April 24, 2006
As soon as I got up this morning, I called the Brazilian embassy to ask about buying a visa. I got a recording that said they were only open from 2-5, so I had to wait a few hours. At 2:00, I walked to the embassy, but was told I just needed to go "across the street." That "street" happened to be 9 de julio, the widest street in the world! After walking further than a football field, including the end zones, I was on the other side.
When I got to the visa place, I was told that they were only open from 10-1 for Americans. Another day wasted. On top of that, I still had another worry: return tickets. Somebody told me a long time ago that Brazil requires you to have a ticket into and out of the country in order to buy a visa. I guess they do this to make sure foreigners will leave before they run out of money and become a burden to society. Of course I don't have such a ticket because I'm a backpacker. I'm going to take a bus to Brazil, stay there for an unknown period of time, and take another bus out of the country, from a location that I do not yet know. I could see myself staying in Brazil for two weeks or two months depending on how I like it. I've been traveling like this my entire trip without any problems so far.
Nobody who was at the visa place knew whether I actually needed a return ticket, but I was given another phone number to call. This time I reached an actual person, and was told that I did indeed need to purchase such a ticket. I explained my situation to the lady on the other end, but she was unable to provide me with a solution.
The best idea I could come up with was to try and buy a cheap round-trip ticket between two places on the Argentina-Brazil border. I wouldn't be able to use the ticket, but if it only was going to cost $5 or so, I'd go for it. With renewed vigor, I went to Retiro, the gigantic bus station of Buenos Aires, to try to purchase such a ticket. The ticket booths in Retiro are organized by geographic region, and the "foreign countries" region started somewhere around booth 180. I looked up and saw that I was at booth 1. It was a long walk.
I asked for tickets at five different companies that sold tickets to Brazil, but none of them would sell tickets from anywhere but Buenos Aires. The cheapest I could find was a round-trip ticket to Foz do Iguazu for $80, a ticket that I wouldn't even use. There's no way I'm going to pay $80 in addition to the $100 I already have to pay just to enter the country. I'd rather take my tourist dollars elsewhere if I'm not welcome in Brazil.
Tomorrow my plan is to explain my situation to somebody at the visa place to try and convince them that I won't stay in their country indefinitely. If that doesn't work, I'll have to skip Brazil and go to Paraguay instead. Of course, I could run into the same problem buying a visa for there, too. Isn't bureaucracy fun?