Many South American countries impose a visa or ‘reciprocity fee’ when visiting the country. If you plan on visiting several countries, these fees can take a toll on your budget--especially if it is a family trip. There are potentially several ways to avoid these fees altogether that I will go into depth on below.
The reason these fees exist and why they are called ‘reciprocity fees’ is because the US government charges high (especially relative to the exchange rate and cost of living differences) fees for South American citizens to visit the US. As a result some of these countries basically made the rule ‘if you are going to charge us, we are going to charge you.’ There is much debate as to whether these fees are justifiable and if they are actually used to process a visa, but either way you should be prepared to pay them.
South American countries that charge fees to enter:
Argentina- $160 paid in advance on their website and it is good for 10 years. (From my experience you can avoid this fee by crossing into Argentina overland. When I traveled by bus from Santiago, Chile to Mendoza, Argentina I did not have to pay the fee at the border crossing. Other work-arounds for avoiding the fee is by taking international flights into Mendoza, Córdoba, Rosario, or Salta, or by entering overland from a bordering country (Chile, Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay, or Uruguay. If Buenos Aires is your destination, a popular option is to fly into Montevideo and take the Buquebus ferry into Argentina’s Capital.)
Bolivia- US$135 upon arrival. Expect to pay in cash, no way around it.
Brazil- US$140 paid with your visa application. You need to apply for a visa in advance, which is usually a headache. This can and should be done in advanced from the US before leaving, but if needed you can visit a Brazilian consulate while traveling or receive one at the border at Iguazu Falls.
Chile- US$131 paid upon arrival and good for the life of the passport.
Paraguay- US$45 for a one-time entry (valid for 90 days), or US$65 for multiple-entries, applied for in advance.
Suriname- US$100 as a visa fee upon arrival.
Suriname- US$100 paid for and applied in advance with visa application, good for 5 years for US citizens, sliding scale for other nationalities, same-day service in Georgetown, Guyana is a good option if passing through.
Countries with No Entry Fees:
French Guiana (Citizens who need a Shengen visa for France will need a visa)
Generally you will not have to pay the fee if you are just transiting through a country and remain in the airport. Even though these fees can add up, they are just a small price to pay for being able to visit some incredible destinations.
If you are a dual citizen and have a passport from any European Union or South American nation, you will not have to pay any fees when visiting fee imposing countries as long a you enter and exit with the EU or Southern American passport.
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- Well Traveled Mile