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Entries about immigration

New-Zealand, finally!


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Yeah! I can finally write about this wonderful country, after having landed here a bit more than a month ago. Sorry for the delay but maintaining a blog up-to-date is a lot of work... ;)

On the 11th of December then, I made my way to the airport in Santiago de Chile and was ready to check-in, but only to be told that in order for the Quantas Airways agents to check me in and allow me on the flight I had booked and pre-paid, I needed an exit flight from New-Zealand. Yes, the New-Zealanders are really welcoming and as a European you don't need to arrange a visa beforehand (a tourist visa lasts for 3 months), but they also want to make sure you won't stay longer...

So in a bit of a panic, I had to run in the airport and find an internet spot and book (and pay) an exit flight from New-Zealand to Asia for 2 months later... Fortunately I had thought in the previous days about how long exactly I wanted to stay in Kiwikand but maybe I could have saved a bit of money trying to compare different flights if I had had more time. Anyway 30 minutes later, I came back to the check-in desk and could board the the plane without issues.

Conclusion: ALWAYS plan enough time to check-in to avoid panic rush and last minute urgencies like that. I had arrived 1 hour and a half before my flight and I was lucky I did otherwise I might have lost a lot of money and have had to book another flight...

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However the flight I had booked wasn't direct so after flying over the edge of Antarctica (see picture of the icebergs on the right) I landed in Sydney and immediately boarded another plane in direction of Christchurch where I would spend the night (in the airport) before boarding another flight in the morning to Auckland. Not sure why the flight comparison website I had used to book my flight wanted me to do a stop-over in Christchurch but it was probably the cheapest flight combination at that time. Of course with that many connections, there is always something going slightly wrong and my backpack didn't follow me to Christchurch but instead was sent directly to Auckland the next morning. Not a big deal but I had to explain the problem to the immigration officers, persuade them that I wasn't a drug lord trying to smuggle illegal things in their country from South America, and manage to trace my bag to be sure I could collect it (after a full bag search obviously) in Auckland the next day.

Finally, on the afternoon of Friday the 13th of December, I arrived in my hostel completely exhausted, after having spent more than 2 days (technically you "lose" one day when flying from South America to New-Zealand) in the air and airports. But I was here and my luggage as well! Phew! :)

Plane ready to be boarded! Yeah!

Plane ready to be boarded! Yeah!


First leg to Sydney, 13 hours... Hopefully the movies on-board selection is good...

First leg to Sydney, 13 hours... Hopefully the movies on-board selection is good...


The route the plane will take

The route the plane will take


On the edge of Antarctica...

On the edge of Antarctica...


Auckland, finally!

Auckland, finally!


Oh I forgot it was almost Christmas!! It's definitely a weird feeling to think of spending Christmas when it's hot and sunny... Where is the cold and snow??

Oh I forgot it was almost Christmas!! It's definitely a weird feeling to think of spending Christmas when it's hot and sunny... Where is the cold and snow??

Posted by manolo84 14:01 Archived in New Zealand Tagged english flights immigration Comments (0)

From Quito to Huaraz by bus


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This time here is a post which differs a bit from the others as this is mainly an informational post for people who want to travel from Ecuador to Peru at a lower cost. I was looking for this type of advices myself when I was in Quito and wanted to go directly to Huaraz in Peru, but at the time there was only little information available on the internet. So here is the summary of my journey:

  • Quito to Guayaquil: 8 hours - 11$

I was originally planning to go straight to Huaquillas but someone recommended to go first to Guayaquil as there is a huge bus terminal there and it's easy to hop on any bus and compare the prices of the different companies.

I therefore went from Quito to Guayaquil for 11$ (8 hours) with Panamericana buses and left Quito in the Friday evening (10pm) to arrive in Guayaquil around 6am the next day.

  • Guayaquil to Piura: 12 hours - 10$

In the beginning my plan was to cross the border myself by stopping on the Ecuadorian side, getting my passport stamped, finding a taxi to cross the border and getting my passport stamped on the Peruvian side. From the lonely planet and other reviews I could read online, this border crossing is apparently the most dangerous or the most painful as it is frequent that taxis try to scam you (taking you somewhere else to take your money) or that fake policemen do the same.

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So the best was for me to book a bus which would stop at the immigration points, wait for me to get my passport stamped, and then carry on into Peru. I therefore booked a CIFA bus to Tumbes (Peruvian town near the border) for 10$ leaving at 7.20am (so only had to wait 1 hour in Guayaquil), and the bus stopped outside Huaquillas for the immigration (both Ecuadorian and Peruvian), then carried on to Tumbes.

That is actually what has changed recently. I believe the Ecuadorian and Peruvian authorities became aware of the problems at the border and decided intelligently to gather the immigration points in Huaquillas, which means that you also get the Peruvian stamped there, thus avoiding another stop on the other side of the border.

Carrying on, at Tumbes I went off the bus, got my bag and started to ask for other buses to Trujillo, but I was told that actually my bus was continuing after Tumbes until Piura, which was a better spot to hop on other buses. So I went back to my bus and left at Piura (without paying extra which was nice). The whole journey Guayaquil to Piura was quite long as in total from Guayaquil it took us 12 hours, arriving in Piura around 7pm.

With a bit of hindsight, I think the best is to take a bus directly to Huaquillas (like Panamericana) and find the CIFA bus station to hop on the same bus I took from Guayaquil. We were in Huaquillas around 11am-12pm so make sure you arrive early and you will save a few hours and probably a few dollars as well.

  • Piura to Chimbote: 10 hours - 35 soles

Then from Piura I took a taxi (5 soles) to the Chichay Suyo agency (as I was told they were the only ones going to Huaraz) and but found out that actually there weren't any direct bus to Huaraz and that instead I had to go to Chimbote (which is located after Trujillo) for 35 soles (10 hours). The bus wasn't the best (no space for legs, a bit smelly and making stops all the time) but I think you can take Itzza buses which are more comfortable for about the same price. We then left Piura at 10.30pm and arrived next morning at 7.30am.

  • Chimbote to Huaraz: 5 hours - 20 soles

The Chimbote bus terminal is quite big (a bit like Guayaquil) so it's easy to find a bus to your next destination. As soon as I arrived, I started to look for bus departing soon to Huaraz (I was thinking that I might as well get over with the whole journey as quickly as I could) and managed to find one with Alas Peruanas leaving immediately (for 20 soles)! So no time for coffee or breakfast unfortunately and we were on our way to Huaraz, where I would arrive 5 hours later, at 1pm.

So to sum up this was quite a long journey but the bus times worked perfectly as I only had to wait 1 hour in Guayaquil and 3 hours in Piura. The total bus time was then 35 hours for a price of about 43 US$. I think I saved a lot doing things that way rather than taking an expensive Ormeño bus (which are going daily from Quito to Trujillo for about 80US$). I was going to Huaraz but if you go to Lima, you can find bus services to the capital in both Piura and Chimbote as well so not really an issue there.

The only thing you need to be aware now when planning to cross the border, is that both the Lonely Planet and Rough Guides are wrong as you do not need to go to Peru to get your passport stamped, it all happens in one place now (as mentioned above).

View of a Peruvian canyon from my bus window

View of a Peruvian canyon from my bus window

Posted by manolo84 09:40 Archived in Ecuador Tagged buses english immigration Comments (0)

Sur la route de Panama


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Après avoir donc fait mumuse avec les petits poissons, fin août approchant, je décidais de me diriger vers Panama le plus rapidement possible afin de pouvoir passer assez de temps plus tard en Amérique du Sud. Malheureusement cela me contraignait à ne pas visiter des pays comme le Nicaragua ou le Costa Rica, mais bon même un an est vraiment trop court pour parcourir le monde et il y a de durs choix à faire de temps en temps. Ce sera pour un prochain voyage....

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Repartant d'Utila, il me fallut donc 4 jours complets de bus pour rejoindre Panama City pour la modique somme de 100$ US. Enfin quand je dis "complets", cela n'inclut pas les nuits et je passais donc une nuit à San Pedro Sula (Honduras) avant de prendre le bus, plus une nuit dans la capitale du Nicaragua (Managua) et enfin une autre à San José (Costa Rica) avant d'atteindre le jour d’après Panama City.

Donc vous l'aurez compris, 4 jours bien fatiguants car il est quasi-impossible de dormir correctement, assis dans des bus plus ou moins confortables, avec la climatisation réglée au maximum, et chaque journée comprenant le passage d'une frontière pour passer d'un pays à un autre. D'ailleurs c'est vraiment les moments les plus ch**** du voyage, quand il te faut faire la queue pour faire tamponner ton passeport pour sortir du pays où tu te trouves, puis faire de même 50 mètres plus loin de l'autre coté pour entrer dans l'autre pays, et enfin se faire fouiller son sac pour que les douanes soient sûres que tu ne transportes pas d'armes, de drogues ou autre chose d’illégal.
De plus à chaque frontière vous vous trouvez toujours confrontés dès la descente du bus à une horde de locaux voulant vous vendre tout et n'importe quoi et voulant essayer de vous échanger la monnaie du pays d’où vous venez pour celui où vous allez pour un taux de change assez bas... Bref, c'est loin d’être un moment agréable...

Carte de l'itinéraire suivi, à partir du Honduras

Carte de l'itinéraire suivi, à partir du Honduras

Enfin le passage Honduras-Nicaragua et Nicaragua-Costa Rica se passèrent plutôt bien mais comme disent les anglais, il y a toujours un moment où "the shit hits the fan" (comprenez: "où il y a une merde qui se produit"). Et pour moi cela se passa à la frontière entre le Costa Rica et Panama...

Pour sortir du Costa Rica, pas de problème, un petit coup de tampon, aucune question posée, et hop roulez jeunesse... Par contre du coté Panaméen, ce ne fut pas du tout la même histoire....

Moi: (avec mon espagnol hésitant)
" Bonjour monsieur
[pas de réponse...]
(il feuillette mon passeport pour voir si tout est en règle et me regarde)
- Où est votre billet de retour?"
- Heu... Je n'ai pas de billet de retour, je fais un tour du monde et je compte aller en Colombie dans moins d'une semaine en bateau.
- Pas possible, vous devez avoir un billet d'avion pour retourner dans votre pays.
- Mais je n'ai pas envie de retourner en France tout de suite moi, je n'ai pas de billet d'avion!
- Donc vous ne pouvez pas passer
- Mais de toute façon, j'ai pas envie d'y rester moi dans votre pays à la c**!"
(Ok bon ça c'est ce que j'aurais aimé lui dire mais je n'ai pas osé...)

Et après 5 minutes de la même discussion où il était clair qu'il n'avait rien à faire de ce que je lui disais, il me fit signe de me mettre sur le coté pour pouvoir laisser passer les autres personnes derrière moi.
A ce moment là, je dois avouer que je commençais à stresser, il nous avait fallu 8 heures pour arriver à la frontière depuis le Costa Rica et je ne me voyais pas du tout, mais alors pas du tout, repayer la compagnie de bus et me refaire tout le trajet en sens inverse.

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Regardant autour de moi et demandant aux autres touristes -qui je l’espérais, étaient dans le même cas que moi- j'appris qu'en effet, depuis quelques semaines, pour entrer au Panama, il vous faut montrer un billet de sortie du pays (bus ou avion) ainsi que prouver que vous avez au moins 500$ US sur vous... Et apparemment tout le monde était plus ou moins au courant, excepté pour l'histoire de l'argent...

"Ok bon ça ne sent pas bon tout ça..."

De plus, essayer de parler à l'agent de contrôle était comme essayer de parler à un mur, il n'avait visiblement rien à faire d'un touriste français qui ne s’était pas trop renseigné sur le passage au Panama. Le stress continuait de monter... Et pour ne rien arranger, le bus avait maintenant déchargé tous nos bagages pour que l'on puisse les faire fouiller par la douane avant de les remettre dans le bus. Et bien entendu le bus n'allait pas attendre éternellement que mes problèmes s'arrangent par miracle... Il était 8h du soir, il faisait complètement noir et l'endroit n’était clairement pas le plus sûr au monde...

Et c'est là que parlant avec un autre touriste, il me donna l’idée de trouver un cyber-café et d'essayer d'acheter un billet en ligne.

"Vous avez 15 minutes, me dit le chauffeur du bus. Après je m'en vais...
- Ok, sympa...."

Là un peu en panique je dois l'avouer, je fonçais vers l'endroit où je croyais avoir vu un cyber-café plus tôt, entrais en trombe, me connectais sur un site de voyage et décidais d'imprimer un faux itinéraire Panama-Paris (je n'allais pas acheter un vrai billet d'avion pour ne pas pouvoir me faire rembourser après...) et comme je n'avais pas 500$ sur moi bien sûr, je décidais d'imprimer la première page de mon compte bancaire en ligne, espérant que cela ferait l'affaire. Dix minutes plus tard donc, je ressortais en courant et fonçais vers le guichet où le même agent attendait...

"Hum re-bonjour, alors je sais que je viens de vous dire que je comptais faire le tour du monde, mais en fait je viens juste de changer d'avis et je rentre en France dans dix jours, voici mon billet d'avion (qui ne portait absolument pas mon nom ou de preuve que j'avais effectivement payé) et voici un relevé de banque qui prouve que j'ai assez d'argent."

Le gars me regarda bizarrement, regarda les papiers que j'avais juste imprimé (je suis sûr qu'il ne parlait ou ne lisait même pas l'anglais) et décida sans doute que j’étais un touriste qui maintenant l'ennuyait trop et me tamponna mon passeport... Yes!! Panama me voilà!

Et après avoir fait fouiller mon sac, je remontais dans le bus qui démarra 15 minutes plus tard... Bon, tout est bien qui finit bien mais quand même, il me fallu un peu de temps pour me calmer et arrêter d'insulter mentalement l'administration Panaméenne et ses agents pour mettre en place des règles à la con qui en fait ne servent strictement à rien!

Quelques 6 heures de route après, nous arrivions a Panama City...

Et l'aventure continue!

Posted by manolo84 14:08 Archived in Panama Tagged buses french immigration Comments (0)

Adios Mexico, Hello Belize!


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Here we are, it has been so far more than a month and a half since I have set foot on the Mexican soil. I was originally only planning to spend a few weeks in this amazing country but there were so many things to visit and experience, met so many people along the way that it would have been really hard to go faster. But time is also running fast and if I want to stick to my original plan (September in South America, December in New-Zealand), I now have to go faster and will also probably end up skipping or just crossing some countries like Nicaragua, El Salvador, Costa Rica and Panama. And to be honest, going to one place after an other is quite exhausting, I always prefer staying a few more days in a place if I like it, rather than trying to travel with a checklist and just crossing off names for the sake of it. I am pretty sure already that I will come back one day in this area, so it is probably best to leave some "mysteries" for later.

But still, I had an amazing time in Mexico and was really far to expect that much when I first arrived. I definitely recommend this country to whoever wants to visit it but weren't too sure about safety or language issues. There are true wonders in Mexico and I just only scrapped the surface. Local people are extremely nice and love to talk with foreigners if you have the advantage of speaking a bit of spanish.

That is what I was thinking in the bus which took me from Tulum to Chetumal, the last town before the Mexican border on the east coast. My plan was then to take directly a boat to Caye Caulker in Belize, where new snorkelling adventures were awaiting along the reef. Coming from Mexico, you have to pay the exit fee (about 300 pesos - 18 euros) and also the boat which is not that cheap, but saves you the cost and time to go to Belize City first and then take a boat for one of the islands (islands which are called Cayes - pronounced "keys").

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And although the Mexican authorities will check your bag before you leave the country to make sure you are not taking any drugs with you, the Belize immigration in San Pedro is the best (understand: relax and cool) I have seen so far. They are located on a beach so you just have to go through a little deck to get your passport stamped and at the other end of this deck, there was a little bar with live music... I invite you to check the video below to get an idea.... :)

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The immigration checkpoint in San Pedro

Posted by manolo84 23:01 Archived in Belize Tagged music immigration Comments (0)

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