The Brazilian Side

Trip Start Sep 17, 2007
Trip End Oct 08, 2008

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Flag of Brazil  ,
Sunday, November 25, 2007

Today we were finally going to enter Brazil.  Our last country in South America and also the most controversial.  I had planned the itinerary to leave from Brazil, and it was pretty set by the time I realized it was going to cost us $100 each just to get into the country.  So it was with some trepidation that I entered Brasil.  Was it going to be worth all the effort?

It started off really nicely.  We hopped right onto a bus going to Foz de Iguazu (the Brazilian town by the falls).  The guidebook said it cost a dollar and would stop and wait as you completed border formalities. 

It did most of that.  We stopped at the Argentinian side and got stamped out of the country.  We reboarded the bus and went to the Brazilian border post.  I went in thinking that this was how cheap and easy a border crossing should be.

We had to fill out a form at the Brazilian side and have our visas checked.  We did it without a problem and left the office.  The bus was gone and we were stranded at the border.  The group of Europeans in front of us had figured this out and were fleeing in some sort of taxi.  They didn't wait for us.  There weren't anymore taxis.  It was hot.  We were alone at the border.  The next bus wouldn't come for another hour.  Oh yeah, and we didn't have any money.

There didn't seem much else to do but wait.  Finally a taxi came zooming through the gate and we flagged it down at the last moment.  The guy got out and muttered something in Portuguese.  All my years of Spanish weren't helpful at all.  We communicated that we wanted to go to Foz.  We didn't know how far it was.  He wanted $10.  This is a lot of money considering the bus was 60 cents and we hadn't paid more than maybe $4 for a taxi in our travels so far. 

I got him down to $6 and we took it.  Our cheap and easy border crossing had turned into a mess.  He was very talkative considering we couldn't understand him and spent most of the ride trying to get us to hire him for the day.

From a friendly tourist office at the bus station we figured out the connections required to get a bus to Rio during the evening and go to the falls during the day. 

The ATM at the international bus station was surprisingly informative and extremely depressing.

It cheerfully informed me that the 800 reals I had taken were worth 449 dollars American.  this was at a 1.8 exchange rate.  The convenience fee was 8 reals ($4.50).  The Lonely Planet (March 2007) said the exchange rate was 2.2.  This meant all the prices in the book were about 2/3s of the actual dollar price.  Brazil was going to be expensive.  The bus ticket to Rio was 177 reals.  The book said the price would be $50 and it was $100.  This was the same distance as in Argentina.  We paid $50 and got a semicama with three meals.  To Rio we would pay $100 and get a regular bus with no meals included.  Welcome to Brazil.

The strength of the dollar is quite a popular subject these days.  Canadians enjoy pointing out their dollar is actually worth more.  The Taj Mahal won't list its price in American dollars anymore because it's losing revenues.  In short, we picked the perfect year to travel.

But enough about money.

We took the bus to the falls and paid our for our ticket.  No helpful map on this side.  We got on a double decker bus and listened to the audio guide tell us about the stops we made in English, Portuguese, and Spanish.  It was all very fancy.  The first three stops were for adventure tours.  It was careful to point out that these activities were not included in the price of the ticket.  Finally we arrived at the walk with a view of the falls.  It was 1200 m long, but in case you were worried there was an international restaurant, coffee shop, and five star hotel at the end of it.  The view over here is pretty nice, and at the end you get a view up the Devil's Throat, but definitely do the Argentinian side if you can only do one.  There is much more to do at a better price. 

Unfortunately we had to get back to our bus.  We made the connections required and were sitting at the terminal at 5 o'clock waiting for our 6 bus.  At around 5:05 the guy at the front desk found us and said that the bus was here.  We were hurried on and pulled away immediately.  We laughed to ourselves, saying we had had a lot of buses come late but never early.

It wasn't until a little while later that I realized Brazil was on a different time zone and an hour ahead.  We were extremely lucky that we made it there a little early and the guy came to find us.  And I felt pretty stupid.

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