This article is part of our Border Crossing Report series.
Border name: Iguazu Falls
Closest major cities: Puerto Iguazu, Argentina and Foz do Iguaçu, Brasil
Cost for visas: US$160 for US Citizens (must apply in advance) Free for South Africans
Cost for vehicle: $0
Total time: 45 minutes
Date crossed: Wednesday April 3, 2013
Note: Visas for Brazil in Buenos Aires
US Citizens are required to have a visa for Brazil, which must be issued in advance. You can apply from the US to a Brazilian consulate, which we would have done if we had known for sure we would visit Brazil. Instead we applied through the Brazilian consulate in Buenos Aires. Which is here: Carlos Pellegrini 1363 or S34 35.537 W58 22.872
In order to apply, you must present yourself at the consulate at 9am sharp. They do have an online system for scheduling appointments, but this wasn't working. You will need a copy of the application form, your passport, a passport photo, and a copy of a recent bank statement. You might be required to have a hotel reservation and/or a proof of departure. We had neither of these, and they didn't ask for them. Note that when you complete the application your address and phone number MUST be in Buenos Aires. Use the ones from your hostel or campground if you need to. Just make sure they are local.
At the consulate they simply took our papers and gave us a bank slip. They told us to go to the ITAU bank and pay the visa fee, and then return between 12 and 1pm the following day. The bad news is that a visa costs US$165. The good news is that you can pay in Argentinian pesos and if you were smart and brought dollars with you and then changed them on the black market, your visa will cost more like US$100. See our Patagonia budget article for more info on this.
We spent a week in Buenos Aires in an apartment that was walking distance from the Brazilian consulate. We arranged our visas in 2 days and then spent the rest of the rest of the time enjoying the city.
On the way out of Argentina we stopped to visit the falls. We thought we’d only spend an hour, but ended up hanging out for nearly 4. They were pretty damn impressive. Mid-afternoon we headed out to the border.
The Argentina side was simple; we didn’t even have to leave the car. When we drove to the border area, a guard waved us to a lane on the right side of the road. There were about a half dozen small drive-up booths. We waited until one booth was available and drove to the window.
Kobus handed the lady at the window our passports. She flipped though, stamped and returned them. We drove out past the booth where an aduana official with an AFIF shirt was standing. We handed him our temporary vehicle permit for Argentina and said that we needed to cancel it. He said, “Yes you do.” Then he took our vehicle permit and waved us through. Consider it canceled.
The Brazil side was slightly more complicated, mostly because it wasn't immediately apparent where we needed to park. We drove through slowly and finally a police officer came out and said in excellent Spanish “Park here, go to immigration there, then go to Aduana there.” And he pointed to all the buildings. Easy as pie.
We parked behind all the buildings (essentially on the Brazilian side) and walked into the immigration office, signposted from the Brazilian side, just not the Argentinian side. The lady took our passports and said something in a completely unrecognizable language we now know is Portuguese. Then she pointed across the counter and said in English “Please fill out the form.”
We turned around to another counter and filled out tourist cards for each of us, then handed the forms back to the immigration official. She asked how many days we wanted to stay in Brazil. We said 90, hoping that Kobus would be granted this. We heard rumors that other South Africans were only given 30 and forced to extend at an immigration office every month. She verified that we had visas, then stamped our passports, stuffed the tourist cards inside and gave us all 90 days. Awesome.
Back outside, we walked to the far side of the border area (the far right if you are facing Brazil). The building was labeled “customs” in 3 languages. We went to the small window out front, but the official waved us to the door on the side. We explained in English that we were tourists and needed a temporary vehicle permit.
Kobus waited about 15 minutes inside. Then the official, took our papers (passport and title) and entered everything in the computer. He granted us a 90 day permit, but said it was very easy to extend if we wanted. We just had to visit any aduana office throughout the country. Other travelers we have met have verified this is an easy process.
The border official printed a few forms, stapled them together, signed them and handed everything to Kobus. He said we were good to go. We got back in the car and drove to Brazil. Last country for a while. Wooooo!
Best part about this border: Last border crossing I have to write about!
Worst part about this border: Eu não falo Português.