This was my most expensive and stressful flight, and was a true test to my continuing journey: a simple GBP132 flight from Barcelona, with a short layover in London, and then on to Miami.
It all started beautifully, with an early rise and brisk walk to the airport transfer bus in Barcelona…
It was easy to buy transfer tickets direct to the airport from the machines on the footpath.
The journey to the airport was about 20-25 minutes, mostly due to the lack of traffic.
We pulled up just outside. This trip cost slightly more than taking the metro, but the journey took half the time.
Heading inside the airport was mostly quiet.
At this point, I had really enjoyed flying Norwegian so I was looking forward to this flight. I love that you can check in so easily, and print your boarding pass from a machine.
Then it’s up the escalators again to Departures.
Security was fast and smooth, and I had time for a disgusting coffee before it was time to board.
Even though it was sunny in Barcelona, it was very chilly.
I like how they board the back of the plane first. It makes everything a lot easier. We left on time.
See you next time Barcelona.
It was a little bumpy on take off, but soon it was steady on to London.
Queue the Benny Hill Music
I had a task I needed to accomplish in my 3 hour layover in London. I kinda wished I could just relax for 3 hours, but this was not going to be the case.
So I headed to Immigration, instead of Transfers.
Immigration was fast, and they were surprised my stay in the UK was 2 hours, so they wished me luck.
I was headed to Natwest, my UK bank from when I lived in the UK, to sign some papers. So first I headed to the train, but trains to Horley were not very frequent, so I decided to take a taxi.
It was GBP10 and took about 10 minutes to get there.
And THEN the fun started. Natwest could not print my papers for me, so I had to run to the local library to see if I could do it there.
It was GBP2.50 to use the PC, and GBP0.25 per page to print black and white.
It felt like I was in the 90s again. Funny…
Then it was back to Natwest, where I finally got it sorted, thanks to an amazing team member called Tracy.
I was on top of my deadline, so I decided to take the train back to the airport.
Luckily I didn’t have to wait too long, and it was only a few minutes on the train to get to the airport.
Security was fast and friendly again, and I even had time to get a coffee before heading to the gate. The coffee was really nice too.
This is where it got C-R-A-Z-Y. The airline staff member at Norwegian refused to let me board, because I didn’t have a return ticket, even though I had an onward ticket to Mexico.
I have NEVER heard this before! Yes, it is as insane as it sounds.
Apparently Mexico falls under the same visa terms as the US ESTA, and requires all travelers to have a return ticket, to a destination not Mexico/ USA/ Canada.
So, I had to use my Australian mobile phone data and buy a flight ticket back to Europe.
First, I thought I would try a service previously suggested to me called Fly Onward. I went to the website, bought 2 tickets, which somehow cost US40.00. And I waited.
As the flight was boarding, it was clear that I only had 5-10 minutes before the plane would leave without me.
This was the most stressful experience in my journey so far. I thought about letting the plane go, but then I thought of the accommodation I had paid for in Miami, and the car rental I had pre-paid as well.
I then looked at the FAQ on the Fly Onward website, and learned it could take hours to get the flight. I panicked. I messaged them to please cancel the request. Which they have still ignored to this day. Very poor service and experience. Do not use these guys!
I then went to Skyscanner to look for a real flight. I ended up booking a flight and spending GBP450 (AUD$900) on a flight back to London, that I never believed I would take. I then also learned it was non-refundable. Bugger.
So, I just paid a lot of money, for a stupid visa rule that doesn’t make sense or support the lifestyle of location-independent, digital nomads who strive to obey all visa rules, while bringing nothing but investment into every economy they venture.
So please HEED THE LESSON – If you are traveling one-way to Mexico/ US/ Canada, make sure you have your return flight in the visa period sorted first, so you will not be out of pocket up to AUD$1,000.
At least, I made the flight.
As per a normal Norwegian flight, it was good. The seats were more comfortable than most, and the staff were friendly, and it helped make the 10 hour flight that much faster.
Soon we were touching down in Fort Lauderdale/ Miami, and it was the fastest US Immigration I’ve experienced. Maybe it was because it was a lesser-known airport. They were very pleasant too.
Then it was a matter of following the signs to the bus to the Car Rental Building.
The buses went every 5 minutes and the journey was fast. Soon I was at Alamo, I punched a few details in their machine, and soon I could choose my car.
I opted for a Nissan Versa – not too small, not too big. Then the Florida adventure was officially on, as I headed out of the rental garage.
Despite this horrible experience, I still like to think that everything happens for a reason, and somehow, these lost funds will make their way back to me.