Brazil travel alert: ATMs are f#%ked.

9
Dec
2008

If I was some sort of sadist who got my rocks off by yanking the chains of people who expect things to work logically, I might have a lucrative career designing the ATM network at a variety of banks in Brazil. I went to no fewer than 9 machines today in search of one that would give me cash. Here are some of the oddities:

– In any bank, there are separate machines for separate purposes, such as depositing checks, taking out cash, and seemingly taking out different denominations of cash. Except when there aren’t.

– In some banks for some reason that eludes me, you can take out amounts of 100, 200, 300, 415, and 600 reais. What the hell? 415? yes, go figure. Except when you can’t of course, which is…sometimes.

– Sometimes I can get cash from a particular bank. Sometimes I can’t. Sometimes at a different machine at the same branch I can. Sometimes I can’t. Sometimes, another branch of the exact same bank will give me cash. Sometimes not.

– Sometimes, a machine will tell me that they are not a part of the Cirrus network, and therefore my card is not able to be used on this machine. Except that my card is on the Plus network, not the Cirrus network.

All in all, if you have enough patience and embrace the absurd, you should be fine. Except when you aren’t, which is sometimes. Like when you really need the cash.

Happy travels!

Visas nowhere I want to be

14
Aug
2008

This is odd. Upon checking the visa requirements for my upcoming trip to South America, I realized that I would need a visa for Bolivia and another for Brazil. These requirements are basically to punish the US for the cost and hassle that citizens of these countries must undergo to come here, and I think they are right to do so until the US changes its visa requirements. Anyway, I dutifully got my passport photos and filled out the forms I had downloaded from each respective embassy’s website. I made my way to the Bolivian consulate yesterday, where they told me that they had “run out of” visas for the foreseeable future, and that I could just get mine when entering the country from Peru. And when I called the Brazilian consulate today to ask about the exact visa fee, I was told that once obtained, the visa must be used for the first time within 90 days of issuance or it would expire. That means it would be worthless to me, and so I will need to get my Brazilian visa when I am in Argentina. Aren’t you glad I am here to share these valuable travel tips with you all (both of you)?

Bleary-eyed

16
Jul
2008

Took the redeye on AirTran last night to Indianapolis to see my family. When I did my online check in and saw that an upgrade to business class was only 90 bucks, I went for it figuring the comforts would allow me a pleasant night’s sleep. Nothing could have been further from the truth. If you are flying AirTran, do NOT upgrade to business class, it is not worth it at all. The seats don’t recline any more than in economy, they aren’t particularly comfortable, the service was terrible and the plane dirty. Add to that my genetic predisposition to be near screaming infants whenever on a late night flight, and you get an idea of the total comfort level.

Expensive. And crap.

16
Apr
2008

Travel tip to those of you unfortunate enough to have to use cell phone service in Mexico. In addition to having the highest rates in the world, the Telcel (near monopoly) network is also notoriously unreliable for sending text messages. They often arrive in a bunch, days after they were sent. That is, if they arrive at all.