I wanted to go to Brazil and I had an opportunity but I wasn’t sure I should go. Going to Brazil was great but was it the right thing for the moment? I would be traveling with my brother in South America but the Brazil portion would be by myself.
By the time I decided for sure there were no appointments available at the San Francisco Brazilian consulate in time for my departure. I thought a visa agency could expedite my application but they could not perhaps because of high season and the coming Olympics games.
The agency could get me a same day appointment in Houston but that would mean spending extra money on a ticket to Houston and handing over $300 to the visa agency. Forget that!
Travelers get visas at the last-minute all the time when they travel from one country to the next. I thought why not spend that money in a neighboring country to Brazil such as Peru or Argentina, see a little of those countries and get my visa.
I was confident my plan would pan out but still I was facing a number of unknowns. I did some research including reading the Brazilian customs website and I found a few articles on the Internet like this one that gave me a courage to move forward.
Before I left for Peru I read and re-read everything to make sure I had all the necessary documents with me for when I would go to the Brazilian consulate in Lima.
I guess there still was some hesitation on my part because I didn’t buy my airline ticket for Brazil til I was in Lima.
The tricky thing was that in order to get the visa you have to show a ticket in and out of Brazil. But what if there is a problem with your visa then what do you do? My brother and I discussed the idea of buying a ticket and presenting it at the Lima consulate and cancelling it afterwards, then buying another ticket when I had my actual visa in hand. It was a little crazy but it was also part of the adventure.
I got my visa, went to Brazil and I lived to tell you about it.
But it was not without a little bit of stress and things that now make me laugh, like when I submitted a sexy photo instead of the proper visa photo to the Brazil visa website. I can still remember the man at the consulate in Lima, gesturing with his hand by his hair to indicate my pose in the incorrect photo.
I had dotted my i’s and crossed my t’s. I translated the Brazilian website into English and read it four times, but I missed a crucial detail.
In order to get a travel visa to Brazil as an American you need to have: (don’t quote me, check the list!)
photo, the type for a passport or visa
proof of financials (several months of bank statements)
credit card (I used my debit card, hoping the above was enough and it was)
ticket in and out of Brazil
address and phone number where you’ll be staying in Brazil
Once you have everything you apply through the Brazilian website, get a receipt of doing so and then go to the consulate and pay the fee in person, $160 U.S. dollars.
So there I was in an Internet cafe in beautiful Miraflores–a touristy and affluent neighborhood of Lima (my brother deemed it the fanciest he had seen in all of Latin America), it was only my second day out of the United States and I was tackling the project at hand: get to Brazil. I have enough Spanish to get by but it was a little crazy working with keyboards and search engines in Espanol. I had to ask for help to find an apostrophe.
I searched and searched and found the best ticket I could afford. It would leave next week and take me from Lima to Rio and then from Rio to Salvador for Carnival, back to Rio and then to Cartagena to meet up with my brother again. It included a 10 hour layover in Sao Paulo in the middle of the night and 4 hour layover in Bogotá.
- I brought a photo with me and but for some reason the Brazilian website wouldn’t accept the scan that the nice Peruvians had just done for me in the cafe. I had them scan it again. Finally in a desperate moment, to not lose my entire online application for the second or third time, I uploaded a “normal” photo taken right after I had been to a hair salon that I made small and the site accepted it.
I didn’t have an address or phone number where I was staying. I was planning on staying in Airbnb’s or hostels. And of course I hadn’t booked them yet because I didn’t have a visa. I couldn’t fake an Airbnb address because you don’t get the actual address til the reservation is booked. I had briefly looked at some gay travel sites thinking staying in a gay neighborhood hotel or bed and breakfast might be fun, so in the heat of the moment of trying to complete my application, I googled gay travel, trying to find an address and phone number of a hotel for my application. I found the site but it didn’t show a phone number and then the addresses were written in an unfamiliar way but eventually I figured it out.
I went to the consulate first thing in the morning and I waited nervously for a turn in line. There was a couple taking a cruise in Brazil and they somehow missed the fact that they needed visas. I was desperate but not as much as they were because there would be no refund from the cruise if they missed the trip. At least I had made to South America.
I got my turn at the counter and the kind gentleman gave me a list of things required and told me to do it online. I replied, I did it already, I did it already…and he went to go check my application.
This is where I messed up most of all. All the documents that you provide must also be uploaded to the Brazil visa website and then in person. I thought the documents were just for presenting in person. He told me there was an Internet cafe nearby that could help me. I went and had my documents scanned but the proprietor wasn’t able to answer any of my questions. I had to scan copies of my debit card, my passport, my checking account statements. I think I had a thumb drive but I didn’t bring with me that day and so the owner had to email them to me.
I had to trust that all would be well and no one would steal my information. I’ve been in this situation before when traveling, not with documents but other situations where I just had to trust that all would be well.
And it was…I thought about changing my debit card number when I returned to the states but I never did.
I returned to the consulate the following day after getting another photo taken and uploading all the documents. Once the application is in you need to wait about five days to get your visa and your passport back. Five days from then was Tuesday and my flight to Brazil was early Wednesday.
It all worked out, I got my visa and I went to Brazil. I’m all the better for it and it was a dream long in the making. This type of travel is not for everyone. I like the feeling of hitting the road and figuring it out as I go. After my trip to South America I am a lot more confident in taking risks and dealing with unfamiliar circumstances while traveling.
You can get your visa on the fly in Lima, Peru!
Join the journey–