Hasta Luego, Uruguay. Oi, Brasil!

And, about 6 months later than we expected, we are finally crossing into Brazil. The good news is, exiting Uruguay and entering Brazil was a pretty painless process. The Uruguayan officials are so laid-back, that it reminded us why we liked the country so much. And, we even saw our Westy buddy again – he’s a teacher in Chuy and has to come through this checkpoint every day.

The town of Chuy (Uruguay)/ Chui (Brazil) is a market town, and contains some duty free shopping on the main street that divides the countries. Interestingly, the entire town(s) is between the migration offices for each country. It’s a no-man’s land. We had been without Uruguayan pesos for a few days (there are no ATMs from La Paloma to Chuy), knowing we were about to cross into Brazil. Not a huge problem, but we were ready to refill the pantry and get some fresh food. We were down to the canned stuff. So, we sent Jason off to the ATM, while Bode and I manned the bus. He was gone an unusually long time, and Bode had been eyeing the pancho stand near us and I’d promised him one when Jason got back with some Brazilian reales.

When he finally returned, he had the bad news. He was unable to get any money. He went to 3 banks and tried maybe 8 different ATM machines inside the banks*. Each time he got different errors: ‘unable to process’, ‘communication error’ and one machine even went blank and reset itself. Finally, he got ‘denied’. We pulled out the laptop and found that we actually had a wi-fi signal so we immediately checked our bank account. About $400 dollars had been taken out of the account. We called our bank, and although a withdrawal showed up in our account, it hadn’t fully processed, so they weren’t able to do anything. But, they helpfully informed us that we would now be denied on subsequent attempts because we were over our daily limit. Now that we had some time to think about all the attempts and the weird machine behavior, we started to get nervous. We decided not to try my card and we would wait it out and go to the next town. Luckily, we had some US dollars with us and we exchanged those. The first time on the trip the emergency stash was necessary.

We had high hopes of finding all the little things we needed really cheap here. But, nearly all the shops carried the absolute lowest quality crap. The only decent store was an airport-quality, fancy-pants duty-free shop at the end of the street. I think there may have been good deals on LaCoste clothing, perfume and makeup, but no car batteries or motor oil. We didn’t have much money anyway, so we spent a portion of what we had on a bottle of Jim Beam (which we haven’t seen since the duty free in Punta Arenas, Chile), Bode’s hot dog (he wasn’t going to let us forget that), and gasoline (we are thrilled to be spending only $6 USD/gallon now) and took off for the Brazilian immigration.

Our Brazilian visas, obtained six months ago, are still valid. Whew. We were actually a little worried about that – we had heard stories. The officials were nice, and one spoke some English. Getting the car in was a breeze – just the title and driver’s license was required. Again, we had heard stories of problems.  And, there was no food inspection (or any inspection at all). As Americans, we get 90 days. We can request an additional 90 days at any Federal Police station. Apparently, 180 consecutive days per year is the absolute maximum time we’re allowed in the country. If anyone knows ways around this, please let us know.

Then, we were off to the next sizable town – Cassino.

This gave us a few hours to build up anxiety over the ATM deabacle. We were eager to check our accounts again. We opened up the Brazil guidebook and found this little unhelpful nugget:

One of the biggest scams to watch out for is people hacking into your bank account after you use an ATM machine. There have been many reports of this by travelers throughout Brazil.

– Lonely Planet guide.

Spotting roadside capybaras took our mind of of it for a little while. Later, we found wi-fi in Cassino and learned that Jason’s account had been suspended due to ‘fraudulent activity’.

We passed a couple of closed campsites (still off-season) before we saw a guard inside one of them. I got out and asked (in Spanish) if there was camping. Well, I learned the hard way that the Brazilians do not like you to speak Spanish to them. He gave me the business. Something about, “If you Uruguayans are going to come here, you need to learn the damn language.  Jackasses.” Something like that. We told him we weren’t from Uruguay. “Argentina?” No, Estados Unidos. Since we weren’t one of the two major offenders, it softened him up a little, and he told me to learn Portuguese and gave us directions to an open campground.

By the time we got there, we were deflated. Our first day in Brazil, and we’d already been scammed (maybe) and scolded in Portuguese. This is the kind of night you’ve just got to pull out the Ramen noodles and go to bed. Tomorrow’s plan: deal with the ATM card mess, get money, buy real food.

*we’ve consistently only used ATMs that are physically inside a bank for 3.5 years with no issues until now.

14 thoughts on “Hasta Luego, Uruguay. Oi, Brasil!

  • December 13, 2012 at 7:31 AM

    Can totally relate to the healing properties of ramen noodles! 😉

  • December 14, 2012 at 12:53 AM

    Right now, i am very jelous of you, Brasil with a vw. Ill continue to dream on. But yeah have a good time!

  • December 14, 2012 at 7:00 PM

    Sorry to hear about the problems in Brazil, but unfortunately is the place in South America you will need to keep your eyes open more.
    Brasil is definetely more violent and more scams around than anywhere else.
    Road tripping and camping is not as popular in Brasil as other countries because the general very poor/unsanitary facilities most of the camping grounds have, and been vunerable to any sort of violence that can happen (theft and worse). Camping in Brasil it is seemed as a ”a way of travelling for beggars” by the general public in the country unfortunately.

    I don’t recommend doing free camping anywhere, if you need to stop for a sleep choose to park at a service/gas station that is manned 24/7, they usually have showers/toilets for the truck drivers and conditions are poor but managable.
    Going north up until Sao Paulo state the conditions are resonably ok re violence and roads, anywhere north from Sao Paulo it gets from bad to worse.

    I will be in Sao Paulo travelling down to Montevideo from the 2nd of January onwards, have family and relatives in Sao Paulo and in RS, so in case you need assistance (parts, a shelter or need to use a washing machine please give me a buzz will be a pleasure to help).


  • December 16, 2012 at 5:05 PM

    Hot dogs and Jim Beam! Simon would like that.

  • December 16, 2012 at 8:06 PM

    Gosh, we haven’t been even that careful with ATMs… Although: most of the time (like 95%) we used only ATMs right at a bank during business hours (so in case of a problem we could go in and ask for assistance).
    We didn’t find the Brazilians all that difficult to speak Spanish to, but we were always at a loss when they replied in Portuguese… 🙁 You will also find a large proportion of people who speak English, and (in our case) some old-fashioned German.
    Enjoy: most people are really friendly and warm!

  • February 18, 2013 at 7:51 AM

    Well, my name’s Guilherme, i’m brazilian and i met about you at hypeness.com.br.

    One of my dreams is to do what you are doing, so if you come to Recife (Pernambuco) feel free to make contact if you need something or just for a talk.

    We have a beautiful country but still with violence, so beware!
    Good Trip

  • March 6, 2013 at 6:43 AM

    Se precisarem de algo, podem contar comigo e com os meus bons.
    Moramos na região dos grandes lagos, sudeste do estado de São Paulo, mais especificamente em Fernandópolis – SP.
    Precisando, não se acanhem. Ok?

  • March 6, 2013 at 6:43 AM

    Perdão, noroeste do estado de SP.

  • May 14, 2013 at 2:52 PM

    Hello Everybody,

    My name is Avelino Bulbol, I am president of the old car club and friend of former President Humberto Horta VW Beetle Club, we are willing to help you in this fantastic adventure.

    I own along with my family in a hotel, have a garage to be used for mechanical repairs on your car, can do a great price for you following an excellent breakfast, and we will show you the beauty of our city.

    We are willing to help in any way possible, below is the address of the hotel along with my cell phone number.

    Krystal Hotel

    Rua Barroso, 54 (54,Barroso Street)
    Centro (Downtown)
    Phone> 3233-6800

    Avelino Bulbol
    Phone> 9116-4168

  • July 25, 2013 at 3:59 PM

    apesar de ler muito pouco em ingels mas as imagem diz tudo bods

  • July 25, 2013 at 4:02 PM

    sou mecanico de altomaoveis estou a sua inteira diposiçao moro em santana de parnaiba sp

  • March 8, 2015 at 8:02 PM

    Oh, did you guys cross Santa Catarina without visit our beachs?! OMG, they are the best in the whole country ‘-‘

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