South America—the wondrous home of Machu Picchu, Patagonia, and the Amazon Rainforest—draws an average of 37 million tourists per year. The continent comprises 12 sovereign states, each with its own visitor requirements. Whether you need a visa to visit as a tourist depends on where you come from (the rules are stricter for people from non-western countries than they are for nationals of the U.S., the UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand) and where in the continent you're going. In some countries, such as Brazil and Peru, U.S. passport holders can travel freely for up to 90 days. Other areas may require visas or a reciprocity fee (which also doubles as a visa fee, when a visa is required) upon entry. Even if no visa is required for a country, it's best to travel with a passport that's valid for at least six months. Those wishing to stay in a South American country for work or study will have different requirements.
|Tourist Visa Requirements for South America|
|Country||Visa Required?||Reciprocity Fees||How Long Is It Valid?||Required Documents|
|Argentina||None required for citizens of the U.S., UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand||$160 for Americans,
$150 for Canadians,
$100 for Australians
|Multiple entries for 10 years for Americans, five years for Canadians, one year for Australians||Receipt for the reciprocity fee you paid online, in advance to the Argentinian Department of Immigration must be shown at the border|
|Bolivia||Visa on arrival required for residents of the U.S., but not the UK, Australia, Mexico, and many EU countries||$160, plus a $25 departure tax when leaving Bolivia||30 days, but can be extended to 90 days for free||Copy of passport, yellow fever vaccination certificate, proof of a return flight, evidence of economic solvency, copy of hotel reservation, a standard-size passport photo.|
|Brazil||None required for citizens of the U.S., UK, South Africa, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand||None||90 days||Valid passport|
|Chile||None required for citizens of the U.S., UK, South Africa, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand||
$160 for Americans,
|90 days||Valid passport|
|Colombia||None required for citizens of the U.S., UK, South Africa, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand||$50 for Canadians, plus a universal $56 departure tax that is sometimes included in the price of a plane ticket||90 days||Valid passport|
|Ecuador||None required for citizens of the U.S., UK, South Africa, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand||None, but there is a departure tax of $25||90 days||Valid passport|
|Guyana||None required for nationals of Australia, the UK, U.S., Canada, and the EU||None||90 days||Valid passport|
|Paraguay||Visa on arrival (available at Silvio Pettirossi International Airport) required for nationals of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Russia, Taiwan, and the U.S., but not much of the EU||$160||Multiple entries for up to 10 years||Proof of a return flight and evidence of economic solvency|
|Peru||None required for citizens of the U.S., UK, South Africa, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand||None||183 days||Valid passport|
|Suriname||Nationals of the U.S., UK, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and much of the EU must obtain a Tourist Card from a local embassy||$54||90 days||Copy of passport, proof of return flight, and standard-size passport photo|
|Uruguay||None required for citizens of the U.S., UK, South Africa, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand||None||90 days||Valid passport|
|Venezuela||None required for citizens of the UK, Australia, and New Zealand, but U.S. nationals require a tourist card, which can be obtained at a Venezuelan diplomatic mission||$30||90 days||Copy of passport, yellow fever vaccination certificate, proof of a return flight, and evidence of economic solvency|
Many tourist visas in South America can be extended, sometimes for another full 90-day period, so overstaying your visa illegally is never advisable. All countries enforce penalties for visa overstays, but the severity of those penalties depends on the place. Overstaying in Guyana, for instance, will not only cost you $240 in fines but also possibly a year of imprisonment and deportation at your own expense. Less serious penalties include a $15 fine (paid at the airport) upon overstaying a visa in Argentina, $2 per day for overstaying in Brazil, and $1 per day for overstaying in Peru. Law enforcement officers may ask to look at your visa at any point, and if it happens to be past its expiration date could be a reason for deportation and prohibited re-entry for long periods of time (if not for life).
Extending Your Visa
In many cases, it may be possible to extend your tourist visa, but this must be done before it expires. Visa extensions hardly ever last longer than the original length of stay, but oftentimes you can add 30, 60, or 90 days onto your stay by visiting an immigration office in the country you wish to remain in. Peru is the exception to this rule, requiring visitors to exit and re-enter for longer stays. Be prepared to pay additional fees for visa extensions.