When Leaving Isn’t Easy: Airport Fees

In Brazil, departure taxes are usually included in the airline tickets.
In Brazil, departure taxes are usually included in the airline tickets.
The vacation is over. You’re wistfully looking back at the volleyball game in progress on the beach as your taxi whisks you to the airport. You’ve managed to spend just about all of your foreign currency except for the taxi fare, and you’re feeling pretty good about yourself. You replay the highlights of your vacation in your head as the driver weaves his way along the sunny coastal highway.

At the airport, you wait in line to check your bags, then, you’re shuttled over to the customs line. But wait: In order to exit the customs area you have to pay a “departure fee” — in the local currency. Uh-oh.

As you leave Canada, be prepared to pay a $10.00 improvement tax at Montreal's Dorval Airport.
As you leave Canada, be prepared to pay a CAD $10 improvement tax at Montreal’sTrudeau Airport.

Before you leave on vacation to any foreign country, it’s important to make sure you know about any potential surprise fees, especially departure fees. Many times your airplane tickets will include such fees at the time of purchase.

But woe is the traveler whose fee is not included in the price of his ticket when he discovers he doesn’t have enough cash to leave the country and the airport’s automatic teller machines don’t accept his credit card.

Some of the countries that currently require departure fees include:

Brazil : Tourists leaving Brazil must pay a US$ 36 departure tax, which can be paid in U.S. dollars or in reals.

Canada : Vancouver’s airport requires travelers to pay an “Airport Improvement Fee” that varies depending on whether you are flying to another destination in British Columbia, another destination in North America or a destination outside of North America.

Honduras : Travelers leaving Honduras can expect to pay an exit fee. Currently the fee is US$ 30.

Jamaica : Air Jamaica’s website, www.airjamaica.com, states you should reserve JMD (Jamaica dollars) 1,000 for the country’s departure tax, which may also be paid in U.S. dollars (approx. US$ 15.50).

Note also that some airports, such as Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro International Airport, do not let you spend local currency in the duty-free shops once you have passed through Customs, prior to your departure.

Once your passport has been stamped, you are officially considered “no longer in Brazil” in the eyes of the duty-free shops. If you’re hungry or just have some extra local currency to spend, luckily, there is a small sandwich shop and a newsstand that accept reals.

The best way to check if a country requires a departure fee or tax is to call the country’s local embassy or visit the embassy’s website. The U.S. State Department provides a listing of international embassy contact information at www.travel.state.gov.

Unfortunately, the details on the State Department’s website have not been updated since October 2004, so you should definitely check with the country’s embassy for current information.

Your travel agent or the airline you’ve booked your flights through should be able to tell you whether the price of your tickets includes a country’s departure fee. You’ll be able to enjoy your vacation even more if you are assured of a stress-free return home.

Shopping in Seoul? Save about 9000 won (Korean currency) to pay your airport departure tax.
Shopping in Seoul? Save about 9000 won (Korean currency) to pay your airport departure tax.


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