Airport Departure Tax is a Greedy Annoyance
Many countries have the nasty little habit of charging a fee to enter or leave their country—as if the money a tourist or traveler will be injecting into the local economy isn't enough, you've got to pay repeated tributes to the local government.
Visa fees are upfront, overt assaults on your savings, whereas the sneaky airport departure tax is one that can stab at you unexpectedly, just as you're washing your hands of a country.
Not only are airport departure taxes a bureaucratic nuisance, but they can be confusing and difficult to deal with.
Travelers leaving via airports—the most common scene for such fees—have to consistently ask themselves questions: Is there a departure tax in this country? How much is it? Has it been included in my airline ticket or not? Do they only accept cash? Will they give me change back? Can I pay in the local currency, or do I have to pay in U.S. dollars? What in the hell is this departure tax for, anyway?
I'm a shoestring traveler—I take the cheapest flights, regardless. US$50 in savings on airfare can feed me for a week or two.
So when I'm asked to pay US$30.25 to leave Lima's airport—just for the privilege of using the airport—I'm angered. This fee doesn't exist at overland border crossings because only 1/10 of the collected money would make it back to the capital. Airports are easier environments to control, so governments gouge where they can.
Over 7.5 million passengers arrived, transited, or departed from Lima's Jorge Chávez International Airport in 2007.
Taking a hypothetical stab at the number of departing international passengers—say 35% of total passengers—that leaves us with about 2.6 million people who had to pay the $30.25 departure fee.
Multiplying the departure fee against the assumed number passenger departures last year brings us to a figure: $79.4 million U.S. dollars.
That's nearly $220,000 collected from passengers every day, simply for the privilege of taking an international flight out of the airport—an absolutely appalling figure.
The value of US$220,000 in Peru is undeniably staggering. What airport services could possibly warrant the collection of such a fee? We're talking about the wages and economy of a heavily impoverished, second-world country here. This is greed and corruption, fueled by opportunity, at an obscene level.
Please, tell me the departure fee is being used to provide better lives for the people of Peru. Tell me they're using the funds to turn desert into farmland, and favelas into communities with running water and telephone service. Tell me my departure dollars are being used to aid the victims of the earthquakes that perpetually ravage the homes constructed of dirt, sticks, and corrugated tin in the southern reaches of the country.
Tell me these things, because otherwise, all I see is a bandit holding me hostage at the airport, refusing to let me fly until I cough up the cash. All I see is governmental corruption, greed, and extortion, shoved right in my face.
Perhaps had they wrapped this fee up into my total ticket price, it would've been more transparent, like the fuel surcharges and other security fee nonsense I'm forced to pay for on each flight. But charging me $30.25 to let Aidric depart from the airport—an infant sitting on a lap who wasn't even occupying a seat on the plane—is absolutely unforgivable. It's shameless greed, pure and simple.
For me to have plopped down $90.75 in cash so that my girlfriend, our two-month-old son, and I can take a flight has really struck a nerve.
I've had it with Peru. I'm done. I'm sick of looking at it. I'm sick of dealing with it. And it'll take an act of god to get me back in this country within another 10 years, maybe more. Scratch off another country in South America that I've no interest in revisiting again.
Goodbye Peru, I won't miss you in the least.