Gaining Entrée into Paradise*

Does this move you?

What about this?

Of any place on Earth, Brazil probably comes closest to delivering on the hype – for vacationers, at least – and I’ve lived moments here that were pretty damn similar to those evoked in these (absolutely amazing) commercials. If you come with the right attitude – and the proper documentation – you can too.

US citizens will need one of these:

And you’ll need patience. Lots of it.

Now, Brazil states that their tourist visa process reflects the process that the US requires Brazilian citizens to undergo in procuring a tourist visa. Both visas cost US$140 and are valid for ten years. The big difference, however, is that almost all Brazilian tourist visas are approved, while American visas for Brazilians can often be denied arbitrarily, after the person has spent months waiting for an appointment and paid the non-refundable fee. And whereas the US has ten Brazilian consulates distributed fairly evenly around the country, the US only has four consulates in Brazil – a country larger than the Lower 48. Brazilian bureaucracy may seem maddening to Americans accustomed to “efficiency,” and it is maddening, but remember that you have much less at stake than Brazilians (and many others) who spend much more time and money procuring a visa just to get to the Magic Kingdom and Sawgrass Mills.

That being said, check this list of Brazilian consulates to know in which jurisdiction you fall. It may be more convenient for you to get to Atlanta from Tallahassee, but as a Florida resident, Miami’s your consulate.

Pay attention to the information on your consulate’s website. Each office operates differently: some turn visas around in three days, others in ten days (NO same-day, so if you’re grown and buy your ticket to Brazil, then think you can swing by the consulate the day before your trip, you’ll be rudely awakened when you’re on the phone with the airline trying to rebook your $1500 plane ticket the week before Carnival). Some consulates require appointments, others don’t. Some accept mail-in applications, others don’t. Operating times vary. Folks, again, pay attention to this stuff so you know what’s required of you and the process can go as smoothly as possible.

Before you go, get three 2×2-inch headshots of yourself with a white background (Walgreens, Kinkos, wherever). You’ll only need two, but it’s always better to have a spare, just in case.

Your passport needs at least six months validity left on it and two blank pages left in it.

Get a US$140 money order from the post office (some consulates accept other forms of payment, but all accept postal money orders); there’s an extra US$20 handling fee if by mail or third-party.

Have the print-out of your flight itinerary (the last time I applied, the printed itinerary of the flights I had planned on purchasing was good enough; not sure if this still works). Airlines flying nonstop between the US and Brazil include TAM from New York, Orlando, and Miami; United Airlines from DC, Chicago, Newark, and Houston; Delta Air Lines from Atlanta, New York, and Detroit; US Airways from Charlotte; American Airlines from New York, Dallas, and Miami; and Korean Air from Los Angeles. Air Canada, Aeroméxico, Copa, Avianca/TACA, and LAN all offer connecting services through their national hubs.

And for special cases: “Any application that shows ‘self-employed’ or ‘unemployed’ must be complemented with a current ‘Balance Account Bank Statement’ with applicant’s name and address;” “if traveling by land, provide proof of financial capacity to pay for ones stay in Brazil;” and if you’ve previously visited certain countries, you may be required to show proof of vaccination against yellow fever.

AND DON’T FORGET THE ACTUAL APPLICATION FORM!

Once granted, your visa is valid for 90 days and renewable for another 90 days for a maximum of 180 days per year for the duration of the visa (these days, ten years, so I hear…I’m on a work visa, and you can read all about that circle of hell, here). And you’re not allowed to work.

But you are allowed to Get Fly in Brazil!

*Admitted hyperbole.

Please tweet your comments @FlyBrother, or email me (see About page).

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I’m participating in Vai Via’s 15 Day International Travel Challenge (though I might have to double-up on posts, as daily might be a bit unmanageable), and today’s challenge is to post about the favorite place(s) I’ve been to.

Berlin is fly as hell!

My favoritest city in the world is São Paulo, and since I’m now living here, that doesn’t count.

So I’ll go with my Number Two: Berlin. Gritty, soulful, and borderline schizo, Berlin mixes classically European culture (museums, architecture, urbanism) with a wild party scene, avant-garde music and art, and a cool friendliness that draws you in. And it’s cheap (for now). If it weren’t for those Central European winters (and falls and springs)…

Runners-up: Mumbai and Cairo – enthralling chaos on both counts!

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