It was winter in Boston. Cold, windy, icy, oh yeah… and I was diligently going to class every day, freezing my hand because I just had to hold a cup off skinny vanilla latte in my hand even if I didn’t have gloves on – I was always losing my gloves. The decision had been made, I was going to Brazil for spring break. Sao Paulo to be exact. I dreamed of escaping the February snow and arriving in the tropical Brazilian city. I had worked out the numbers, all I had to pay for was the occasional meal and my plane ticket. I was staying in my friend’s home in Sao Paulo, therefore I was getting to travel like a local, with a local. Perfect. I’ll soon be clubbing in Sao Paulo, beachin’, shopping, and eating pao de queijo (my mouth waters just thinking about it).
After all of that imagining, daydreaming, and talking about my plans, I unknowingly convinced my roommate Patricia to join me that week. I was excited. I never thought she would come with me, and my Brazilian friend was happy to accommodate us both. We would have such an amazing time! Right? For the first time, my Venezuelan passport afforded me an advantage over Patricia’s American passport. I could freely travel to Brazil without the need for a visa. Patricia, could not. She had to pay a 160 dollar fee for a tourist visa, and go through all of the bureaucratic pain of waiting. Waiting in a line, waiting for approval, waiting, waiting, waiting. I understand that quite well, after all, that is the process I had to go through when changing my status here in the United States, or visiting for that matter. Quite annoying.
We were two weeks away from our trip and Patricia was scrambling to figure things out. Guess what happened. It was too much of a pain to go to Brazil, she went to Puerto Rico instead. Where Patricia happens to be from. I went to Brazil, and did all of the things I mentioned. Although I did quite a bit more clubbing than I expected.
Even though the application process to travel to Brazil with a United States passport is complicated, and I imagine it turns away a few tourists from countries requiring visas; turns out, Americans still represent the second largest source of tourists for the South American nation. The first being neighboring Argentinians.
It seems Brazil is aiming to boost its tourism. In a smart move, the country created an electronic visa program. Now tourists can apply to their visa online. An E-Visa; which costs 40 dollars. Quite a difference from the 160 dollar fee. Since Brazil implemented this earlier in the year, it has seen an increase of 80% in visa applications for Americans. Not too shabby.
Of course, there are still quite a few people that would like to see the visa waived. Why is it that with my Venezuelan passport or most European passports there is no need for a visa? Simple: Brazil has a reciprocity clause. If you require it of them, they will require it of you.
Since I went to Sao Paulo I haven’t felt the need to return. If I needed to go through the process of getting I visa, I wouldn’t even think about it. The city reminded me of my own tropical city of Caracas. Maybe a tad less dangerous and a lot bigger – but the feel of the place was the same, and the temperature felt the same. Maybe one day I’ll go back and explore Rio and it’s beaches. For now, the world is quite big and I can always visit somewhere else. Brazil is working on becoming a friendlier destination for tourists who need visas. Perhaps other countries should take their cue from them.
Would love to hear your thoughts!