We are travelling with 10-year multiple entry Visas to the USA. This allows us to be in The States for up to 6 months at a time. Our house sit here in Vieques will be slightly longer than 6 months, so we have to figure out a Visa run, ie leave The States and come back in again to re-start a 6 month phase. There are plenty of islands around us here in the Caribbean, some really close. So, we have to think of what will be the quickest and easiest and of course the most economical place to go. Tortola? That’s BVI, could work. What about St Thomas? No that’s Part of The States, so that’s no good. What about Cuba? We tried to go to Cuba following this house sit in 2017 but didn’t make it due to the hurricane. Cuba is now fully out of our price range for a Visa run! Bahamas? Barbados? Colombia? All too far and too expensive. Dominican Republic? Yes! That will do us, its so close and well-priced.
You can’t exit The States to Canada or Mexico for a Visa run. I’m not sure why, maybe as it is a land border? Not entirely sure so we are looking at our 36-minute flight to the DR and hoping that it is going to be far enough and we are away long enough to satisfy the Visa requirements. Time will tell…… we are committed, tickets in our hot little hands!
It is an easy run through, everything in order. Stunning flight right over Puerto Rico. The e-ticket required by the DR Government worked surprisingly well, a QR code saved to my phone, not one hick-up, easy place to get into.
We have 5 awesome nights.
But it is time to go. We can’t stay on holiday indefinitely…….. or can we? That’s a story for another time! We have been so impressed with Boca Chica, the beach and the people, just wonderful. We get an Uber, it costs about $12USD, much better than the $40USD on the way in, through booking.com
So, this is the part where we start to wonder if maybe we won’t be granted another 6 months. Remembering this is a “Visa run” trip so there is a definite possibility that we will come across some problems with said Visa. The US Govt. have said that it would be up to the agent on the day on how the “staying in/staying out” part is interpreted, there is no set amount of time, unlike Europe for example which is 3 months in – 3 months out. But that’s all that could go wrong, right? ……. Wrong!!
Here we go.
We are at the airport with loads of time. Its 1215, flight leaves at 1403.
The CDC rescinded the need for COVID testing, pre-flight and on arrival, in June, so we didn’t think to take our vaccination cards. The first thing we were asked to produce – while standing in line, pre-check in – yip! Our COVID vaccination certs! Oh crap! Chris finds a photo of his, I couldn’t find mine! I had a photo of it somewhere in the 1000’s of photos on my phone. Everyone is waiting, scrolling scrolling, getting hot, scrolling, getting hotter, had I deleted it? When had I taken the photo? oh man! Finally, I find it and then we both sign a piece of paper which she files, very carefully(not), in the drawer. Name, signature, todays date – that’s it! not sure what this is going to prove, oh well. Then, when we get up to check in, the check in lady also wants to look at our vaccination certs. But somehow while I was signing the paper, I had deleted the image by mistake. How the *#@ did I do that!! So she called the other lady over and they accept that the cert. has been sighted. We didn’t see that one coming, of all the problems we thought we would have!
It takes an hour and a half to get through security and into the airport air-side. This is where we stay now for the next 24 hours……. Yip!!
We are leaving from terminal A, check the board for the gate closer to departure time. OK. Our flight is direct Santo Domingo to San Juan, departure time 1603. We have time for lunch then wait in terminal A. We are supposed to be boarding at 1518, its 1500, still no flight F996 on the board. We found one larger board at the far end of terminal A and it said change of gate, B1, but the departure time was showing as 1638?? but now delayed to 1644. That’s weird, oh well, it’s delayed, no biggie, now leaving from B1, sure, let’s go.
We get to B1 and it is total chaos, no room to move. It’s now 1525, there is a line to the gate door at least 4 thick and no one is moving. We get past the crowd to the other side, close to B2 and sit down out of the way. Chris keeps getting up to check the board, no change, no instructions to be at the gate, no indication that it is boarding. No announcements that the flight has started boarding. So we sit and wait.
1630 we decide to go wait with the millions of other people; it has to be boarding soon. I txt Lidia, our friend who has driven from Ceiba to meet us at the airport, and say I think our flight is delayed again, we still haven’t started boarding! She is already nearly at San Juan to pick us up! Almost immediately after that the sign on the screen flicks over to Fort Lauderdale. What? Oh, they must be loading that plane first. The huge line starts moving, yip, these are passengers to Fort Lauderdale. 10 minutes later we think, should we ask what’s going on? We make it through the throng of people to the podium and ask. Wait for it………..
Your flight has gone!
What??? Gone where?? When???? How?? But we were right here!!!! All frontier staff have disappeared, these are Spirit staff, they even point to their logo and are very clearly NOT INTERESTED! So we try to find a security guard or someone, we so need to talk to a Frontier rep. Up and down the airport we run looking for someone who will talk to us! No One! So many staff here with various colour uniforms, lanyards, walkie talkie radios, but no HELP! No one wants to know!
Oh My God, what do we do? We have missed our flight!!! How did that happen?? We are both feeling quite stunned, nobody wants to know, we are stuck here, can’t get in, can’t get out!!
There is a JetBlue flight going to San Juan, maybe we could talk to them and try and get on that flight.
That flight has a 2-hour delay, leaving at 2030, but totally full. The girl at that gate was so lovely, she went to find a security guard to escort us out through immigration. We were to wait there, and security would come and get us in 20 minutes. 90 minutes later, this lovely girl sees us again and is surprised no one came for us. She goes off again and when she returns she said she can take us through, yes! we are getting out of here. We follow her down the back corridor, down the stairs, only to be stopped and told “you can’t come through here” even our JetBlue lady was surprised, she had been told we could. Oh well, back up the stairs and into the terminal.
The JetBlue flight has been changed to gate B1 now, so we should go down there and wait, maybe get on stand-by, or at least find someone who can help. Mean while we have been trying, with the dodgy wifi, to find new flights. I am in communication with my friend Sarah on Vieques, she is looking for flights for us, as this wifi keeps crashing!
Back at B1, less people around now, JetBlue leaving in half an hour, still hoping for a miracle that we can get onto this flight – No, not going to happen. OK, fine.
The last flight out of this airport tonight is 2110. We are starting to realise that we are here for the night, thoughts of that movie with Tom Hanks where he is stuck at an airport – that’s a familiar feeling for us right now.
As the airport empties, the wifi gets better and we find a spot to figure out what the heck we are going to do. I started a chat with Frontier on messenger. They were very good and because the flight hadn’t been registered as a “no show” yet, we could change to another date, now this sounds hopeful! BUT…. The next flight with 2 seats is next Monday, do we want it? Oh Man! We can’t stay another 8 nights here. We take the cancel option, we end up with a $58 credit after all the fees. 2200 and our lovely JetBlue lady appears, she is heading home and offers, once again, to take us through. We decline the offer as we are just starting to get somewhere online (I am in the middle of the chat with Frontier) We find out later that we would not have been able to go through anyway, so nice of her to try though, she has been the only one.
Right, what to do, flight now gone, stuck air-side of the international airport in The Dominican Republic – not how we expected our day to go.
We find a flight for tomorrow with interCaribbean, leaving 1345 to San Juan via Tortola. $300 USD each, done! Booked! Right we really need to get out of here, we can’t check in to that flight while being on this side of the airport. Oh and I haven’t mentioned our checked bag? Where is? Did it go to San Juan without us? Will we ever see it again? No flight should ever go with an unplanned, unaccompanied bag, right? Must still be here somewhere. They would have had to off-load it. We hope to find it in the morning.
Back down to B1, no one even wants to make eye contact, it is so bizarre, the airport is basically empty except for the cleaners and these other people with lanyards, who knows what their roles are! We talk to one big fella, and he says he will go find a security guard to escort us out, just sit here and wait – this sounds familiar! So we wait and wait, nobody’s coming are they. We never see him again.
About and hour later we talk to a lady, who takes photos of our boarding passes and passports and tells us to wait there, this sounds promising! ……. We never see her again either.
Finally at 0130 a nice man comes to our rescue. We explain, his English is pretty good, and he takes us down the back corridor, down the stairs and into an immigration supervisors office. Oh my! She was not happy that we had missed our flight…..Why did you miss your flight?? HMMMM? Tell me! We don’t know, we didn’t WANT to miss the flight! Please Miss, let us go! She scanned the passports and scribbled out the dates on the original stamps and let us go. We are free, now officially back in The Dominican Republic. The nice man shows us where the Frontier office is to try to find our bags, they will be open about 0800. We find a quiet spot and try to get some sleep. Like that’s going to happen!
This is turning out to be a long story, I hope you are not bored, but the best is still yet to come!………
We are feeling really bad, really stupid. How could we have let this happen? We are experienced travelers….. what went wrong? How did we drop the ball so badly!
Good News flash! We find our bag! Sitting in the Frontier office, right, we are back on track.
Check in opens for our interCaribbean flight at 1130. We line up at 1100, 3rd in the queue. When we had good wifi last night I found a copy of the deleted photo of my vaccination certificate in Google photos. So we are ready.
The staff start appearing and the pre-check in girl comes to us and asks to see our passport. Can I see your onward ticked from Puerto Rico? What? Why? We don’t have one, we have a B2 Visa. You cannot fly today without an onward ticket Sir! Yes we can! They let us through yesterday without one, and the prior 3 times entering The States on this Visa! No you can’t, step aside! Can you imagine how we are feeling at this point – total disbelief! WHAT THE ACTUAL!! We go to the interCaribbean rep we had talked to earlier and he really wanted to help and listened. He was willing to confer with a Frontier rep to see why we had been let through yesterday, he didn’t get it either, but they didn’t open until 1300.
I ran back to the office behind the check in counters where we found our bag, and asked that lady to come out and tell these interCaribbean people that they had it wrong. She wouldn’t, of course – I get that. We are feeling so wrung out by now with stress and no sleep, we are probably not making rational sense. Anyway, she tells me that different airlines have different rules. You have got to be kidding!! Really?? Visa requirements and immigration are up to individual airlines?? Not the Government? This is unbelievable!!!
I run back to Chris, he is starting to look, with the dodgy wifi, at flight options to satisfy this supervisor so she will let us fly today. We put our heads together and find a flight on Frontier for end August, San Juan to Santo Domingo, $66 each, one way, no bags – booked! I could hardly get our names into the fields on my phone, I thought I had gotten hot and bothered yesterday……. Time is now running out, it is now 12 o’clock and we know from yesterday how long it takes to get through the next bit. The supervisor glances at the booking on the phone and nods, that’s it! Nothing recorded anywhere, just the “NOD” and we get our boarding passes and told to run! You are kidding me, all this time here and we are now running!! And what about our COVID certificates, they don’t matter today??
But wait, a bit more good news! The next bit only took 10 minutes today – perfect, straight to the gate – you guessed it B1!
It is the same as yesterday, total chaos and mayhem. The board shows 1 flight to Tortola, 1405 departure, flight number 0411…. We are 1345 departure, flight number 0413….. Really, not again!! So we ask and are told that there are 2 flights to Tortola, but only 1 on the board. Crazy place! No wonder people get confused. Anyway, this is getting too long, so long story/short…. This flight is delayed, so is flight 0411, people are arguing, getting stressed, shouting. The ground staff are getting stressed. They seem to be only using this one gate in terminal B, where they are trying to load planes at the same time as disembarked transit passengers are trying to come though. I lost count of the number of flights that got loaded from here, but we kept asking – we CANNOT miss another flight.
We were being so hard on ourselves about yesterday, but seeing it all again today and really taking note, it is no wonder we missed the flight. Total disorganisation, no communication, the information that was available was incorrect. Nightmare!
Finally at 1600, we board the plane to Tortola……
Ok. So we are all (12 of us) sitting in the 30 seater, twin prop plane, no AC until airborne, so hot, plane looks to have come off the arc. Doors shut, port engine starts, then stops. Captain comes out of the cockpit and tells all the passengers something in Spanish then opens the front door and the two side doors. What’s going on? Is the plane is broken? I’m just waiting to see the Roadside assist truck appear! Will we ever get off this island??!!
We do end up taking off!!!!
Beautiful flight over Puerto Rico and into Tortola, we stay on the plane while the other 10 get off, they load some more people, and we take off again. We made it – touch down in San Juan at 1900.
Entry into Puerto Rico – So simple – we have a Visa!!! Come on in folks, and why don’t you stay till February! You are aloud!! WHEW!
And our wonderful friend Lidia was there to pick us up – for the second time!!!
Quite the adventure – don’t ever want to do that again! Remember I said it was a quick 36-minute flight???? And it would be an economical destination for a visa run?……….HA!