After our minor fiasco getting through immigration in Trinidad, I wasn't keen for anymore airport problems. The official warning for flying to Colombia (and a lot of South America) is that you 'might' be asked for proof of a departure ticket. That wasn't all that encouraging, but further internet research told me that this was pretty outdated and that we were unlikely to get trouble on the Colombian side.
Unfortunately though, according to a variety of conflicting advice I found on travel forums, some of the American airline officials take it upon themselves to enforce this rule before you even get on the plane. This is obviously a scam to make you buy a useless return ticket on the spot. Although it's possible to get a refundable one, I didn't much fancy sorting out the paperwork while trying to travel in South America without a working phone or easily accessible internet. We also didn't have any spare cash to tie up in a useless flight.
I started worrying (a refined talent of mine) about a week before we flew. We were generally too busy to talk about it, but it was always in the back of my mind. What if the flights were too
expensive and we got stuck in America? Would they send us back to Trinidad, to England or just leave us stuck in the airport until we could figure out an answer. It would probably have been the
latter option and I didn't fancy that at all.
We flew from Tobago to Trinidad to Miami with no issues worse than hunger, but our flight out to Bogota wasn't until the next morning. I don't think I would have slept well in Miami even if it hadn't been for the bright lights and continuous elevator Jazz music.
Woken by the sound of laughing and chattering in Spanish, we realised we had an audience. By this point I think I was too tired to worry and after making ourselves look as presentable as possible, we trundled along to the check out.
Nobody asked us anything!
I've written this post especially to pass on the information that there was no trouble with this one-way flight from Miami to Bogota with American Airlines. I couldn't guarantee it would be the same for everyone, but they didn't even give us a second glance, so I don't think they have a policy to question you.
There were a couple of questions asked on the Colombian side, but nothing we didn't have our story straight for (I think 'Students' is stretching the truth quite far these days, but it sounds more believable than 'house painters').
Anti-trampy tips for dealing with airlines and clearing immigration...
- Look as presentable as you possibly can. Wear your smartest clothes...
- Make sure you have your story straight. It's obviously best to tell the truth, but if (like us) you don't exactly have an 'occupation' right now then it's best to think of something vaguely respectable that is also believable ("student" works).
- If they're free (or you find one lying around like we did) put your bags on a trolley. This way they wont see your trampy backpack until they've already given you your boarding pass.
- Say 'Hello' and 'Thank-you' in the local language even if that's all you can manage.
- Try a little joke to distract them (nothing about bombs or drugs though please...) or if they're looking particularly stony faced just maintain a polite smile.
- All in all, just try your best not to look like someone who's going to set up camp in their country and never leave.