As regular readers will know, one of my pet peeves is the arbitrary immigration procedures that some South American countries impose on US citizens and some other nationalities. Argentina, of course, requires the euphemistically named "reciprocity fee," while Brazil requires advance visas.
I am not suggesting, I will repeat, that these fees and procedures are unfair - the United States and other countries require them of Argentine and Brazilian nationals. I do consider them foolish, though, because they comprise one more obstacle to the free movement of visitors (for the record, I also believe my own country should also make the process easier).
I was recently encouraged, though, to hear that Brazil has decided to eliminate visa requirements for a three-month period to coincide with the 2016 Olympic Games there. No doubt this measure owes a great deal to recent economic troubles, and the government has decided they could use the extra foreign currency that additional visitors might bring (those visitors need not actually attend the Olympics).
I don't spend much time in Brazil but, from my point of view, this is a big advantage for visitors to the Argentine side of Iguazu Falls - they'll be able to make a day trip or more to the Brazilian side (pictured above) without wasting time and money getting a visa. The exact dates of the measure are undecided but, hopefully, it will be so successful that the government will end the visa requirement - and perhaps persuade Argentina's new government to abolish the reciprocity fee.
Chile’s gotten most of the way there but, as my arrival photo above shows, Australia and Mexico are still on the hook. Australia has one of the most restrictive visa regimes among western democracies, while Mexico applies its US$15 fee to every foreigner except for US citizens within a certain distance of the border - roughly 60 miles, if I recall correctly.
BancoEstado Breaks Me…
Meanwhile, I’ve had one unpleasant surprise since my arrival in Santiago. For many years, the widespread state-run BancoEstado was the lone holdout among banks collecting a large service charge for use of their ATMs but, when I changed there on Saturday, I had to accept a 4000-peso (not quite US$6) fee for the convenience of it. Yesterday, when I used a private Banco de Chile ATM, the charge was only 3000 pesos (a shade more than US$4). BancoEstado may have lost my business, such as it is – except on Easter Island, pictured below, where it’s the only choice.
I haven’t tried any other ATMs yet but, in the past, charges have always varied slightly from bank to bank. When you do make a withdrawal, the machine tells you the fee, and you have the option to cancel the transaction.