Country exit fees – What am I paying for?
Perhaps one of the most onerous onslaughts against the modern traveler is governments and airports charging fees to exit a country. These taxes often jump up on a traveler by surprise, and many people have been stuck in no man’s land with their jaws hanging, as they are being extorted with a final fee for the privilege of exiting a country. These exit fees have been around since I began traveling 11 years ago, but they are becoming more wide spread and vastly more expensive as they years roll on.
Fees to exit a country by air
Very often, countries either only charge exit fees at their international airports or the fees to exit by air are more expensive than at land borders. I began compiling a list of countries who charge to leave by air, but I soon gave up when I realized that just about ALL countries now have these exit fees.
Sometimes, these exit fees are included with your air ticket, sometimes they are not — the most horrible thing is that you can never really know until you attempt to go through exit formalities and board your flight. A traveler can rarely be sure if he is going to be corralled over to a little booth in between immigration and their flight’s terminal and money demanded from them to leave the country. Sometimes these fees are demanded in local currency, sometimes you have to pay in USD. If you don’t have enough of the right kind or enough money, what do you do?
I have no idea.
There have been times where I was positive that my exit fees were included with the price of my flight, but then I get to the airport to learn otherwise. I would not be surprised if I have paid some exit fees twice. It does not help that the official policy on many airport exit fees runs as follows:
“The exit fee is usually included with your airfare.”
Sometimes it is, very often it is not. If you are flying any type of budget airline, definitely expect to pay the exit fee separately; if you are flying a major airline, always be ready to pay the exit fee unless — even if it is clearly written that you already paid it on your receipt. Most countries/ international airports now charge exit fees, my only advice is to know how much it is in advance and to be ready to pay.
Keep in mind that these exit fees are also not chump change.
A rough sampling of airport exit fees
$18 to leave Philippines, add an extra $50 if you stay for more than 6 months
$25 Dominican Republic
$30 – $40 Ecuador
$50 -$70 Colombia
In 2011, Germany will begin charging an extra “Green fund” of €8, €25 or €40 depending on the length of your flight.
The list goes on and on.
Fees to exit a country by land
Many countries around the world are now also charging fees to exit by land as well. These fees use to be a dollar or so thrown at some immigration official — sometimes corruptly, sometimes officially. Now these fees are growing higher and higher, and are becoming ever more “official.”
The Dominican Republic charges $25 to go to Haiti, Belize charges around $25 just to leave, Mexico charges over $20 which must be paid before exiting by land or air, it costs $18 to leave Israel, $15 to depart from the Sinai border region of Egypt if coming from Israel, $7 to exit Jordan (possibly defunct), $10 to leave Haiti, as the list, again, goes on.
Land exit fees are often — unless asked for illegally by immigration officials — far more straight forward than the same fees charged at airports. When you go up to a border outpost that charges an exit fee legally, there will usually be a sign informing you of this, a separate cashier to pay, and you will often get a receipt. But this still does not answer the question of why I need to pay money to leave a country?
Why do I have to pay money to leave a country?
Imagine going into a bar, spending money, having fun, and then when it is time to leave being stopped at the door by a bouncer demanding an exit fee for the right to leave.
How are exit fees to leave countries much different?
I cannot figure out what grounds a country has to charge foreigners money for the privilege of leaving their territory. When you pay for a visa to enter a country, you are paying for something: the right to visit. What do you get for paying to leave a country? The right to go free?
These exit fees seem like just another move to extort a little more money off the top of a tourist’s budget, one last chance for a government to take a little more cash from you. Exit fees are a real kick in the balls for a traveler who just directly deposited a relatively high amount of money into a country’s local economy. What legal right does a government have to take money for nothing? They have the right to infringe upon my basic freedoms — they will detain me if I refuse to pay. Might is right, and it always will be. The strong arms of a government’s immigration control are stronger than me, so I pay exit fees for the right to leave a country freely.
Exit fees are a move through which a country can legally demand money for nothing, where the dirty fingers of government can take one last dib from your pocketbook. Where I come from this is called stealing.
As I have written before:
All exit taxes from a country are corrupt: you are just paying off the police to let you leave their area of jurisdiction. Just because some forms of extortion are officially mandated does not make it any less corrupt. Many countries refuse to let you leave unless you pay them money like a couple armed goons collecting tolls at a medieval footbridge.
“None shall pass.”
This is a ransom payment — I am temporarily held in limbo until I pay up. -Dominican Republic Exit Tax, Corrupt Immigration Officials
The world of travel is becoming ever more expensive as countries, banks, almost everyone who can, are nickel and diming whatever fees, taxes, charges they feel they can get out of international tourists. This is a trend that began a long time ago, as the dominant infrastructures of our planet view tourism as a cash cow, an unending pool of income — but today these trends are growing out of control. I do believe that these additional travel fees are going to cause many would be international tourists to just stay home. Traveling the world in the modern age is akin to running through a gauntlet of people, institutions, and governments trying to take any cut of your money that they can — by guile or by force.
Welcome to the world of international tourism: where it is generally felt that if you have the enough money to travel you have the enough money to give some away.
Special thanks to Craig at TravelVice.com and Dave from The Longest Way Home for their help in compiling facts for this article. Read Craig’s article Airport Departure Tax is a Greedy Annoyance for more on exit fees.
This article is part of a series entitled The Extermination of the Backpacker which is focused on current trends that make traveling in the modern world more difficult and expensive. Read the other articles in the series by using the navigation links below or at the top of this page.