I Have Never Been to Brazil

April 15, 2008 by

Places to Go, South & Central America, Travel Advice & Inspiration


Viator Tours to Iguzau Falls
Iguazu Falls area – Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay

I have not been to Brazil. That’s the official line and I am sticking to it. However, the reality is, I have been to Brazil. Well…

My trip was simple enough. After visiting the Argentine side of Iguazu Falls we would transit the very corner of Brazil to Ciudad del Este in Paraguay, where we booked a charming riverside guest house to spend a couple of days before taking a local bus to Asuncion. (That’s a story for a future post!)

Visas for travel

As any prepared traveler, I checked the situation for visas with both the US State Department and each countries consulate– Paraguay, check. Argentina, Check. Brazil: Not required for transit from Argentina to Paraguay. Excellent! Brazilian visas are expensive and I was happy to not pay this. I printed the information page from the consular website to take with me, “just in case”.

After several incredible days of hiking and relaxing at Iguazu, we hired a local taxi to take us to the border of Brazil. From there, we would transit by bus to Paraguayan border, walk across the bridge and take another local taxi to our guesthouse. At the Argentine/Brazil border, we were stamped out of Argentina with a hearty “Adios” and “Buen Viaje”. We walked through the no-man’s land to the Brazilian immigration office and presented our shiny blue American passports. The officer frowned and fired something at us in Portuguese.

Now, my partner speaks Spanish fluently and with a little improvisation can get out some basic phrases in Portuguese, but did we hear this correctly? They wanted $250 ($150 more than a “real” Brazilian visa) to transit for 45 minutes?? No way! We tried to explain the situation that a visa was not required. I even provided the printout that I brought with me from home – BAD MOVE! As it turns out, the US had just started charging $100 for a US visa to Brazilians and they were one of the first groups of travelers to be photographed and fingerprinted for entry. Needless to say, there was no negotiation and we simply were turned away. Dejected, we took a taxi back to Argentina and called our guesthouse in Paraguay to tell them that we could not make it – and that’s where the fun began!

Iguazu Falls, Argentina, Brazil

Shortly after our news, our Paraguayan hosts called back and said that they were coming to pick us up – on a speedboat! It turns out that the boat can motor down the Parana River and navigate directly to the Argentine waters without ever entering Brazil. Great! We were instructed to go down to the river area, where the boat would meet us. What service! We trekked down to the boat docks and waited. It was a Sunday and the normal ferries were not running. The area was deserted and a bit eerie. We waited and waited.

About an hour later, the phone rang again – the boat was not working. Now they were coming to get us – with a car. Again, we explained our situation and they told us not to worry. We would not need to go through customs. Intrigued (and not wanting to re-arrange the rest of the trip), we agreed. About an hour later, a car (with Paraguayan tags) arrived. We were warmly greeted by the Manuel, the hotel owner and his Brazilian girlfriend Ratina. They gave us a glass of wine and we chatted as we sped off toward Brazil for the second time. As we approached the border, Manuel casually turned around and told us to “crouch down on the floor”. It was then that it hit me. We were not being “assisted” through customs. We were being “smuggled” through customs and it was too late to turn back now. We did as we were told and Manuel drove through the commuter lane and waived at the guards. It was that easy. We were in Foz de Iguacu, Brazil! Manuel and Ratina wanted to stop in for a bite to eat. By this time we were a little concerned and did not want any more troubles. We asked if we could just continue on to the hotel instead. They insisted that we celebrate our Brazil “visit” with a drink. We reluctantly agreed and stopped for a glass of wine. Manuel also bought a bottle of scotch. This was clearly a lot of fun for them.

Our departure from Brazil was quite simple. Once again, we were instructed to crouch on the floorboards as Manuel sped through the gates. Our arrival in Ciudad del Este was also straight forward. Manuel explained that the guards may wonder why we did not have an entry/exit stamp from Brazil and he would take care of everything for us. He took our passports (complete with official Paraguay visas) AND the bottle of scotch from earlier. Ah-ha! Something to smooth our entry. Fifteen minutes later it was “Bienvenidos – Paraguay,” and we were back on track.

Ken Frohling

Editor’s note – Viator does not condone Human Trafficking, Smuggling or Bribery and Ken’s HR file has been duly noted. If you are going to Brazil or Argentina (legally), check out our full range of tours at Viator.com. If you need a place to stay, check out Hotels in Brazil on Planetware.com.

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2 Responses to “I Have Never Been to Brazil”

  1. Ze Says:

    I just LOVED this post. So so funny!