Our original plan was to stay 2 nights in Montevideo. We wanted to see the city, but knew that there would not be a lot of things to see based on the research that we had done. The plan was to see the city, then head over to Punta del Este, a high end beach town a 2 hour bus ride away.
Unfortunately, we ended up spending a lot more time than we had intended in Montevideo because we had to wait for our Brazilian visa to get processed.
Getting Our Brazilian Visa
We had planned to get our Brazilian visas in Buenos Aires. Unfortunately you needed an appointment to drop off your passport at the Brazilian consulate in Buenos Aires and no joke, there were no appointments available for a solid 3.5 weeks.
We then went with plan B, getting our visa in Montevideo. From what I read online, it would only take 2 days which lined up with spending 2 nights in the city.
Determining What We Needed to Get Our Visa
There was a lot of conflicting information online about what you needed to get a visa. We decided that we would have the taxi drop us off at the Brazilian consulate in Montevideo which was a short 10 minute walk from our apartment. From there we would be able to quickly pull together everything that we needed and could submit our paperwork the same day or early the following morning.
When we arrived, we learned that the consulate was closed for Children’s Day. Yes, you read that right, the entire city, including government offices shut down for Children’s Day.
The next morning, we arrived at the consulate when they opened. I asked the woman who worked at the consulate, in Spanish, if she spoke English. This seemed to agitate her but trying to have the entire conversation in Spanish would have been painful for both of us. We explained that we had read conflicting things online about what we needed to submit and she rattled off a number of different items. I grabbed a piece of paper to write the requirements down which seemed to annoy her, she then handed me a sheet of paper which had all the requirements written in English. All I was thinking is why did you rattle off everything when you had this sheet of paper which had everything laid out?
She then told us if we submitted our paperwork today, that we would get our passports back in 5 business days – our faces went blank. I pointed to the paperwork where it said 2 business days to which she replied “the paperwork is not accurate”. Andy and I left to pull everything together, we were both super annoyed that the 5 business day delay would severely limit our time in Brazil as we had a flight to South Africa scheduled for the end of January.
Pulling Together All of Our Paperwork
In order to get our Brazilian visa we needed to provide:
- Our passports (need at least 6 months of validity and 1 blank page)
- A passport size photo
- Printout of our online application
- Proof of transportation both into and out of Brazil
- Bank statement which had at least $85 per day that we planned to be in the country
- 160 Euro fee
Only 1 requirement was an issue for us – the entry into Brazil. Since we did not have a visa, we had not yet purchased our bus ticket into Brazil.
This left us a few different options:
- Buy a bus ticket for when the consulate said the visa would be ready and risk being out the money if there is a delay
- Purchase refundable $800 airline tickets and cross our fingers that there are no issues cancelling it
- Create a fake entry ticket
While I hate to admit it, we chose the 3rd option. We didn’t want to be out any money if something happened and needed the flexibility to leave early should the visa be done before it was promised. Andy worked some HTML code from an old ticket that we purchased and mixed it with his Photoshop skills to create our “tickets”. Some might claim that this is unethical, but we believe that the government is forcing people to forge their entry. If I have an exit ticket out of Brazil, why does it matter when I arrive, assuming that I have the financial means?
Dropping Off Our Paperwork and Passports
When we dropped off our paperwork we were happy that we had a different lady who was much more pleasant than the first woman that we worked with.
She glanced over our paperwork and bundled everything together. Frustratingly enough, she did not take our bank statement which we had printed out, she asked for a credit card. When we got our Bolivian visa, we brought a cancelled credit card so our real numbers would not be out there for anyone to steal, but this time we were not prepared. I reluctantly gave her my Visa card which she wrote down on our paperwork. Several days later there was fraud reported on my card. I am not saying that it was from the Brazilian consulate, but then again, I can’t rule it out either.
We were given a receipt and told to bring 5,760 Uruguayan Pesos or the equivalent of 160 Euros to a currency exchange about a block from the office. The fact that the fee is in Euros really irritated me since all of the sites we read said $160. We could not fight this fact, but ended up paying $190 each due to the currency conversion of Euros to dollars. Once we paid our bill, we brought the receipt back to the office where we were “greeted” by the extremely rude lady we worked with originally. We were again told that they would be ready in 5 business days and sent on our way.
Getting Our Visa Early
Since everything that we read online said that the visa process took 2 days, I decided to roll the dice and drop in on the 2nd day after our paperwork was submitted. When we arrived, the pleasant woman that we submitted our paperwork to brought out our passports which had our visas in them. I knew that the first lady was in a bad mood and lying to us about the amount of time it took to process the visa.
We were elated since we were able to leave Montevideo the next morning. This was an amazing turn of events as we had an extra 3 days in Brazil which we did not think that we would have. It also proved that we made a good call by making fake tickets instead of purchasing real ones since we had the flexibility to leave immediately.
Our visas are valid for 90 days at a time and can be used several times over the course of 10 years. We are grateful for this as we can return to Brazil without having to go through the visa application process again.
Other Things We Did to Pass the Time
Binge Watched Making a Murderer on Netflix
I had been hearing a lot about the documentary Making a Murderer, a series on Netflix. We had tried to stream our favorite TV shows online before but everything was always blocked since we were on a foreign IP address. We hadn’t even considered trying Netflix but were amazed when it worked.
For those of you not familiar with Making a Murderer, it is an addicting 10 episode documentary about a man who was jailed for 18 years on a rape he did not commit, he then was accused of murder which he claims he had been framed for. We successfully binge watched all 10 hours over the course of 3 days. While we felt bad about being holed up in our apartment, we didn’t feel too bad since we thought we would have plenty of time to explore the city as we waited for our visas.
We did a lot of our binge watching on Sunday, which in South America is a day that nothing is open and no one does anything. The streets, which are usually full of little shops and carts on every other day of the week are completely empty on Sunday. The picture below is not the same exact spot on the street, but it is the same street.
Explored the Entire City in 1 Day
We were able to explore everything that we wanted to see in the city easily in the course of 1 day. The main attractions of the city were many buildings and statues which were all in the historical city center which was very close to our apartment.
This was my favorite building in Montevideo because the architecture was so different. The tower of the building had an interesting shape to it which you don’t see too often.
Old City Gate
We walked by the Old City Gate a number of times when we were in Montevideo. What I found most interesting about this was that the old gate appeared to need structural assistance to stay up so there was a structural wall built behind it. This allowed a mix of the old and the new, while not modifying the existing gate in the process.
This is where the Palacio Salvo and Old City Gate are located. There is also a statue of Uruguayan revolutionary, Jose Gervasio Artigas, who is regarded as the father of Uruguayan independence, although that goal was not attained until several years after he had been forced into exile. Around the plaza there are a number of souvenir shops as well.
When we went by it didn’t appear that the theater was open. We took a few quick pictures outside and went on our way.
This building was built in 1910 and showcases the French architecture that was so popular at the time. We had seen pictures of the interior online but the building was closed when we arrived so we were only able to see the exterior.
There was a pretty cool fountain that we saw here. It was also near a McDonald’s which had very cheap ice cream that we enjoyed while sitting in the park.
Andy Got a Haircut
Andy’s last haircut was in Cusco which seemed like an eternity ago. Since we knew when we left Uruguay we would be in Brazil where Portuguese was the official language, we wanted to attempt to get a haircut while we could still communicate, at least as much as our Spanish allows.
We selected a trendy hair salon with a younger female hair stylist. I started to get nervous when the woman said that she normally only cuts with scissors, which for some reason Andy did not hear. Her initial cuts with the trimmers made both of us concerned that Andy was going to leave with a bowl cut. Fortunately, everything turned out well in the end. While it wasn’t the most amazing haircut that Andy has ever had, we have a chance to get another cut in South Africa where English is the primary language.
While we didn’t have the most exciting time in Montevideo, it gave us some time to relax and recharged us for the rest of our trip. I know it sounds weird to need time to relax on a long term trip, but it really can be exhausting since we are constantly moving from city to city without much time to just relax and do nothing.
We got around very easily and cheaply by taking public buses to get where we needed to go – even waking up extra early the day we left to save a few bucks getting to the bus terminal. It took a little bit of research to find where we needed to catch the bus we needed, but we found the locals extremely helpful, often asking us where we were going and directing us where we needed to go if we were at the wrong stop.
Our biggest regret was not making a day trip up to Punta del Este, a high end beach 2 hours away, when we had the chance. Once we had our visa we were ready to leave as our time in Brazil was already condensed since we spent more time on other parts of our trip. We figured that spending time in Paraty, Brazil, a beach town in Brazil, would make up for missing a beach town in Uruguay.