I scheduled in a four hour layover today in San José, Costa Rica in order to exit immigration, take a brief walk around the airport, and snap some pictures for my trip report.
I proceeded to immigration where an immigration agent rudely told me that there was not enough time to exit and I had to return to the transit area.
I politely asked for a supervisor and explained to him that I was a blogger and wanted to take some pictures. He pretended he didn’t speak English and made motions for me to return to the gate area. I didn’t budge. Another worker came over and again said the rule was that you had to remain in the transit area if your connection was less than six hours unless granted permission from the airline to exit.
I returned to the TACA desk where a customer service director said that the airline had no qualms with me go through immigration as long as I was back in time to board my flight.
I returned to immigration where I was processed by another agent. He entered all my information on his computer and was about to stamp me in when the gruff supervisor came over and conversed with him in Spanish.
He angrily told me to step aside. I asked him why and he repeated his command to step aside. I asked him why again and he yelled at me to step aside.
The other supervisor returned and I told him TACA said there would be no problem if I exit. He said I needed to have a TACA employee escort me out. So I returned to the TACA Customer Service Center and asked for an employee to walk with me to the immigration line.
I got back and tried to motion for the second supervisor to come over. Instead, the gruff one returned, yelled at the TACA employee in Spanish, an argument ensued, and I was told that there was no way I could exit because two hours would not be enough time to exit and re-enter. Sure.
So now I sitting in the gate area, listening to a guy play Simon and Garfunkel’s "The Sound of Silence" on his guitar while waiting to board my flight to San Salvidor and fuming that my passport won’t have a Costa Rica stamp in it.
Is it worth getting so upset about something so little? Probably not, but I now have no desire to ever return to Costa Rica.
The immigration agents here are like some of the border officials in America: power trippers who do a woeful job in welcoming foreign visitors to their country and succeed only in engendering bad will and animosity. Nicely done.
Hats off to TACA though for trying to help me out.