It was time to cross the border from Brazil to Uruguay, and having conquered the mighty Andes mountains and the vast Paraná river in previous border crossings, what could lie in wait for us here….
.. a street to walk across…
Yes, the border of Uruguay/Brazil that we were crossing was actually a street in the MIDDLE OF A TOWN. Now call me crazy, but putting international borders in the middle of towns seems like a daft idea to me, but then what do I know… it kind of works in this place.
The town is like a single town, but with a split identity. The Brazilian part is called Chui, and the Uruguayan part is called Chuy. Prices are in both Brazilian and Uruguayan currency, and also US dollars in some places. Signs are in both Portuguese and Spanish, or one or the other. Everyone sort of speaks both languages (except for the tourists).
The official border runs pretty much through the middle of the town along a main street, with one side of the street in Brazil and the other side in Uruguay. Check out CC as she stands in TWO COUNTRIES AT THE SAME TIME!
The border street is called Avenida Uruguai on the Brazil side, and Avenida Brasil on the Uruguay side… yes, they don’t like to make it easy….
The whole set up is mildly confusing, but as both Brazilians and Uruguayans are allowed to come here without any border control, it’s full of cheap Brazilian supermarkets for Uruguayans, and for Brazilians, duty free shops and gambling! Yes, no gambling allowed in Brazil, so you can come to the Uruguayan side to play the slot machines!
The final confusing part of the whole thing, is that for half of the year, the two sides of town are in DIFFERENT TIME ZONES.. Yep, daylight savings time in Brazil, not in Uruguay, so when you cross the road, you lose an hour. Well, somehow the buses still manage to leave on time (ish)
So, how does border control work? Well….. very well indeed from our point of view! We started from Pelotas, Brazil, and bought a bus ticket to Chui, Brazil. The trip is about 4 hours, and just outside Chui, there is an immigration office. If you are just going to stay in Chui/Chuy, you can drive right past. If you are leaving Chui/Chuy to go further into Uruguay, then you stop here and get your Exit stamp for Brazil. We were the only people on the bus who needed one… but guess what – we didn’t even have to get off the bus – the bus driver took our passports into the immigration office, and brought them back stamped – what service! 🙂
After this, it’s only about 5 minutes drive to Chui, and the bus finishes at the Chui bus station on the Brazil side. Apparently you are allowed up to 7 days to exit Chui for Uruguay after this… that’s a lot of time to spend in Chui/Chuy!
From here, we walked 3 blocks to the main border street, and crossed the road – how exciting – we are in Uruguay, and there’s lots of Uruguayan flags to prove it. But we were hungry… so we went back to Brazil for lunch.
After lunch, we changed money, bought a bus ticket to leave, and crossed backwards and forwards between Brazil and Uruguay until the novelty wore off….
Buses to Uruguayan destinations leave from Chuy, the Uruguayan side (of course…) and the square that the buses leave from (no bus station on the Uruguayan side) is about one block away from the main border street. After we bought our bus ticket, we double-checked that the Uruguayan buses left on Uruguayan time, an hour earlier than Brazil (of course they did..) So we were good to go.
We boarded the bus to Punta del Diablo, Uruguay, which is around an hour away, and around 3km out of town is the Uruguayan immigration office. They made us get off the bus this time – BOO – I guess immigration actually want to see your faces on the way in.to a country… anyway, they didn’t pay much attention, and so the bus driver came and told them to hurry up?! Good luck trying that in Australia or the UK…. so then they stamped us in, and we were back on the bus.
An hour later we were in Punta del Diablo, and we had successfully completed the border crossing journey.