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Need Help in Planning a Group Trip To South America: Argentina +?

Need Help in Planning a Group Trip To South America: Argentina +?

Old May 23rd, 2006, 06:10 AM
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Need Help in Planning a Group Trip To South America: Argentina +?

Hi all!

This is the first time posting on the LA forum as I have been a long time poster on the Europe board. So thank you for
welcoming me into the Latin America
forum!

Everyone knows me on the Europe board as the traveler who plans group trips annually for my husband and I and about 15-18 of our friends. We've done this for years and we visit different destinations in Europe. We all live in the same neighborhood in Alexandria, VA. In addition my husband and I are avid travelers througout the year to other parts of the world.

For next years trip, we are thinking about breaking out of the Europe mold ( seen practically everything!) and wanted to start on South America. Let me give you some more setail, so when you respond, you will be able to assist me in a way that works for both of us.

1. Our trips are only about 7-9 nights. We all take other, much longer, vacations throughout the year. This trip is designed as sort of a "quickie" with just enough for us to overview a place, but allow time for relaxing, shopping, etc. It is not designed as a whirlwind of too many destinations. Please do not suggest we go for 2 weeks or more, as this is how we always do our trips.

2. My group enjoys historical outings, great shopping, excellent food and superior accommodations. In addition, we have had the privilege of visiting sites often closed to the public and having some unique events. We travel more on the luxury scale, but we do have a budget, but for sure are not budget travelers.

3. We like to stay in hotels as opposed to renting villas, etc, as we like our own space and prefer not to be on top on each other in a house setting. In addition we enjoy the services of a hotel.

4. I design the entire trip from A-Z, including selection of accommodations, restaurants and designing the itinerary. However, I do work in conjunction with a travel agent and have had the same one for years. But, I do ALOT of my own research, always starting with FODORS and so I bring ot the table a very well researched plan with all of my specific requests to my agent. It works well as my agent in turn can arrange then the land company for logistics, can often get better pricing and it is of comfort to know I have
someone working back here inthe US on my behalf in case of emergencies. I do not use travel agent when just husband and I travel, but for up to 18 people, I feel it is necessary and have had extremely successful groups for many years by partnering with my travel agent.

However, she hads already let me know that if we decide on South America for sure, she would feel more comfortable with us using an expert in that area. She is really a Europe expert. So, if anyone has a great travel agent who may be used to working with someone like me, please let me know. I end up being in the drivers seat, so an agent would need to feel comfortable with this. However, I do indeed recognize that this is their area of expertise and appreciate a really plugged in TA who has traveled themselves extensively.

So, now that you have a little background, here is what I need from all you good people:

Bear in mind I have NOT done much research yet on South America. This posting is just a preliminary one to put me on my feet.

In all my years at Fodors, I have never asked outright for anyone to plan and research any of trips, rather I ask specific questions. But for now, here is what I am thinking and hope you can begin to clear the way.

We'd like to for sure visit Buenos Aires, as our city portion of the trip, but then from there, I am not sure. I would love to see Macchu Piccu in Peru, but husband would like to go to Rio. I am not sure about taking 18 people to 18 Rio, I think I'd feel more comfortable with just husband and I visiting there.

I have friends that adore Uruguay as a quiet counterpart to Argentina.

I think what we'd most enjoy is a taste of city life and fun and then some natural beauty and history.

I know this might not be the greatest of information to start with, but given the background I have given you, what might any of you think would make a great trip. We need some action, but then some quiet.

Think in terms of a 7 to maximum 9 night trip, but more on the 7 night.

After our "quickie" trips often many of us return on our own to the same spot and explore in more depth, so again, this trip need not be all encompassing.

Thanks a mil...... Sorry I went on for so long, but look forward to your great responses!!!
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Old May 23rd, 2006, 08:20 AM
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Tripgirl:

After travelling around the world so much, it is good to know you want to try South America for a change. I am sure it will come up to your expectations and that probably this will be only your first trip that will be followed by some others to explore each area better.

If your trip will take 7 to 9 nights and you will not be interested in a "wirlwind of too many destinations" what i feel is that Buenos Aires city (5/6 nights)with a day visit to Uruguay for the interested ones + a short stay at the Falls in Iguazu (1-2nights) will be something reasonable

Direct conexion from Iguazu to Peru without coming to Buenos Aires doesnt exist. However, it is possible to conect Bue-Lima on the same day of arrival from Iguazu.

A trip to Peru,most specifically the Machu Picchu one of the most amazing destinations in Latin America will take a minimum of 3/4 nights. after which you can go directly to the USA.

In all, you will need a minimum of 9 nights which is your limit, too tight in my humble opinion.If you could allow l/2 nights more, it will be much better.

Dont hesitate to ask all the specific questions you need. Hoping this has helped you at least a bit.

Welcome to Latin America
milla.

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Old May 23rd, 2006, 09:29 AM
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I can recommend Cintia of WOW! Argentina and Maisa of Patagonia Calling for assistance with planning this trip. Check out the websites:
http://www.patagoniacalling.com and
http://www.wowargentina.com

My trip has been planned to limit my visit to two stops since I simply did not want to spend any more time than necessary in transit. While there are some wonderful options Buenos Aires and Bariloche (Villa de los Angosturas) really grabbed me. For luxury accomodations check LlaoLlao near Bariloche and the Four Seasons or Sofitel in Buenos Aires.
The Argentina trip advisor forum is very active with some very helpful posters.
Bienvenido!
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Old May 23rd, 2006, 10:41 AM
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For 7-9 days I would stay in the Argentina/Uruguay area, 4 nights BA, 2 nights Iguazu Falls, then 3 nights at the Four Seasons in Carmelo, Uruguay. We've used Mercedes at Argentina Escapes for both our Argentina trips. She does an amazing job and I would highly recommend you do use a TA to book this trip. I read your Italy trip report, enjoyed it very much and brought back many great memories of our trip to the Amalfi coast many moons ago.
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Old May 23rd, 2006, 11:32 AM
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great... keep it ocming.

I also just spoke with Lost Adventures and was really impressed by their offerings.

Anyone use them???
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Old May 23rd, 2006, 12:29 PM
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Haven't used them (the travel agency that is), but to second cmcfong's suggestion, if you do not go to Uruguay, Llao Llao resort in Bariloche is fabulous. I would actually recommend it over the 4 seasons in Uruguay if you like a more "native" feel, yet still first class. I found the Four Seasons in Carmelo amazing, but we could have been anywhere in the world. Do not skip Iguazu, it is a definite must do!
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Old May 23rd, 2006, 02:15 PM
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I used Lost World Adventures for a trip for four to Lima, Cusco, and MP. I was absolutely delighted with the guides and drivers. Excellent service, well organized and very reasonably priced (not a luxury trip). The group was never anyone besides the four of us, which I greatly appreciated.
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Old May 24th, 2006, 02:51 AM
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I travel to Argentina regularly for short and extended stays. Over the years I have found some very reliable sources....


Travel agencies: I have used two travel agents in Argentina--Cintia from WowArgentina (do a search here and you will find her name mentioned regularly as one of the top agents in Argentina) and Mayra Brill [email protected]. I recommend that you use a local agency. You will benefit your group since locals have access to lower rates...and you will benefit the local economy, and Argentina sorely needs the help.

For a short trip, you really need to pick and choose destinations based on your personal interests. You simply don't have time to go to Peru and Argentina in seven days, or nine.....Do Argentina and possibly Uruguay....

In terms of World Class scenery...in Argentina there are several options:

Iguazu Falls is spectacular, easily more impressive than our grandest falls in the United States. Patagonia, which includes the Lakes Region near Bariloche mentioned by others, is also quite impressive. LLao LLao lodge is spectacular...a luxury "rustic" lodge in a pristine "Alpine" setting, fronting a lake with snow capped mountains in the background and world class service.

I would spend 3-2 or 4-3 in one of these locations and the rest of the time in Buenos Aires. While in Buenos Aires take in a Tango dinner show, a personalized city tour (Cintia offers this service and there is a group of historians that offer tours for small groups and throw in interesting comments)...I will provide you the url if you are interested.

For dining options, check out Dan's blog, www.saltshaker.net or a local board that rates restaurants based on feedback from patrons....guiaoleo.com.ar

A day at an estancia makes for a good excursion--Dos Hermanos for a day at a working ranch, or one of the estancias that puts on a show and a BBQ for tourists (Santa Susana, Don Silvano or others that your agent can recommend).

Weather permitting, charter a boat and spend a day in the Tigre Delta, stopping for lunch at one of the restaurants or hotels that can only be accessed by boat....

Hotels...small hotels with personalized service in "trendy" parts of town? Or full service, larger hotels? The choice is yours. For the former, try the Home hotel in Palermo Soho...for the latter, try the Four Seasons or the soon-to-be-opened Grand Hyatt. One star down in quality level, try the Regal Pacific (about $125 a night).....

As CMFong notes, Trip Advisor has a very active Buenos Aires forum with a plethorea of information to help plan your trip--Shopping, restaurants, etc....

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Old May 24th, 2006, 04:43 AM
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D:

You are the best; EXACTLY what I am looking for!!!!!!!!!

I'll keep you all posted!!!!!!
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Old May 24th, 2006, 11:09 AM
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I have requested both proposals from Lost World Adventures and WOW!

Have not received them yet of course, but in your opinions, which one edges out the other?. Or is it a matter of spliting hairs or is one particularly better than the other in certain things.

I do of course like the idea of going locally and putting money directly into Argentina, so that is what appealing about WOW! But the reviews of Lost World are so excellent as well.

Opinions for comparison???
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Old May 24th, 2006, 12:13 PM
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I had a great experience with Lost World in Nov. 2004. Everything, and I mean everything, ran like clockwork. The guides and drivers were first class. All the planning advice was spot on. So when I decided to go to Argentina in Nov.2006 I asked for a quote from Lost World. After reading a number of posts on this board which said that in country agents do better with pricing domestic flights and hotels I also requested a quote from Cintia at WOW. Every email I sent her was answered within twenty four hours, she gave me very thorough responses and she beat all the other quotes substantially. I have been very impressed with her. Of course, the proof of the pudding is in the eating and I will know for sure if she is as good as I think she is when I go in November. For now, I am very happy with the service and prices she has given me.
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Old May 24th, 2006, 03:47 PM
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In terms of cost, what do you think this might run per person:

4-5 five nights in Buenos Aires in Palace rooms at the Alvear Palace ( I realize 2007 prices are not posted yet)

3 nights at Llao Llao in superior mountain rooms

2 nights in Iguazu Falls ( prefer not the Sheraton)

PLUS

The cost of events arranged by Cintia ( or Lost World)to include:

Buenos Aires city tour
Tigre Delta boat
Day at an authentic estancia
The trip to the Falls
Flamenco show
other events I have not thought of as of yet

2 pre-arranged dinners ( i understand meals are cheap)
1-2 prearranged lunches
( we always pre-arrange some meals, but if we can't here in South America, we can just pay when we eat)

gratuities
taxes

all domestic flights and ground transportation

international airfare from Washington DC.

any other costs I have not thought of.....

thanks a mil...
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Old May 24th, 2006, 04:55 PM
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Tripgirl: You have ashort time, but I hope you can repeat the experience soon, and do not forget the NW of Argentina, the eternal spring and the wine area, the colourful mountains and the sun shine! You need at least 4 days, and for sure you can find TA recommendations for guides and tourist services in the NW. The varied sceneries and the weather is really great!
Have a nice time and come back, you still have to see the best!!!!
fltstns
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Old May 24th, 2006, 04:56 PM
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I am afraid my guess would be worthless. I feel almost certain based on her performance with me that you will receive an estimate from Cintia very soon.
I handled my own international air but Cintia did all the rest.
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Old May 24th, 2006, 05:09 PM
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www.barbacharters.com.ar is a site worth a look if you are considering going to the Tigre Delta.
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Old May 25th, 2006, 02:11 AM
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1. Price. Varies enormously, depending on season and quality level of excursions. Tango shows range from a few pesos to U$75 for an elaborate dinner show; Tigre excursions range from a couple of dollars on a water taxi to hundreds of dollars for a private charter, and so forth. Rooms at LLao LLao can vary up to U$100 a night, depending on date, etc.

2. Pace. I know you are looking for an introductory overview of the area, but a piece of advice: One of the joys of Argentina is the somewhat slower pace of life...The perfect metaphor for this is found each morning in cafes throughout Buenos Aires, where locals savor a morning thimble sized cup of coffee for an unhurried hour or so, reading the paper and talking with friends. I would encourage you to trim one destination from your trip, perhaps saving Iguazu for another trip?

3. Web sites.

Tango Shows.

http://www.taconeando.com/ Authentic, small and not as an elaborate production as the second option.

http://www.senortango.com.ar/

Authentic? Nah, but loads of fun! Andrew lloyd Webber meets Buenos Aires. Smoke, elaborate costumes, horses, Tango and more. This dinner show has it all. And the wine aint half bad!

Resort

http://www.llaollao.com/

Estancias

"authentic" and great for a day of horseback riding with a charming hostess.

http://estancialosdoshermanos.com/

This too is authentic, but these days caters more to tourists.

http://www.la-bamba.com.ar/

4 Meals.

Here are a couple of options, places I have taken groups where they arrange a special menu with 3-4choices of various courses (three usually) and drinks (usually white or red wine, soft drinks, coffee or tea or bottled water)

http://www.clocloristorante.com.ar/

The menu we arranged here included a pasta, fish, steak or chicken main course with equal numbers of options for an appetizer and dessert. Very upscale restaurant in Costanera Norte area......


Saltshaker.net Dan is a chef and enjoys fine wines. He has launched a part time restaurant business.....and has arranged special menus for visiting groups for a set price.


Several restaurants around town will do the same sort of thing for groups, but these are two very good choices and a good beginning point for group meals.

http://www.cluny.com.ar/

One of the more sophisticated newer restaurants in trendy Palermo Soho. For lunch or dinner.....


I would add more, but Cintia would have to pay me a commission since I would be doing her job Sorry, a little humor....
Seriously, if you have other questions, fire away!











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Old May 25th, 2006, 06:58 AM
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Trip girl, as I would rather not discuss price on this forum, please e-mail me at [email protected], I'll let you know what our domestic costs were for our 17 day trips, one had five domestic flights, second had two flights, private tour guide, mix of quality hotels (including the Llao, LLao, 4 Seasons) many day tours included I've arranged our own airfare each time. We were met at every airport and guided privately, with the exception of a couple of the day tours.

I highly recommend if you have to choose between Bariloche and Iguazu Falls, go to the Falls. IMO, Bariloche is like a mini Switzerland, similar to other places in Europe. The Llao Llao is an awesome hotel though. Iguazu is unique. For your group, it would be better to stay at the Sheraton, even though it's not first class, the location outweighs any lack of luxury. The rooms are fine, like any Sheraton. I've read they are renovating, so hopefully it will improve. Besides, you only need one or two nights there, depending on flight times. One and a half days are plenty there.

As far as dinners go in BA, Dr. Dwaggy has excellent suggestions along with Saltshaker. Definitely include a Parilla one night, Cabana Las Lilas in the Puerto Madera section would most likely cater to your needs. It's a fun, lively section of BA, worth a night out to. (Sort of like a Spanish Georgetown, if that helps.

If I can help you any further let me know.
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Old May 25th, 2006, 08:25 AM
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owl and Dr: MANY thanks!

I heard back from Cintia, who is actually out of her office at the moment but e mailed me anyway to explain how she works. I've given her the go ahead to customize a program.

I also heard back from Lost World Adventures, Andrew Gilchrist:

Here is what they are proposing for a March trip. My DH wanted to so badly to go to Rio, so I had Andrew do up two itineraries. Without going into great lengths, here are the proposals: Bear in mind we are not budget travelers, so hence some of the lux you find here. However, let me know if you think I can do better.

The Argentina only intinerary:

Airport reception with guide
3 nights Alvear Palce, palace rooms, Breakfasts
Half day city tour ( Four Balconies Tour with university professor)
Tango show and Dinner ( not specified which one)
Roundtrip air BA to Iguazu
2 nights Gran Hotel Casino Iguazu, junior suites, breakfasts
Half day Iguazu Falls ( argentina side)
Round trip air to Bariloche
3 nights LLao Llao resort, lake view standard room, breakfasts and activites
Bariloche and Environs tour
Full day Victoria Island Soft Adventure, includes lunch
airport transfers and assistance
medical coverage

$3025 pp
not included: international air, insurance, tips, airport taxes, anything outside planned itinerary

The Argentina/Brazil Itinerary:

Same Buenos aires and Iguazu Falls portion as above. Bariloche is eliminated:

Then from Iguazu:

One way air to Rio
3 nights Copacabana Palace, superior ocean view room, breakfasts
Full day tour of Sugarloaf and Corcovado, lunch included
Rio by night dinner and show

$2750pp

I can give you more details as Andrew sent, but I think this might be enough to go on.

What do you all think???
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Old May 26th, 2006, 06:18 AM
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About price:

1. You mention that you have already requested a second quote. This is an excellent way to determine whether you are getting a good price or not.....better than our commenting on prices we paid a year or two ago or during a different season. Prices are going up in Argentina and vary by high or low season.

2. You might also check on line sources for the most expensive parts of your trip--air and hotel. Most of the tours are relatively inexpensive...and some of the transfers and meals are included in the hotel rate (eg, LlaoLlao provides transfers and breakfast and an extensive list of activities)....

The price does not seem unreasonable to me, given the quality of accomodations you have selected (Iguazu being the exception)...Even so, I will be surprised if a local agent cannot deliver the same trip for less.....
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Old May 26th, 2006, 09:14 AM
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Hi Tripgirl: It seems your plans are pretty well underway! Have enjoyed your trip reports on both Italy (we touched bases on Sorrento and the Bellevue Syrene) and Greece. We have done and enjoyed many of the things you described.

In any case, we took our first trip to South America last November. I plan our trips and did a lot of advance research in preparation for that trip. I have a long file, mostly about BsAs (we also went to Tigre, spent two nights in Puerto Iguazu and did a day trip to Colonia) that might be of interest to you. If you would like it, please e-mail me. You might be able to sift out some things of interest to include in your plans.
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