The reason I have been posting a lot recently is that I am stuck in Lima waiting for a Brazilian visa due to a screw up on my part.
This post will be about the fail and practical advice arising out of it.
Aside from some stomach issues and dirty hostels we have not encountered many problems on the trip so far. There have been some close calls like when I booked the wrong dates for a hotel and intercity bus. In both cases luck was on our side and with Eliot’s Spanish and my worried face we were able to get the bus and the room on the dates we needed.
In both cases, the fault was mine and Eliot was very understanding. So much for slowing down. I often book things online using an iPhone and you have to go back and forth through menus sometimes to get the dates.
Lesson 1: Check, Double Check And Cross Check All Web Bookings Before Pressing Send or Pay
Our plan was to fly from Lima to Rio on February 27. We would spend a week in Rio with our friend Eric Jemetz. I booked the flights with Aeroplane miles and a great apartment in Ipanema with AirBNB. All set I thought, until Eric asked me if I had my Brazilian visa.
Brazil had announced that it was waiving the visa requirement for the 2016 Olympics. Only detail that I missed was that the waiver only commenced in June. Eliot can get into without a visa on his Colombian passport. So here I was on February 24 with 2 choices- Apply for the visa in Lima and hope to get it on time, fly to Brazil without a visa and beg for mercy when I get to Rio. Eric recommended the latter but he has a German passport that allows for visa free entry.
Visa’s rank very high in the hierarchy of travel arrangements. If you have a bad hotel, or dirty bus you can always change but for visa’s you are at the mercy of the local government.
Based on my recollection of the Brazilian jail in Kiss of The Spyder Woman I opted to wait in Lima. We filled in the application on line. February 25 we showed up at the Brazilian embassy to submit the papers. We were told that there was a five business day waiting period and that the visa would be ready March 3 at the latest. The flights to Rio at night so that if I got the visa on March 3, I would arrive in Lima on March 4 in the morning. This would mean one day in Rio as the flight out to Addis is on March 5.
Luckily we had extra visa photos, and photocopies of documents used for our China and India Visas including photos of all flight itineraries, bank statements, passports and proof of work.
Lesson 2: Check and Double Check Visa Requirements. Have Spare Photos Bank Statements and Other Visa Documents Ready
I told the embassy official I needed the visa february 26 and he agent indicated with a nod that it would be ok issued on February 26 and said he would call. That evening we checked the website but it kept indicating that the application was in progress. On February 26 we planned on showing up at the embassy at the pick up time regardless of what the web site said.
Well the web site went down and so at 3pm I went to the embassy. I was told that on friday it closes at 2 and that everyone had gone home. I looked at my receipt and saw that 2 pm was clearly indicated. More evidence of the need to slow down.
I booked a room at the Tierra Viva Lima Miraflores for the 27ht-29th. They asked to see my passport with the entry card and stamp. I had left my passport at the Brazilian embassy and the photo copy of the passport did not include the page with the Peruvian entry. The work around was to get the hotel to call the sister hotel in Puno to get a copy from their files.
Eliot and I moved our bags over. We had a huge lunch at Punto Azul and then I put him in an uber and sent him to the airport.
As he left to fly to Rio I felt quite alone for the first time.
On February 29, the Brazilian embassy called and I got my visa. I booked a flight for the same day on Aeroplan ($90 fee). I booked my hotel room until 7 pm (half day= half daily rate) so that I could rest before the flight.
Lesson 3- Book Flights That Allow for Changes Even if You have to Pay a Fee