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Trip Report for May 2008 (Buenos Aires & Salta and surroundings) - Part I

Trip Report for May 2008 (Buenos Aires & Salta and surroundings) - Part I

Old May 31st, 2008, 08:11 PM
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Trip Report for May 2008 (Buenos Aires & Salta and surroundings) - Part I

We came back a week ago from Argentina after a wonderful 11 day trip. Everything worked out as planned, if we had any surprises, they were only pleasant ones. I spent a lot of time preparing which set our expectations appropriately and we also followed all the cautionary suggestions. We lucked out with the weather; this time of the year usually is supposed to be always very pleasant in BA and very nice in the N-W. I didnít realize until I got there that there is NO rain, at all, in the areas we toured in the N-W from April until October. Special thanks to everyone on the forums who helped me along the way (Avrooster, Scarlett, DrDraggy and many others).

Itís hard to summarize all experiences but overall we were VERY impressed by the friendliness, warmth of the local people that we met. We found the cost of the food very reasonable in most places. The portions are usually huge and very tasty. The sweats got me, my husband loved the steaks. We both came back a few pounds heavier. Luckily the airline didnít yet charge extra for our extra pounds. We had a list of recommended restaurants but tried out only a very few. We ate when we were hungry and always found a local, non-touristy place with great food. The dog piles were by far less annoying than I assumed based on what I read. I have seen a lot worse in Paris and Budapest. Transportation is inexpensive and easy to figure out. Drivers however are crazier than I assumed and bus drivers in particular drive like maniacs. We exchanged money a few times at banks and took out cash from our Citibank account at the local Citibank branches. We didnít spend too much time hunting down the place with the very best exchange rate as differences between banks were relatively small and didnít warrant special trips. However, we learned not to leave any exchanges for the weekend as all banks are closed and the money exchange places take advantage of that.

I started planning last year, around July. I decided to purchase the flights early to ensure that I have them for dates which worked for us. The initial fare at AA for a non-stop flight that I paid was $925/ticket. Then I learned about something I didnít know before that saved us a fair amount of money. The website YAPTA.COM can be setup to monitor future trips or trips where tickets were purchased; the site sends you alerts when prices go down. Depending on the airlineís (unwritten) policy you might get a voucher or money back. At the time I purchased our tickets (I do not know if the policies changed or not), the policies for international flights (and only for international) provided for refunds with no penalties. The prices went down 3 times and as soon as Yapta alerted me I called (before the price changed again) and I got refunds 3 times. The final price was $675/person for dates and seats that we picked for red-eye flights for May 14-27.

In December I started reading postings and reviews on Fodorís, TripAdvisor, LonelyPlanet and travel guides to make decisions about potential domestic trips.

Taking into consideration the weather history for the end of May (fall time) provided by the Weather Underground, it didnít make sense to plan for the South (Patagonia). The North-West looked as the best place to go to. I also learned that it might be helpful to work with a local travel agent.

Based on comments on the forums I contacted Isabel Llobet, Buenos Aires Tours ([email protected]) and then Irene Mintzer, Active Argentina in Salta ([email protected]), both of them excellent choices.

Isabel is probably one of the best travel agents I ever worked with. She is extremely dedicated, always on line, very patiently answering questions and looking out for the best interest of her clients. She suggested that we take two trips: one to Salta and one to Iguazu Falls. When I looked at the proposed schedule I realized that there is no flight between Salta and Iguazu and I would have had to spend almost a whole day flying from Iguazu to BA, waiting in the airport to catch a flight to Salta. In addition, I kept reading about how unreliable the local airlines are. While I would have liked to see all the special places in Argentina while there, I do not like to just run from one place to the next one, so I decided to pick one of the two destinations. It was a very hard decision and Isabel was very disappointed as she felt that we would be missing out on a lot by not going to both destinations. We ended up electing the trip to the N-W and promised to return.

Isabel got us the tickets to Salta, paid with a credit card.

Then I started working with Irene, who is extremely professional and was very flexible. She offered us multiple options for seeing the surroundings of Salta, an area that is very interesting and beautiful. We didnít want to sit in a car all day long for 4 days; our preference was to have some company (other than a driver) but avoid having to take large tour buses. Irene accommodated our wishes and came up with a ďcompromiseĒ solution: for 1 day, which was a long travel day to the North of Salta, we had a car with the guide only; then for the next 3 days we shared a 4WD with 2 more people. Irene worked out a very nice itinerary that we felt very comfortable with and made the hotel reservations for us after we picked places based on choices that she presented. After we paid 50% deposit with a credit card, Irene sent us vouchers for the trip.

Having all basic arrangements in place, I spent more time preparing the details: places I wanted to visit, learning about the best ways to move around, getting a map of BA from the Argentinean Tourist Office in NY, investigating options for entertainment, restaurants, etc.

Websites that I found helpful (other than Fodor and TripAdvisor) include: http://totango.net/bam.html, http://www.dolarhoy.com/, http://www.guiaoleo.com.ar/,
http://www.saberadondeir.com.ar/, http://www.parakultural.com.ar/, http://www.tangodata.gov.ar/, http://www.geobeats.com/videoclips/a...-local-phrases, http://www.bue.gov.ar/recorridos/?me...m0_Self-guided, http://www.guillebaires.com.ar/. Obviously there are many more others, sometimes the problem is too much information.

It is past mid-night (and I am in NY not in BA where everyone is just starting to eat dinner), so Part II will follow.
Suzanna is offline  
Old Jun 1st, 2008, 02:49 AM
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Thank you, Suzanna, for a great in-depth trip report!

I'm glad you and hubby had a great time in our country and I'm sorry we were unable to meet this time.

Start planning for the next visit, including Iguazú this time!

Isn't Isabel just great?

Biting my nails off, anxiously waiting for the next chapter. LOL!!
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Old Jun 1st, 2008, 06:22 AM
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I am in the beginning planning stages to visit BA next Feb. Thank you for the great links and can't wait to read about the trip. I too have contacted Isabel and she is wonderful at responding to questions that I'm sure have been asked a million times!

another susanna
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Old Jun 1st, 2008, 08:07 AM
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Great report! I'm leaving in 15 days for BA. It's nice to hear an up to the minute report.
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Old Jun 1st, 2008, 08:27 AM
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Have a great trip!
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Old Jun 1st, 2008, 03:40 PM
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Faaabulous

My son sent us a video of Salta this morning, he will be here in 2 months and he is researching Argentina like crazy.
I will keep everything you say for our own research ..

Now where were we ?
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Old Jun 8th, 2008, 09:05 AM
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I'm a bit late reading this, but great stuff!!
We used Isabel's services too and loved her.

Now I must go and read your part 2 and 3!!
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Old Jun 15th, 2008, 04:04 AM
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Suzanna, thanks for the fare watcher tip. It has worked for me, and that was at the first I ever heard about it. Thanks again.
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Old Jul 30th, 2008, 03:16 PM
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Suzanna,
your report was really helpful and really interesting - unfortunately I could only find Parts I and IV - can you help me find the middle?

thank you!
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Old Jul 30th, 2008, 03:29 PM
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By clicking on Suzanna's screen name, you will find what you are looking for.
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Old Aug 24th, 2008, 08:31 PM
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bookmarking, thanks for the great post
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