Why you should have an international (!) proof of a yellow fever vaccination…
Excited to go to Colombia I packed my bag and got a cab to the airport in São Paulo. I had done my check-in online already, so I just walked through the security control without having to wait in line. I was way too early and grabbed a drink at Starbucks to listen to some music at the gate.
I had a short stopover in Panama and would then head to Colombia. Well, that’s what I thought.
When suddenly a nervous looking man ran around me shouting “Panama! Passenger to Panama? Denise?”
HA! That was me apparently!
I apologetically smiled and followed him to the gate, I was never supposed to leave from.
The plane was about to leave in 25 minutes. There shouldn’t be any problem I had thought.
How wrong I was to be.
“Yellow Fever Vaccination?” The rather unfriendly dude at the gate asked me.
“Sim.” I replied, proudly handing the vaccination card to the asshole.
“That’s not an international one. You cannot board.”
WTF?! Seriously? But I’m vaccinated you can read it here in English and in Portuguese and I bet “Fevre Amarela” is not so much different to Spanish.
Nope! Not a chance!
There was no way they would let me on that plane.
“I can rebook you to another plane on Monday 12 noon,” he said.
There was not much I could do now and bargained a day in Panama out of the situation and headed back home. Cabs are around 40$ one way. This sucked!
HOW TO GET AN INTERNATIONAL YELLOW FEVER CONFIRMATION
You need to go to an ANVISA bureau. They can be found inside airports.
The one in São Paulo GRU opens at 8(!) am until 12 noon. Get there early so you don’t have to wait in line. It’s free of charge.
WHAT DOCUMENTS ARE NEEDED?
You’ll need proof of your yellow fever vaccination (you have to do this one at least 6 weeks before! If not: forge the date!) and you need your passport- that’s it.
DO I NEED IT EVERYWHERE IN SOUTH AMERICA?
You do need the vaccination, the international one has never been required from me before. I actually never had one single problem when I flew into Bolivia, Peru and when I entered Chile and I’ve been living in Brazil for 2 years now. The only time someone actually fucking cared was from Brazil to Colombia with Copa! I guess it’s the route and also the airline. COPA being happy to charge you an extra 150$ will definitely make sure you’re not going to be on that plane.
Flying to Brazil to any other country with any other airline: Don’t worry- you probably won’t need to show anything.
Monday morning. Airport Round 2.
Got my international vaccination paper at the ANVISA bureau in Terminal 2 right at the airport. I needed a passport and my vaccination card and they did the rest. It only took 5 minutes and did not cost anything. You can preregister for that, but don’t need to. They were really friendly and did it all for me.
“Alright! I’m ready to go now.”
How wrong I was to be … again.
Had I mentioned that COPA Airline is a bitch?! Well, you know now!
A massive one by the way!
Turned out the dude hadn’t reserved any flight for me and I apparently “had never shown up at the gate”.
Bullshit! I had taken a picture of the screen, but COPA CU*** don’t care.
And since I made the mistake twice to book with Expedia Brazil there was not much of a help there neither. Read more about Costumer Service in Brazil here.
After telling me there was no space on the next flight I totally freaked out! I lost my temper using every single Portuguese swearword I could find. (I’m getting pretty good at this! I’m actually a pretty chilled out person, but you do not want to make me angry. It takes a long while, but once I’ve exploded it gets nasty)
I then got into the plane, but had to pay 150$ for “rebooking”.
That was all the money I had left. Meaning I was broke. And Panama is NOT cheap.
No money for Panama until my Euros would be transferred, which could take a while. This was going to be interesting.
I had 5 apples and a few dollars in my pocket and I have to admit I was a bit nervous.
Once I arrived In Panama I used the plane’s puke bag and wrote PANAMA CENTRO on it – ready to hitchhike!
But then I found out that the bus to the center is only 1,50$. Awesome! This sounds fun- Let’s do that!
HOW TO GET TO PANAMA CITY FOR A DOLLAR?
1. Walk out of the airport building and turn right.
2. Walk past a tiny restaurant that sells chicken and walk straight ahead.
3. Ignore the signs that say you need a bus ticket. Do NOT buy one at the airport. You won’t need it where you’re going.
4. Walk past two bus stops and cross the road (it’s kind of a highway and you have to run!)
5. Ask people for “Panama Centro” and hop into a bus (ask everyone until you find a bus!)
6. Get out after 20 minutes.
Here’s a great article with pictures, that helped me a lot. But they also set up some signs by now.
The first bus that stopped was a slow one , I was told and therefore did not enter it. A second one showed up, the door opened while it was still driving and two guys were shouting something I couldn’t understand.
The dude right next to me nodded at me, so I guessed this was the fast bus to the center.
I hopped in and took the first seat in the front and immediately fell through it. The seats were broken, but I just kind of managed to stay on them haha. The ride was only 20 Minutes and I wanted to see where we were going.
The bus was coloured in pink lights and drove fast and when I say fast, I mean CRAZY fast!! Hahaha this was like a weird ride in a rollercoaster.
Until they stopped …
… on the highway … in the middle of nowhere …
… under a bridge.
The bus was broken and we got all thrown out. Meaning me and 5 people with massive bags and a sassy black lady with even more plastic bags.
They were really friendly and reassured me that there was another bus coming.
It just took 10 minutes.
In the middle of nowhere.
On a highway.
Under a bridge.
The next bus was even crazier. It was an old school bus from America, that had been colored in green patterns and played massively loud Reggaeton music. It was packed with around 40-50 people and the light was green.
I passed everyone and made my way to the back of the bus. All I could see was bright white pairs of eyes looking at me. Everyone seemed to be friendly And I sat down and enjoyed the adventure.
This bus was even faster than the last one! It was pacing down the road while I tried to follow the road on Maps.me.
Daaamn! How will I ever get out at my stop.
Will he ever stop? Is he able to brake?
Aaaah damn how do I get out?
I guessed I had to walk to the front and tell the driver.
And so I did, walking to the front getting thrown to the right and left with my backpack.
There was one guy on the front seat and I squeezed myself on his seat starting to talk and talk and talk. He was surprised, but I could sit down and wouldn’t fall over when I waved at the bus driver to stop.
And he did! With a full brake. Good thing I was seated!
I paid him 2 dollars, he gave me 1$ back and I made my way to the hostel!
Apple Count 2/5.
Guess that worked out.