You would think that, after the trials and tribulations of Puno, Peru would be done with challenging us. You would be very wrong.
Our flight from Cusco to Lima, on Viva Air, was easy. Their seats aren’t the most comfortable, they don’t have seat pockets, and they charge extra for EVERYTHING (seat selection, carry on bags, checked bags, even just checking in), but the base price is great and the service is good.
We arrived in Lima after a brief flight, and were picked up at the airport by a driver that our hotel, Kangaroo Wasi Bed and Breakfast, had arranged. It was a short, $8.00 drive to the B&B, which was located in a tranquil, residential area close to the airport. We were pleasantly surprised by the quaint B&B, which offered four rooms around a common living room and kitchen. It was clean and lovely, the staff was very kind, and we wished we could stay longer than one night. We walked around the neighborhood admiring small parks and gardens. We found a pharmacy where we purchased some liquid ibuprofen for Daisy, who couldn’t swallow an Advil but was crying in pain with an earache caused by the altitude changes. We stopped at Cebiche Del Rey for an early dinner; the food was quite good and Daisy’s ibuprofen finally kicked in. We enjoyed the twilight walk back to the B&B. Unfortunately, we had a very early flight out of Lima in the morning. The staff arranged for a 4:00 a.m. taxi pick up and packed us a brown bag breakfast of fruit, juice, crackers, and granola bars to go. We tried to get to sleep early.
I’m still somewhat indecisive about prioritizing price over scheduling when traveling with kids. Many of our flights have been relatively inexpensive, but have involved early departures and long layovers. I still think it’s worth it to drag ourselves and the girls out of bed at 3:30 a.m. in order to save $1000 in plane fares, but there have been a few times when this decision felt somewhat crazy! Fortunately, the girls are great travelers and, though they can complain with the best of them in most circumstances, they know how to work with us when it’s important! Their patience was greatly called upon on this particular day.
When we got to the airport early Wednesday morning, we were faced with the unthinkable! Our airline, Interjet, informed us that our next stop, Costa Rica, requires a yellow fever vaccination at least 10 days before traveling into the country from certain regions, which included Peru. We had never been informed of this requirement at any stage of our reservations or travels. I had checked vaccination requirements from the U.S. into other countries, but hadn’t thought to check on requirements traveling between countries. We were in shock!
We were directed by the Interjet attendant to the airport medical center. They were closed, but a kind, official-looking gentleman with a badge asked us what we needed, and led us out a nearby door upon hearing our problem. Outside, in the early morning darkness, he and two buddies tried to sell us yellow vaccination cards for $300 each. No joke! I almost laughed. Instead, we politely declined and went back inside to the Interjet desk. There, we asked if we could at least travel the first leg of our trip, to Mexico City, without the vaccination. She said that was fine and adjusted our boarding passes and baggage tickets. We figured we could try to modify our plans once we were in Mexico City. We had a ten-hour layover there before we were supposed to board our plane to Costa Rica. We had thought to explore the city, but instead we were just grateful to have some time to plan our next move.
We figured, best case scenario, we could find a way to get on our plane to Costa Rica. Worst case scenario, we would see if Interjet would fly us directly home or somewhere else in Mexico (maybe Cozumel) for minimal additional charge and then see if Spirit Air, our way out of Costa Rica, would refund our tickets or adjust our departure point to wherever Interjet might take us. I also had to cancel our night at an airport hotel and our six nights at an Airbnb in Costa Rica. I didn’t cry, but I wanted to. At least we would be able to fly out of Peru, even if we didn’t get to Costa Rica- or so I thought.
Next hurdle, we had to get an entry stamp from Peru on our emergency passports, since our originals had been stolen while in the country. We were told it would take about 20 minutes and we’d need to pay a small fee. We’d tried to get it done upon our arrival into Lima the previous day, but were told it had to be done upon departure. We’d asked a couple of people about it that morning, as we prepared for departure, and were shrugged at or brushed off. When we finally got to the immigration check point, we were told where to get the entry stamp. We were already late because of the vaccination card issue, so we ran to get the stamp, then ran back to the general line. There, we dealt with a VERY annoyed immigration agent who spent several moments lecturing us, in Spanish, on our responsibility to arrive early enough for her to process the emergency passports with the new entry stamps. We had about 45 minutes until departure at this point. She informed us that it takes about 20 minutes per passport, and rolled her eyes at us and sighed several times. I didn’t know what to do but apologize and let her know we’d tried. She wasn’t having it.
Thankfully, she got to work processing our passports. It seemed to take forever! I thought 45 minutes was a lot of time, but it quickly came down to only two passports processed at five minutes before our flight was scheduled to depart. We sent Mic and Jon, who had been processed, running to the gate while Daisy and I waited to complete our processing. We heard them call out our names for final boarding call as we stood there. The lady finally handed us the last two passports, and Daisy and I full-on sprinted to our gate. Of course, it turned out to be the very last gate at the end of a loooong hallway. Daisy and I were both in agony from running, but I was ecstatic to finally see Jon and Mic standing at the gate with the Interjet attendants. We had made it before departure!
The flight from Lima to Mexico City was about six hours. Interjet does not provide any real food, even for purchase, on their flights. Chips and drinks are all they have available. We survived.
In Mexico City, we wandered looking for an Interjet agent to help us with our next steps. We were all tired and hungry, but we wanted to get our travel back on track before relaxing. I had done a little research and had learned that the vaccine was only required for travelers who had been in Amazon jungle areas. Our travel had been in cities and we’d been more than six days (which was the required length of time to be fever free before travel) in exempt areas, which included Lima, Cusco, and Machu Picchu. It made no sense that we’d been denied boarding passes for our connecting flight, and I was willing to fight to get on that plane!
It was a long process of waiting in lines only to be sent somewhere else but, after about two hours, we were finally informed by an Interjet supervisor that there should be no problem with our flying to Costa Rica. We were told to get in the regular line for our boarding passes. The agent there, with no knowledge of our situation, smiled and issued our boarding passes to Costa Rica without batting an eye. What the….???
It was all very confusing, but after our travel adventures, we just wanted to sit down somewhere and finally eat. Our options included Chili’s, Starbucks, McDonald’s, and a very fancy looking Spanish restaurant, Casa Avila. We decided to go fancy and sat down to a fabulous two-hour, four-course meal that included salads, soups, croquettes, pork tacos, grilled octopus, wine, Perrier, and cappuccinos with flan and creme brûlée for dessert. After everything we’d been through, we just didn’t want the relaxing interlude to end.
To be honest, after our delicious lunch, our time in the airport was great. Even after our ten-hour layover turned into a twelve-hour layover, we settled into a comfy spot at one of the waiting areas, hung out, did some work, and experienced a generally comfortable wait. When we finally made it onto our flight to Costa Rica, around midnight, we were tired, but quite happy.