South American Diaries, Part I: The Headache of Border Crossings

I typed this up while on my South American trip last year, and forgot about it completely until I discovered it on my netbook a few weeks ago. It was fairly verbose, so I broke it up into two sections.

Here’s Part I!


January 5, 2012

It’s been awhile since I’ve traveled solo, and my boots are dusty. When I returned from last jaunt overseas, my mind was sharp and I was up for the next challenge, whether it be logistical, mental, or physical.

Tonight, I find myself in Puerto Iguazu, still recovering after a busy 5 days in Rio do Janeiro spent visiting with some great friends whom I haven’t seen in over a year. I’m staying in a hostel called Timbdo Posada, a quiet place around the corner from the bus station. The vibe is good –  a comfortable place with an open-air kitchen; it’s a  warm summer’s night with a cerveja (in January! I still get giddy about this. Such a Northern Hemisphere-ian).


The view from Timbo Posada Hostel

My mind is winding down and I’m trying to regain my composure after a day of adventure of the silly, stupid, and breathtaking varieties.

Both Jim (my Australian friend) and I were pressed for time on our respective trips, but decided to make a quick jaunt to Iguazu Falls.

After a nearly 2 hour delayed departure from Rio de Janeiro, we arrived in Foz do Iguacu around 5:30p — too late to really do anything at the Falls. So, we sauntered around town, did some research, and came to a consensus that the Argentine side of the Falls the following morning would be the way to go. What’s so silly about that, you may ask? Border crossings. 

The process seemed simple enough: ask the bus driver to stop at the border to get an exit stamp, get back on the bus, and continue on your merry way to the Falls.

What we ended up having to do was more like this:

– Wait 10 minutes to catch bus headed to Argentina. ($4 Reals)

-Get off bus at Brazil side of border crossing. Wait 20 minutes to get through the line for exit stamp.

-Catch another bus, 10 minutes later, heading to Argentina. ($2AR)

-Get off the bus, wait 15 minutes for entry stamp in Argentina. (Entry stamp at border crossing = Free! As opposed to flying into Buenos Aires, which will incur a $135 visa fee for Americans).

-Ride bus to Puerto Iguazu for 15-20 minutes.

-Arrive at bus depot in Puerto Iguazu. Buy another bus ticket headed to Iguazu Falls, almost get scammed by the guy selling the tickets and almost get scammed in the process. We only had $100 bills, but the combined cost was $40 (return ticket to Iguazu Falls is $20AR) and the guy pretended like he couldn’t make change. We grumbled about it and he suddenly came up with the $60…annnd then we waited around for 15 minutes for the bus.

-Pile into bus. Head to Iguazu Falls – a 15 minute journey.

Finally arrive at Iguazu Falls. Wait 25-30 minutes in line for entry ticket as they only have one ticket window to service thousands of visitors. ($100AR for entry ticket for non-South Americans).

 Iguazu Falls 003

Even though we left at 8am and gained an hour crossing the border into Argentina, we didn’t physically walk into the park until nearly 10am. It could’ve been way worse, I realize- there were no logistical problems at the border crossing, so for that, I can’t complain. It was the constant hopping on and off buses that killed the clock.

The other headache was that both of us were changing hostels and had to move our stuff.

Ultimately, we made it to the Falls, and we had ample time to see everything. The constant barrage of small annoyances and inconveniences can really test one’s patience, just like it can at home: you’re driving to work, hit every red light, and spill coffee on your new shirt – “first world problems”.

So, if you’re planning on seeing the Falls from the Argentina side, I would recommend staying on the Argentina side the night before (or vice versa).

Author: Laryssa

Laryssa has spent 6+ years working on an assortment of film and television projects. She writes about her experiences to help (and amuse) others. If she's not working, she's either traveling, reading or writing about travel, or planning travel. Follow , Twitter, or Facebook.

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