Honduras is a long way from Jamaica. As the crow flies not so bad, but by plane it will be back to Miami, then on to Jamaica. It means I’m flying over Cuba four times for CampKDE. This week I’m visiting my brother in Tegu and the calendar is full of touristy activities like hiking in a cloud forest and swimming in the Pacific.
To some extent I’m an advance man, although Jos will beat me to the actual conference location. Assuming that most EU visitors to CampKDE (there’s about eight of them, I think) are flying through Miami, I have the following bits of advice:
- Miami Int’l Airport is kind of boring; moreso than, say, Heathrow terminal 3.
- The best food seems to be at Versailles Cafe, around gate D42; the empanadas and the Cuban pastries are nice, at any rate. Get the guava and cheese one for $1.15 (plus tax).
- Sales tax is added to the list price; this confuses me every time I leave the EU where all the taxes are already in the price on the shelf.
- There’s a cash machine if you walk towards the North terminal, that’s away from D46 towards D20 or so. It might spit out some green with your EU cash card.
There’s also one possibly very important thing for travelers from the EU: the US Visa Waiver programme (that green card they staple in to your passport) is being extended with something called ESTA. There’s a decent explanation up on the British Airways website, which links to the ESTA servers. Basically the ESTA means you fill in the information you would have filled out on the green card again, but now in advance and it spits out a number for your authorization. I did it and it’s about a 15-minute annoyance; I didn’t check if it worked in Konqueror, but fonts and layout were kind of buggered in Firefox.
Anyway, I still write “possibly” in the previous paragraph because noone I spoke to en-route could actually tell me when the deadlines for ESTA registrations for new travelers were, when it was going to come into effect and how strict it would be. The BA counter in Amsterdam said “December 30th,” but the other lady present said “not until the 16th” and regardless they had no information on how it was going to be handled anyway (I had a lousy printout with my 30-digit number on it). In London they said it “wasn’t in operation yet” and in New York (wait, did I mention I had a horrifically convoluted flight schedule to get to Honduras?) the DHS lady at the border said “I think from the 23rd, but we haven’t had any instructions on it yet.”
So there you have it: some kind of additional administrative burden is being placed on travelers from the EU, right across the CampKDE timeframe, but noone can say just how it’s going to work. It must be said that the DHS lady I spoke with was as kind as possible and that the 10-minutes-per-passenger processing time was largely because of computer slowness, but it strikes me as another way to introduce arbitrariness and annoyance into an already unpleasant means to travel.
One last thing: when flying out, check with the airline desk to have the green stapled card removed – or not. My agent said that if I was out of the US for less than seven days, they’d leave it in. I don’t know what that means on return to the US, though; I doubt it will get you anywhere faster.