Open Jaw: US immigration
Where readers write back
Saturday 17 July 2010
Half-an-hour in line at US airports? I don't think so! In April I arrived at Los Angeles from Heathrow, en route to Hawaii. I waited over two hours in line, and was confronted by the rudest immigration staff ever. I was very forcefully questioned as to why I was staying for only three days, and then asked how much money I had. When I replied that I did not have more than the $10,000 limit, the official asked me to state to the dollar how much I had. "The problem is," said one American I met in Las Vegas, "that they can't be sacked."
Having gone from zero security (kerb-side check-in) a few years ago, to paranoia now, the US is one place to avoid for quite a while yet. The rest of the Americas seems to be much, much more welcoming.
My experience arriving at Houston, was lengthy, exhausting and boring. They do not have enough staff on to deal with the numerous flights coming in.
"Frequent Traveller USA"
Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (Esta)
I've recently travelled to the US for the first time and completed the Esta form via a link from the American Airlines website when I booked the flight. Despite this I still had to complete a landing card on the flight; when I arrived in Chicago, the immigration officer had no interest in looking at the Esta. Luckily it was free.
We are soon travelling to America for the first time. We put "Esta" in the search engine and got stung with a £25 per person charge. Are we now registered to enter America, and is there any change of getting our money back?
Simon Calder responds: Sorry to learn you were unwittingly hoodwinked by one of the many websites that seek to profit from a service that is, at present, free. I fear there is no way to retrieve the money. But to check if your details have been properly processed: if you have been sent a very long reference number, the chances are you have been correctly registered. Go to the official site, https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov, and input the number; it should come up with your personal details. If not, apply afresh – for free.
World heritage blight
In Libya last year we were appalled to see the careless way the wonderful Roman sites are managed: tourists scrambling over ancient ruins and scattering tesserae from mosaic floors. The knowledgeable local guides were concerned, but told us the authorities didn't care. Could a protest from outside help to preserve these priceless remains?
Petra in Jordan has increased its entry fee and later on this year will increase it again, making it one of the most expensive sites in the world to visit. It is indeed beautiful, but bearing in mind the high cost of accommodation, tourists may think twice about visiting. Incidentally, the hotel we stayed in, The Oscar, was the first we have experienced to charge separately for drinks sachets provided in the room!
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