Having completed our 6-hour flight from New York’s JFK to Los Angeles’ LAX, we were thrilled that our travels to Samoa would include a 14-hour layover in Sydney, Australia! Even the fact that the land down under waited on the other side of nearly 15-hour flight couldn’t temper the excitement.
Upon arrival at Virgin Australia’s check-in counter, however, our plans to explore the world-famous opera house, harbor-side gardens and all things “g-day” were suddenly thrown into jeopardy. As it turns out, visiting Sydney for 14 hours was going to cost us – if we could get there at all. US citizens are required to have an Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) prior to arrival in Australia; a fact we had overlooked. We’ve enjoyed similar “lay-over” visits to Prague, Paris, and Fiji in the past, and didn’t anticipate needing more than a smile and a ticket onward to Samoa to see us out the airport doors.
“What about a transit visa, or something?”
The agent didn’t think that was a possibility, so we quickly checked online. As it turns out, only stays of 8 hours or less without leaving the airport qualify for a transit visa. Otherwise, an ETA is required. Luckily, Virgin Australia was able to arrange ETA’s for us on the spot. Yay!
For a fee. Bummer.
In the end, we were cleared to board and our visit to Sydney only cost us an extra $2.50 per person. Per hour. Ouch!
Was it worth it? Probably. Sydney is beautiful, friendly and exciting. Not to mention playing host to what stands as our all-time favorite family picture (see below).
“Thanks, Sydney! We’ll come again when we can stay longer.”