This post is for people who are planning on traveling in South America, and want to check visa accessibility, cost, shot requirements, and want to know how to skip out of the normal visa requirements in Argentina. The Argentina stuff, especially, is from experience.
FREE YELLOW FEAVER SHOT in BUENOS AIRES:
You don't need a yellow fever shot to get into Argentina, but it is necessary for Venezuela and Bolivia, and it is recommended to have for other South American countries. You need to have had it 10 days before you get to the border.
When I told my friends about the free shot, they all smacked their foreheads and exclaimed about the exorbitant prices they paid in their country of origin. (Forehead smakers from the UK said it costs upwards of 90 pounds there. And $80 in the US.)
The Public Health Office:
Av. Ingeniero Huergo 690, (The corner of Huergo and Chile).
Monday to Friday, 10 am - 3 pm.
Just bring your passport in, give it to the Man, who tells you to sit down. 10 minutes later, he calls you into a room, gives you the shot, gives you a yellow piece of paper (cute! color coordination!) and sends you on your way.
I felt a bit wonky and tired for a couple days following the shot, but nothing unreasonable. The shot lasts 10 years, so you may as well get it for free, and save yourself the trouble later. (Like learning Spanish when you're younger. You don't think you need it until you do.)
OK - As far as I know, the most recent information on Visas as of May, 2010
You get a 90 day tourist visa on entry of the country. There's now a new fee for those flying into the main Buenos Aires airport:
"U.S. citizens coming to Argentina for tourism and business travel through Ezeiza International Airport [EZE, Buenos Aires] must pay a reciprocal entry fee of $131.00 dollars. Currently, the fee is only charged at Ezeiza airport. It can be paid in dollars, by credit card, or with travelers checks, and is valid for ten years and multiple entries." (US Department of State Website)
It's still free with entry into other airports and by bus/boat/car/bike etc.
When your visa is expired, you have several options:
1. Don't do anything. If you're planning on staying for a long time, this is definitely a feasible option. Stick around until you decide you want to leave. The fee for violating your 90 day visa stay is 300 pesos ($81 USD). I had stayed an extra 2-3 months beyond my visa, and last month, I traveled to Chile. When they looked at my passport stamp, and said, "This was from October." I said, "Yes." They said, "300 pesos." I paid, they gave me a receipt, and on I went. Very simple. A friend of mine did the crossing, and apparently they were so busy, they didn't check the visa stamp, and didn't charge him the fee. Apparently this is very "done" here.
2. Go to Retiro (a major bus/train station in Buenos Aires):
Someone's blog told me that "it is much closer and cheaper to go to the immigration office in Retiro and request a "prorroga", or extension, of your visa. For $100 pesos, and less than 2 hours, you are granted 90 more days in Argentina.... [but] you can only do it once. The second extension is for 30 days."
3. Go to Uruguay
A nice-ish vacation from your vacation, take a day or two trip to Uruguay. It's a 2-3 hour ferry ride from Buenos Aires to Colonia or Montevideo. Buquebus
The ferry trip to Colonia is 3 hours on the slow ferry and costs around 250-300 pesos round trip.
To Montevideo, the slow boat is 6 hour and 250-300 pesos as well.
You probably want to book ahead.
And if you're not really keen on going to Uruguay but are keen on not being illegal, you can try "tipping" the guy who stamps passports at the ferry office 50 pesos or something to get him to stamp your passport. It's Argentina... you're not going to get busted for bribing officials. That's how things are DONE here.
For Argentina, they required no information on any shots/vaccinations I'd had. (Which I didn't have.)
There are also study visas and work visas, and residency cards, which I have no experience with. Although I did go to the Embassy to ask:
"How long does it take to get a work visa?" I asked the man at the window.
"A long time." he answered. "And it's very time consuming. One of the steps, for instance, is sending your fingerprints to the F.B.I. so they can tell you you're not a criminal. That takes about four months," he raised his eyebrow, a seasoned veteran of the Argentine system.
"Ah..." I answered again.
So, basically, getting a work visa takes forever. You can try working for a company that will sponsor you, but usually you have to do your time with that company. I almost worked for a US real estate agency that called people in the states that said they'd sponsor me after I worked for them for 9 months.
Apparently, if you talk to local Argentines, they might be able to find a way of bribing an official to expedite your residency, work/study visa, or even Argentine citizenship. Haven't really pursued this option yet.
To get into the country, you need a couple things. As a U.S. citizen, the reciprocity thingy (we charge them so they charge us) means that we have to pay $135 USD. Cash is easiest.
I didn't have that when I arrived in the border city, Vicunia/La Quiaca, by bus, so I ended up leaving my bags and passport at the border with my friend, walking 10 blocks on the Bolivian side (very illegally), getting money out of an ATM, and walking back.
You need a 4x4 color photograph. (May as well carry a couple of these around with you if you're planning to country hop. Never know when these come in handy.)
You'll need to fill out a form when you get there.
You obviously need a passport. The Gov website says that you need "evidence of a hotel reservation or a letter of invitation in Spanish, proof of economic solvency (credit card, cash or a current bank statement)," but I don't remember needing that. Plus, I didn't have any reservation anywhere.
You need an International Vaccination Certificate for yellow fever.
The border town is terrible, (we couldn't even find orange juice) so make sure you figure out the days the train leaves.
The Bolivian visa is good for "five years from the date of issuance and allow the bearer to enter the country three times in a year for a cumulative stay of not more than ninety days."
You must pay airport/bus tax when leaving an airport. Bus tax is cheap. I think airport tax is between $10-35 USD, but I can't remember.
Apparently the visa is cheaper if you work it out ahead of time, but don't ask me how. (US Department of State Website)
Free, easy, no shots required. Great for day trips.
You just get on a ferry boat and get your passport stamped.
Entry by bus is free. Or, it was when I went March, 2010. Didn't need any proof of shots.
By airplane, the .gov site says there is a "reciprocity fee at the port of entry," but this might be just from flying in.
I didn't really research Brazil, so when I got to Iguazu falls and found out that it requires foresight to get your Brazilian visa, and that it costs $130 USD to get in, I decided to skip the Brazilian side. $130 is exactly what the US charges Brazilians to get into the US. Reciprocity. Hooray.
I've heard it takes a week or more to get your Brazilian visa, which you can do at a Brazilian consulate/embassy. You can probably do it online if you have an address to which it can be mailed. You pay, do paperwork, add a passport photos, and write an essay called "Why you want to go to Brazil."
OTHER MAJOR COUNTRIES about which I have NO PERSONAL EXPERIENCE: (unfair exclusion of Trinidad & Tobago, Guyana, French Guiana, Falkland Islands, and other islands because I haven't heard anyone who has actually gone to these places on their South American tour.)
Free, recommends (doesn't require) vaccination against Yellow Fever.
Required to have current Yellow Fever vaccinatin certificate.
An exit tax and airport fee must be paid when departing Venezuela by airline. for updated info, check the gov website.
You need to apply for your visa before hitting the border. You can do so at your nearest Paraguayan consulate. ($45 USD estimate as of info from 2009).
Departure tax on airlines is possible.
US citizens don't need a visa if staying less than 90 days. You need to get a visa beforehand if you're planning to stay longer. Unlike Argentina, if you overstay 90 days, there's a huge fine, and you can't come back for the next nine months. As a tourist, you can't stay more than 90 days anyhow.
Airport exit tax.
For a tourist stay of less than 60 days, a visa is not necessary.
Apparently, "Travelers arriving by bus should ensure, prior to boarding, that their bus will cross the border at an official entry point." There is the possibility of fines or prison if you are caught without proper documents. Also fines if you overstay your visa.
"Any traveler possessing a Colombian visa with more than three months’ validity must register the visa at a DAS immigration office within 15 days of arrival in Colombia or face fines."