So you would think that when you see a sign that says, "Mercosur citizens and residents" at the international airport in Argentina, that if you hold definitive residency in Chile that that would be the line you would stand on. You would also think that the $131 dollars in your pocket might buy you several nights of lodging in a pretty alright hostel in Palermo not far from the green line subte with a questionable kitchen but a nice little rooftop deck that makes it all okay.
But you would be wrong. It turns out that being a United States citizen trumps being a Chilean resident, and that your $131 will not be safely ensconsed in your pocket, nor will it buy you pretty flowy skirts at Sanskrit or nights at a hostel you stayed at or even tons of books at the used book fair in Parque Centennario in Caballitos or a world of subte tickets (they cost about 35 cents). Not even if you say pretty please and explain the situation in darn fluent Spanish to several bemused border officials, who advise you "You should get a Chilean passport," and laugh when you shrug and say, I guess I'll pay, it's not like I'm going to live in the airport.
(incidentally, you would also think that they could use some of the $131 to fix the leak in the airport ceiling, but apparently this money is being channeled to more pressing issues, and yes, I know, "we" charge "them" and what's fair is fair and blablabla, I get it, and have even written about it a few times (see sidebar) or this Matadortrips article. It's still $131, and if that doesn't make you blink then feel free to lend that money to Kiva or send it to the charity of your choice, etc.
In this case, instead your $131 will make its way into Argentina's coffers, and in exchange you will be given a fairly uninspired sticker which takes up an entire page of your passport, as seen below:
And yes, I put those swirlies in myself. I don't want to run afoul of Argentina, now that I've paid my $131 to get in (only charged at the airports at this time), I'd like to be able to come and go with impunity. And no, my middle name is not Barbar, but it's not a bad name, kind of rough around the edges, like a dog that's learning to read English, and sounding out the sound we use for bark.
But the good news is, unlike Chile's reciprocity fee (also $131, also charged at the airport), this one lasts for 10 years, not the life of your passport. The other good news is that Argentina is on the same continent as Chile, despite recent shaking, and I not only missed the big event, but also missed some impressive aftershocks on previously mentioned rooftop deck. And that was certainly worth the money.
Edited to say on June 9th, 2010 that the reciprocity fee has been hiked to $140. That's another $9 worth of beef you won't be eating once you get into the country, I suppose!