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Rigging the Route to Save Money

As Canadian citizens, we can usually just show up in a country and get a visa free, or close to visa-free entry. Out of the 25 or so destinations that are on our list, there are only 2 countries that actually involve getting a visa in advance: Brazil and India.

However, there are a few oddities that we have to be cognizant of when planning our final route.

The Middle East/Israel

If you have evidence of an Israel entry/exit stamp in your passport, you will be denied entry into Algeria, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Sudan, UAE and Yemen. Additionally, you have to ensure that you don’t have entry or exit stamps from the Jordanian or Egyptian border crossings with Israel. From reports I’ve been reading online, this is checked and taken quite seriously, and there are stories about border officers even checking for luggage tags or stickers from ‘offending’ countries!

Apparently Israeli border guards may stamp your entry and exit stamps on a separate piece of paper if you ask, and not in your passport to deal with this, but it’s not guaranteed. It’s not something I’m willing to risk, so Israel will most definitely be one of the last stops on the Middle East portion of our trip.

Schengen Area

The Schengen Area countries, (not to be confused with the members of the European Union), areย Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.

Canadians don’t require visas for the Schengen Area and are allowed to travel freely through the entire zone, but only for 90 days out of 180. Apparently, this is cumulative, and NOT continuous. I sure hope so, because right now we’re planning on flying into Turkey and then heading by land/boat through the Greek Islands (a Schengen country), Albania, Croatia and Montenegro, before ending up back in Schengen zone countries like Italy and France, in August some time. If the 90 days are continuous, we’re basically screwed.

Argentina/Chile

Even though Canadians are able to enter both Argentina and Chile for 90 days visa free, there’s a “reciprocity” fee of US$75 when arriving at Ezeiza and Jorge Newbery International Airports in Buenos Aires, and US$132 when arriving in Santiago, Chile by air. If you enter by land or sea, the fee doesn’t apply. To me, this is a fee full of loopholes, just begging to be solved.

Rather than spending US$414 on reciprocity fees for the two of us, we decided to look at our routing and see if there’s a way around it. $414 isn’t that much money, but when you’re on a year long RTW journey, every dollar counts!

Instead of flying from Sao Paulo to Santiago and then to Buenos Aires (which would force us to pay the $414 fee), we could re-route ourselves from Sao Paulo to Montevideo in Uruguay – a country that really has a fee free entry for Canadian citizens. From Montevideo we would take a quick 150 mile journey and cross into Argentina by land. From Buenos Aires, we could explore the rest of the country by bus and then cross from Mendoza to Santiago in about 6 hours. By all accounts bus travel in Argentina is pretty fantastic, and can involve a fully flat cama (sleeper) seat and free champagne and wine.

We won’t have to pay the $414 fee, we’ll get to explore the country on ground level, AND we’ll save money on flight and hotel costs by taking an overnight sleeper bus! Is there any reason not to do it this way?

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