Planning Brazil

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[Photo credit: Len Theivendra via Flyseestay]

In a few days time, we’ll be on our way to Rio DeJaneiro! We booked our tickets way back in January, when we saw an error fare, and decided to snag a few seats. Fast forward 9 months, and its finally time to start packing.  We are lucky that Caitlin’s sister also booked the same fare and visited Rio back in March.  She shared all of her itinerary with us so we didn’t have to plan too much.

Even though the ticket was cheap, not all error fares make sense for everyone. This one in particular had a few catches that may deter the less experienced. Firstly, these error fares fly out of Toronto (YYZ); so if you’re not located there or have a way to get there cheaply to start your journey, you’d have to purchase positioning flights which will be an additional cost. Since we regularly fly to Toronto to visit family, we’re quite used to the short hop, and decided to book an Avios award for our positioning flight.  For 4,500 Avios points and $5 each, we were able to get ourselves to Toronto to start the journey.

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Secondly, Brazil requires a visa, and it’s not cheap. You can check the requirements for visas on this site, and also get other information about what you need and how much it will cost. Those with a US passport, unfortunately, will have to pay $160 USD for your visa compared to $65 USD for Canadians or no visa requirement for Italians. US citizens are charged a higher reciprocity fees, since Brazilians are charged the same amount to visit the States.   Since Caitlin has a Canadian passport, and I have both a US and Italian one, this became less of an issue, but if each person only had a US passport, that would have added $320 USD to the cost of the trip. We went online to fill out the form and book an appointment for Caitlin’s visa.  The appointment slots fill up fast, so make sure to reserve way in advance.

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On the day of the appointment, Caitlin went to the consulate to drop off the application. Upon entry, there are two automated machines where you can sign in to get a number. You then proceed into a big room to wait for your number to be called. Even though the room is full of people, the process went pretty quickly and in about 15 minutes after arriving, Caitlin was called.  She gave them all her documentation, and was given a ticket to come back in a month to pick up the passport with the visa. Yes it takes a month! So plan accordingly.

Finally, we’d be using throwaway ticketing. The flights we purchased for the error fare originated from YYZ to GIG with a stopover in JFK both on the outbound and the return. Since we are from New York, we plan to not take the last leg of the journey from JFK back to YYZ. This only works because JFK is our port of entry in the US. At the port of entry, all checked baggage would have to be offloaded, screened at customs, and then rechecked back onto the final flight. However, once we go through customs, we plan to just exit the airport with our bags and not take the last leg. Another word of caution, airlines tend to not like this, so don’t do it too often, or you risk having your frequent flyer account frozen. If, for instance, we stopped in Miami on the return leg instead of JFK, we would have our luggage scanned and rechecked in Miami and sent directly to Toronto. Obviously, if you wanted to get out at JFK, that would then be an issue.

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[photo credit: Sheraton Rio]

For hotels in Rio, we didn’t want to venture to far from our tried and true Starwood program. So we booked a room at the Sheraton right near the Leblon/Ipanema beaches.  Since we still a have some status with Sheraton, we’ll be able to make good use of the early check-in, and late check out privileges. Hopefully an upgrade to a ocean-view room will be in the cards as well.  There aren’t many other Starwood properties in Rio, so the decision was between this Sheraton or searching for another hotel deal online. Since at staying with my preferred program comes with the benefits and also builds points, its wasn’t a difficult decision.

The error fare we book at the beginning of the year will make for a nice long Labor Day weekend jaunt. We will be in Rio for four days, which should be enough time to explore the city. It should be a fun exciting trip full of caipirinha, good food and hang gliding. Check back later this week for updates and pictures from our On the Road in Rio posts.

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