Normally, you are expected to apply for visas in your country of residence. For example, if you are an Indian living in the USA and want to visit Bolivia, you’d have to apply for a tourist visa at the nearest Bolivian consulate in the USA. Most countries require specific dates of travel, flight booking, hotel reservations, etc. as supporting documents with the visa application. This is all well and good if you have enough time to plan and book your entire itinerary. But what if you are going on a very long trip, and need to figure the trip out incrementally? Or what if you’ve not had enough time to plan things out in advance?

In our case, we got confirmation of Uma’s selection to the Ernst & Young corporate responsibility program about a month in advance. That was just enough time to apply for our Brazil visas, and put everything in place to be away from home for a couple of months. There was no time to plan for our ‘after Brazil’ South America trip, let alone apply for tourist visas to each country in the trip. So we had to apply for all of those visas while we were in Brazil. We were still figuring out the trip details when we applied for the visas…we simply couldn’t afford to wait till the end…so, to provide supporting documentation, we booked fully refundable flight tickets and ‘cancel-able’ hotel reservations. For those who may find themselves in a similar predicament in the future, here is how that went:

Argentinean visa

We went to the Argentinean consulate in Sao Paulo with all the necessary supporting documents. The lady we talked to plainly stated that they had a new rule that requires applicants to apply from their country of residence. But we are already here! You don’t expect us to go back to the USA, and apply from there to have the privilege of spending our hard-earned money in your country, do you? The response: a shrug, sort of like “meh! a rule is a rule is a rule”. Can you at least check with your mother ship back in Argentina, and see if something can be done? She looked like she was really trying hard to force a friendly smile, while actually waiting to see our humbled behinds finding our way out the door.

Bolivian visa

Are you sure you want to go? Do you have a passport? OK, here you go. I’m kidding of course. Language was a barrier, but the consulate folks were quite helpful. If you have all the supporting documents (flight ticket, hotel reservation, bank stmt, passport copy, 2 photographs, yellow fever vaccination), the entire process takes about 2 hours. $0 fees. Valid for 30 days from the day of entry.

Uruguayan visa

Very helpful. We were asked to leave the applications, and supporting docs (flight ticket, hotel reservation, passport copy, 1 photograph) with them. They called us in 2 weeks saying the applications have been approved, and to bring our original passports to get them stamped. That took another hour. $0 fees. Valid for 30 days from the day of entry.

Colombian visa

Somewhat insane process. Along with the supporting docs (flight ticket, hotel reservation, bank stmt, passport copy, 2 photographs), they wanted us to leave our original passports with them for 3 days. This created needless trouble when I tried to rent a car without my original passport. We also had to borrow our passports back from them to fly to Rio (you need passports to fly within most foreign countries), thus delaying the process further. They charged us about $90 per visa, even though their website says $45. And their visas were valid for 30 days from the day of issue. This meant that these visas would not work with our finalized itinerary! Why not make it valid 30 days from day of entry like every other country?! We just gave up, and excluded Colombia from the trip.

Chilean visa

Very helpful even over the phone. Somewhat efficient in that they asked us to send all supporting documentation over email.  They took almost a month to approve, but they made sure we got the visa in time for our trip. Upon approval, we were asked to show up in person. They charged $60 per visa. The processing seemed a little paper intensive, where 1 form had to be signed and finger printed in triplicate. We were given 2 of those forms to carry with us, one to submit at entry, and one to carry with us till be leave their country. Currently being safeguarded with my life.

Ecuadorian visa

Super efficient. No tourist visa needed for Indians. How cool is that!!

Peruvian visa

Already have it due to the Machu Picchu trip we made in July this year. It is valid for 180 days after day of entry. Whew!