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Monday, November 27, 2006

MY FIRST MONDAY IN BUENOS AIRES-- THE TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS OF GETTING A VISA FOR BRAZIL

I rented an apartment in Recoleta, an upscale Buenos Aires neighborhood. The apartment is great-- kitchen, bedroom, combo living room/dining room. I´ll do all the details for anyone interested in renting when I get back. I just wanted to share some thoughts today.

I spent most of my day trying to get a Brazilian visa for my 2 day stay on the Brazilian side of Iguazu Falls. Originally I had no intention of staying in Brazil but the only hotel on the Argentine side (IN the park) was solidly booked and there was a room available in the one Brazilian hotel in the park. If you don't stay in one of those two hotels you stay about 15 miles from the park. After I became aware how much Brazil discourages American tourists I would have put up with the 15 miles, but by that time I realized that there is NO WAY to travel from Iguazu into Paraguay without crossing into Brazil (visa).

I found all this out in L.A. when I got my easy, friendly Paraguayan visa. The consul told me I also need a Brazilian visa and that that takes between 8 days and 2 weeks. I was leaving in 5 days. I rushed to the Brazilian consulate immediately. They only answer questions between 9 and 1 and it was 1:15 so I´d have to come back the next day just to ask a question.

Eventually I tricked their Kafkaesque phone system into letting me speak to a person who pretty much admitted what I was coming to understand: Brazilians are friendly and like everyone-- except Bush. They hate him, like most people in the world. Unlike most people in the world, however, their government takes it out on Americans.

At least I'll know not to take anything personally! Long story shorter, I decided to get the visa here in Buenos Aires. Easier said than done. So many lines; I hate lines. But I waited in front of the building and then in front on a computer terminal where I had to fill out documents, all intructions being in Portuguese and Spanish naturally. Then I had to wait on a really long line for an hour or so where a lady told me I had to show a ticket in and a ticket out and needed the address and phone number of the hotel, etc. When I told her I was entering Brazil by taxi from the Argentine airport and leaving for Asuncion by bus, she said if I didn´t show a ticket I couldn't have a visa. No exceptions.

The concierge at the 4 Seasons-- the hotel is across the street from my apartment and I've adopted the concierge station there-- had a great idea. She called the hotel's travel agent who issued me a refundable ticket from Iguazo to Sao Paulo to Asuncion. Meanwhile I got Aerolinas Argentinas to send me an e-ticket. Back to the Brazilian lines. It takes 3 days to get the visa once they say OK. I had to make it by 1PM. I made it with nearly 5 minutes to spare. Of course then I had to go to a bank half a mile away to pay the $100 fee. Thursday at 4PM I can pick up my passport with the visa (unless they think of another reason to deny me access).

Europeans and Latin Americans don't need visas, by the way, just the people who allowed Bush to grab the White House (twice); it's hard to fault them.

1 comment:

Joe Max said...

Yeah, Brazilian customs sucks badly with braces. We (the Daft Punk tour) were INVITED by the Brazilians to perform there, and still we had to jump through flaming hoops to get in. And then they held up the band's equipment in customs, because the merchendise guy had miscounted the NUMBER OF T-SHIRTS we brought with us. We had to pay a $1000 bribe, oops, I mean "penalty fee", to get our stuff out in time for the show.

The Copacabana was like the Atlantic City boardwalk, only more rundown, with palm trees and more hookers. And the hookers are brazen, grabbing your hands as you walk past them and pushing their cleavage in your face.