’ll post about what I’ve packed and why later this week, but since it’s fall going into winter, some extra heavier layers I thought were required. With my spare time in San Francisco airport, I got a burrito and focused on my next move for the next few hours until boarding. Went through Facebook and social networks, texted my family and friends, then decided I needed to keep myself moving and not sit on my butt. What better way than to play a game while you’re moving, keep things interesting? So, I launched up ingress on my phone, and checked out what the airport had to offer. Completed a mission, unique captures, hacks, some little fields and links, while removing some blue from the airport for good measure. All the while recycling 500 keys I apparently had for home, which I won’t need, so to the xm gods they went.
Second Flight… with Complications
Boarding to Houston from San Francisco was basic, my aisle seat was somewhat comfy in economy, and I got a little shut eye next to a pretty lady. Got some good seat arrangements and even watched a movie with my headphones on my laptop. Some people are watching the in flight movies available through your United app for free with the wifi (really cool collection but nothing I wanted, was like amazon prime or Netflix in the setup) but I elected to watch the Princess Bride. Finished the movie with a little time to spare before or decent. Got things wrapped up and put away (mostly) and our flight was 20 minutes early.
Since we were ahead of schedule, Houston needed to reroute us to a new gate, so we were taxiing for about 20 minutes, which actually delayed us from disembarking! So my 20 minute layover before boarding turned into less than 10. My gate was quite a distance away that it required a rail car to get to! So I was a little rushed to get to my international flight… Just rushed enough that I forgot my little carrier with my laptop ac charger, headphones, and wireless mouse on the plane.
On to Brazil!
Of course I don’t realize this until I’m in line at the other gate just about to board. This flight took me through Brazil, and boarding was also delayed. Plus being international, if you’re passport is from a different country, they want to check your visa before boarding. This adds time to boarding. So even if you’re 10 minutes late to arrive for boarding, you should be fine. In my opinion, others may think differently.
So they want to see a visa for Brazil, which is perfectly understandable, visa laws for Brazil are quite strict. I do not have a visa for Brazil, which is fine since I have a connection or of the country. If the flight wasn’t delayed with boarding, I’m sure they would have bus me more when I tried to board. Instead they were like “have we checked your visa?” Which apparently they were doing and advising earlier to asked up the process. All I said is that I have a one hour layover while handing it over, then she asked where was my final destination. I said Argentina, and she marked my boarding pass and let me through. Didn’t ask to see my other boarding pass, guessing just to speed things up some they were behind.
So onto my flight I go! To my window seat with built in screen! Except mine was broken and didn’t work… Go me, without also having my laptop charger, was pretty out of luck, and this flight had built in power for devices! So I enjoy my flight, have dinner, which was a choice between chicken or pasta. Must say was quite good and hot, surprising compared to what I remember having in the past. Plus red wine (had 2 glasses) which was included at no extra charge… Some red blend, was free, so no complaints there! Breakfast was served as well, but I slept through that.
The Last English Speaker
Arrived in Brazil just fine, little stiff from the 8 hour flight. As I was walking down the long walkway came up to an information booth with a few people asking if anyone has connections. I did, thought I knew where to go, instead was pointed into another direction. This was a very pleasant surprise, and the person who helped me looked very North American and spoke perfect English. They were the last person that spoke English before I arrived in buenos Aires with my host.
I’m then ushered through a line for additional security checks, my water bottle gets flagged, no big deal, and I’m on my way. Sit down and connect to the wifi on my phone and plug in my charger with the universal adapter my sister gave me. Checking out how to purchase or where I could purchase locally a replacement laptop ac charger. No luck, which will be is own post about buying and shipping to Argentina.
To Argentina & Buenos Aires!
Boarding to Argentina was pretty straight forward, didn’t even look at the passport at first, then another person did to make sure the names matched on my passport and boarding pass. At least that looks like it was attempted to make that connection, they just flipped through quickly while chatting with each other… I’d guess they were just making sure it looked somewhat legit before pushing me through. Now sitting in this older plane, no one spoke English, we are about to take off.
Before we begin taxiing, we’re all given a customs declaration form… This is new to me, I have clue what I’m doing and no one can really help me. Do I need to declare my personal phone or my personal laptop? I wrote down their description in the boxes, with no value, as the translation on these fields in English were not very good and I’m confused as I might have to pay to bring them in since they are worth more than $300. So what do I do but be stressed over this. Now the flight is taking off and I just put the paper away.
Until this point I was flying United, now I’m flying TAM airlines. No clue what to expect. We’re all given chocolate toffee before the flight moves, which was an awesome bonus, could even take multiple, I found out after I took my one and she moved on. They even came around with food! They offered a muffin or a basic deli sandwich… I was confused, declined it as I wasn’t sure if i was to be charged for it as I’m not used to being offered actual food on a flight other than mixed nuts. Turns out, it was free… Too late now as I don’t speak the language and don’t want to look like a fool. Missed out on drinks as well… No big deal, and I decided to try and sleep some more with success.
Visa & Customs…
We land at AEP, which is the smaller airport near Palermo, and not EZE which is the big one a ways away. The Airport seemed compact and not quite as luxurious as other, but then again, I was just in the outgoing area, not the terminals. So this next bit with my visa, passport, customs, money exchange, and taxi will differ from those who go to EZE. What do I mean?
Well, when I get off the plane there is a bus, then lines to check through your passport. Now I went through the foreigner line, like I should, hoping the person may speak English. I was wrong… They didn’t know English very well, with their accent and me being half deaf, made hearing and understanding the questions difficult. Every question was repeated multiple times, got through the basics of what my flight number was, am I a tourist, take a picture, thumbprint here, and then where am I staying. I didn’t know the address and my phone was off, so I boot the phone up, which takes a few minutes, and she didn’t even wait for it, just handed me my passport after stamping it and shooed me away. That was pretty simple… Being an ignorant American got me pushed through the passport check, now for customs check which was next!
So here I am, with a form only part way filed out, not even signed since I don’t know if it is correct. Trying to read the English sign which is covered up and failing which is badly translated. I’m worried I may be waiting or held up and maybe at least be able to get clarification. Instead I’m beckoned over to a line, I’m nervous and confused, hand two of the sheets, one blank, the other partially filed out, most likely wrong. The guys are just bsing with each other and motion me to place my bags to the x-ray and shoo me around, he just throws the paper in a loose pile. No one even checked the screen of my luggage and away I went. I’m more confused at this point and perplexed at how much the process seemed so lax. Traveling in the US is a nightmare, this was a breeze.
Finally in Buenos Aires!!!
Now I’m through, go to the currency exchange, get some pesos, and head to the taxi area. It is raining at this point outside with the humidity feeling like 100% (turns out it is less than home actually!). I try to get AirBnB up on my phone with 2g data (unlimited 2g data with t-mobile, will post about later) and 10% battery charge left. I write down in my awesome notebook my friend gave me back home, the address to show the taxi driver. Last thing I need is to hand my new phone over to a driver, because I’m an overly paranoid American. He confirms with me the address, and away we went.
Drivers in Buenos Aires are scary! Almost no blinkers, and cutting between lanes, inches between cars since there are 6 vehicles in 4 lanes, running reds, and more. My driver got me to my destination without detours, faster than I expected. He attempted to make small talk but he quickly found out I didn’t speak any Spanish (yet) and he didn’t speak English.
I’m with my host, which will again be another post.
This is my experience traveling to Buenos Aires Argentina!