I’m back from 2 weeks in Rio de Janeiro!

Rio is an incredible town – I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much variation in a city before. It’s a hodgepodge metropolis, each neighborhood with its own distinct personality. Being in Rio de Janeiro is like being in a world of its own.

Today, I’m going to talk about how I got there. And if you’re an American, getting to Rio is a lot harder than it might sound.

What got us there was this deal,
of which we were alerted by The Points Guy (a great website, by the way), for $562 fares on American Airlines to Rio de Janeiro from a couple different U.S. cities. The flight we booked (which ended up being a tad more expensive) was a TAM codeshare.

TAM is the biggest airline in Brazil. Image courtesy of airplane-pictures.net
TAM is the biggest airline in Brazil. Image courtesy of airplane-pictures.net

Overall, TAM is a solid, quality airline, efficient and with good customer service. The inflight experience was great as well – TAM’s economy seats are comfy and much bigger the American carriers’. It also helped, of course, that I scored an empty seat next to me where I could dump my stuff and sort of half lie down.

Another great thing was this, an amenity kit:

TAM Amenity Kit
TAM’s adorable amenity kit

Admittedly, there were only a pair of socks, a pen, and a toothbrush inside, but I appreciated the gesture. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten a kit flying economy before.

Aside from airfare, something that you need to do as soon as you can, far in advance of your trip, is obtain a Brazilian visa. Simple enough, right?

Not in the slightest. I’ve had to get tourist visas for more than a few countries. Never have I had to do so months in advance; never have I had to pay more than 100 dollars for a visa (okay, there was one time in Taiwan, but it was because my passport had basically expired by then).

Ultimately, we ended up having to pay $160 each for our visas. And if that weren’t bad enough, we ended up having to make three trips to our local Brazilian consulate. The first trip was to beg them to give us an appointment, since you can’t just show up (unlike everywhere else), the second trip was to hand over our passports (and money), and the third trip, the day before we took off, was to collect them.

All of this wasn’t the most horrible thing to go through; as New Yorkers, our consulate was a short subway ride away. But unless you live in one of these ten cities in the US, you’re going to have to make a mini-vacation to the nearest one before you take your actual vacation. Not so much fun.

You’d expect a country with more than half a million American visitors annually to be a little more accommodating. Why would the Brazilian government put us innocent Yankees through this hell? Answer: revenge.

The US has this nasty habit of charging foreign visitors (specifically, South American visitors) to enter its borders. In response, the governments of those South American countries charge the exact same amount. It’s only fair, isn’t it? Hey, at least our shiny new Brazilian visas are good for 10 years!

So, in the end, it’s our fault (well, America’s fault) that we had to pay so much. Despite the cost of visiting, Rio is a city that makes it all worth it.

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