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Elizabeth_S Jul 8th, 2011 05:56 PM

Rough itinerary blocking - Argentina and Brazil - comments appreciated
We have 9 weeks (+/-) in Argentina and Brazil early next year (Jan 15 to Mar 21). I'm blocking out our itinerary and would appreciate comments/suggestions on the following - I'm having to do this quite quickly without my usual research as we had to book our flights on points this week. So this is a very early itinerary, before my usual research.

Arrive BA January 15 - we have 3 weeks to tour around Argentina before our apartment rental in BA. Current thoughts are to fly onwards to Bariloche and pick up a rental car there and drive back to BA heading north to Mendoza and Salta and then into BA. Haven't researched that route - perhaps it's crazy....but it looks good. Also we would be dropping off the car as a one way rental - issues?

We have been to Ushuaia and other points south on another trip so are looking to stay further north as indicated above.

4 weeks in BA - day/overnight trips to Montevideo/other beach towns.

Leave BA early March - thinking we would fly to Iguazu then onwards to Rio (for 3 days or so) and then onwards for an Amazon Cruise (4 nights?) then back to Sao Paulo for our return to Toronto. This portion could be 16 days (or more if necessary)

We will keep our plans loose in the hopes of picking up a last minute deal to Antarctica - I've been tracking cruise pricing for the last few years and hope we can pick up a good deal while we're in South America.

Realize my question is a bit vague but would appreciate comments on the overall blocking of time - we have some flexibility on the BA apartment rental timing.


Elizabeth_S Jul 8th, 2011 06:08 PM

Forgot to mention - we like if it seems there are great distances we're happy with that (good Canadians!)

Carlos69 Jul 8th, 2011 08:09 PM

If you are set on going to the Amazon it will be marginally cheaper flying from SP, most flight from Rio route through SP anyway. Bear in mind that even flying to Manaus and back will kill the better part fo two days, it's a five hour flight.

Unless you have driven in Brazil and speak Portuguese I'd think twice about driving if I were you. At any rate rental cars and fuel are very expensive and returning a car in another city attracts a large additional fee.

crellston Jul 8th, 2011 10:57 PM

We did something similar in 2008 although we used buses for inter region travel and rented cars to tour specific regions like Salta etc. Being Canadians you are aware of the distances involve but have you considered the state of the road network? Something like 70% of Argentine roads are unpave and can be pretty rough in places. That said, the trip from Bariloche to Medoza/Salta follows the famous Ruta 40 and would be an amazing trip. We did parts of it and met people who were doing it by bicycly and motorbike (something I would dearly love to do in the next few years!).

The route from Salta to iguazu (and probably from Salta/mendoza) to BA seemed to me to be incredibly boring (unless you are into Pampas).

We found the bus system to be incredibly efficient, cheap and extremely comfortable (think 1st or business Class air travel). Many of our longer trips were scheduled overnight thus saving both time and accomodation costs.
Rental charges seemed on the high side, particularly one way drop offs but fuel was inexpensive (that said, I am from the Uk so fuel every where is cheap by comparison!). We used Hertz mostly.

I do feel that you are spending a disproportionate amount of your time in BA and personally would probably lose a week or two there. Montivideo and Colonia make great side trips from BA (there is also a very upmarket beach resort that may be worth a visit.

You could consider going from Salta to Iguazu and down to BA to avoid backtracking.

Finally, a link to our blog with some additional info on these palces and some photos of our time there;

Entries 70 onwards cover Argentina

Elizabeth_S Jul 9th, 2011 04:37 AM

Thanks for the input - Carlos69 I wasn't clear - the driving comment was for Argentina, not Brazil. Will have a look at your blog link Crellston

Susan7 Jul 9th, 2011 06:03 PM

If you are thinking of going to the Amazon, this article might be helpful

We stayed at the lodge they recommend, Uacari (see my trip report). It was fantastic but getting there is time consuming.

See Marija's trip report for another Amazon option:

qwovadis Jul 10th, 2011 04:47 AM

Car Rental down there risky lots of shake downs

One way cost prohibitive might fly

best have done bus a very long slog not fun ok if shoestring good itinerary booking help if needed

crellston Jul 10th, 2011 07:14 AM

and in English?????

Elizabeth_S Jul 10th, 2011 10:32 AM

Holy drop off fees Batman.

Just doing random searches - 19 day Hertz rental with a Bariloche pick up and BsAs drop off attracts a $700 drop off fee; Bariloche to Salta even more at $1,000+. Unfortunately no matter how comfortable the bus is my husband's dodgy back is too unpredictable for overnight bus trips. So perhaps we're into a combination of rental cars in specific destinations and flying between them (although that will also add up).

I'm also concerned about the weather in January - originally this portion of the trip was to be the first 2 weeks of March but flight availability caused me to flip the Argentina/Brazil portion. Might have to reconsider the itinerary architecture

Crellston - your blog is fantastic - I had read it when you first posted it but now it's so relevant to our planning! The salt plains look not to be missed.

Elizabeth_S Jul 10th, 2011 01:36 PM

I've just changed our itinerary - I didn't like the flights from the outset but booked quickly due to imminent Aeroplan changes - was able to change them today plus get Biz class which is even better. So now we start in Brazil (Rio/Amazon/other) then go to BsAs for February and then have 3 weeks in Argentina .... much better weather wise I think. Will start a new thread with questions when I have done more research - thanks to all for comments here.

Eddwarm Jul 24th, 2011 09:33 PM

If I were you, I would spend more than three days in Rio de Janeiro. There is a lot to see and do besides going to the beaches of the various barrios (neighborhoods). Consult some very good guide books: Time Out Rio, Moon guides, DK Eyewitness Travel:Brazil, possibly Fodors and Lonely Planet.

There's Paraty (weekend),Petropolis (a day trip) and much to do in Rio which would take more than two days. Visit the Lapa community on a Friday eve with a native, Santa Teresa for half a day, etc., etc., etc.

I've been to Rio on six occasions during the 2000s and plan to return for 10+ days this coming October. While there we'll do a few things that we've done in the past, but since my amigo has not been to various areas and venues in this city, I shall introduce them to him, i.e. botanical gardens, the forest, a favela tour through Marcelo Armstrong the originator of such, Santa Teresa, Lapa with a carioca, and a few other places.

Elizabeth_S Jul 28th, 2011 01:25 PM

Eddwarm - thanks for your comments - I am looking at adding days to Rio and staying in Santa Teresa at a cute B&B - do you know it? Good neighbourhood?

Susan7 Jul 29th, 2011 09:52 PM

I like Santa Teresa a lot, but it's not ideally located for public transport, however there is the bonde (tram) to the centre of Rio and taxis are very reasonably priced.

boudecca Jul 31st, 2011 11:27 AM

Hi Elizabeth_S

Last year you were very helpful in planning our trip across the Caprivi Strip so I hope to be able to return the
favor with Brazil and Argentina.

We are in Brazil now for 7 weeks, and spent 6 weeks in Argentina and Chile the year before that. And we did three weeks devoted to the Amazon river, river towns, Manaus and locations further north.

First, let me say that we seem to like to travel the same way. When planning our Brazil trip, I received nothing but negative responses to my intention to rent a car to tour Brazil. These responses were all on "the other board" by a specific person who was rabid in her fear mongering, so much so that I almost changed my plans to come to Brazil. Many others chimed in with the "take a bus" mantra. Then, I thought about it and figured there was no way the conditions here in Brazil were as bad as those we encountered in some of the African countries we drove through so here we are.

We spent five days in Rio which we loved. We stayed at the Sofitel Copacabana which is in a great location close to Ipanema, which frankly we liked better. Hotel rooms for the nicer hotels are on the high side, but we were able to get a special from Brazilnuts 4 x 3 for an ocean view room for around $315 per night, taxes included. We checked out the hotels in Ipanema and Leblon and we thought the Sofitel offered the best bang for the buck. Breakfast is included; not the internet which is a fixed price. We rented a car and had no troubles though the favelas pose an interesting challenge. Be sure to bring your own maps as the rental cars do not provide them here.

We then flew TAM to the NE of Brazil. The seating is horrible. We bought an extra seat since the flight was 3 hours and we were still crammed in. Zero leg room. Since then I've chatted with folks who say GOL is worse. Mid flight we got up and moved to the exit row which was empty for some reason. We rented a car from AVIS in Natal. What a production! There were two y

boudecca Jul 31st, 2011 12:06 PM

to continue .... my computer has a mind of its own and filed the previous report before I was done.

There were two young men at the Avis booth, neither of whom spoke English. Nor did they read English so the reservation form you arrive with are tossed aside and they hand write the contract which you can't read because it is in Portuguese. In practical terms this meant that the entire rental process took 1 hour and 30 minutes from start to finish. Since we couldn't read the contract or question the agent, we opted to take full insurance coverage which added BR$13 per day to cover third party damage and windscreen breakage. Suggest you factor these things into your budget and planning. We ended up taking the extra insurance because we found that in Brazil we were scammed at least once a day. The corruption has filtered to the very core. The scams went from the minor to the very annoying -- everything from having meal checks be presented with prices that were not reflected on the menu (but were, of course, higher) to taxi drivers changing the tariff rate from 1 (day time) to 2 (nighttime with 17% premium) in the middle of the day while enroute. It is imperative that you bring an English to Portuguese dictionary so you have a shot at not being a victim. I bought a nice pocket sized one from Amazon for less than $10US.

Roads are okay. Mind you, not as good as the roads in South Africa or even the road on the Caprivi strip. The highway is not a true highway like the wonderful roads in Croatia. (I remember that you were going there). They are adequate two lane highways BUT with speed bumps when you least expect them and tons of potholes. Also the BR101 up here is full of trucks supplying the cities. But don't be dissuaded by the nay sayers who think it is not safe to drive in Brazil. That is ridiculous. One caveat, however, is that you do not want to be driving around Rio and take a wrong turn into a favela.

We are now in Praia Pipa, a cute rustic town on the beach 80km south of Natal which seems very popular with both Brazilians and Europeans. Total travel time was an hour and a half. Once off the highway, it took a half hour on this road to do 20km. Tomorrow we are heading to Joao Pessoa, then on to Recife and Porto de Galinhas and south so I'll have more information later.

In Manaus, we also rented a car. However, we found we needed to take a taxi to the airport to get the car. Now Manaus was interesting because there are random police blockades on the road to Venezuela. All of a sudden there would be a stop with maybe 10 armed police officers stopping all cars. We would look at them and they would look at us and off we would go. Very few English speakers. We also rented a car in Santarem which was very interesting because there were only local companies and no English speakers. We made our way to Alto do Chao which was gorgeous, one of the most beautiful beaches in Brazil.

The Amazon river cruises are great and there are some wonderful spectacles/adventures. Be on the lookout for the pink river dolphins who frequently trail the boats. Manaus is a gritty river city but the activities around the main river port are quite interesting. I particularly liked the clever way they kept their beer cold.

I am not a big fan of Buenos Aires. People say that it is the Paris of South America. Parisians would be offended. I thought is was absurd. It is nothing like Paris. BA is a huge, very dirty city. We found it more productive to have a car in BA as well since the distances between neighborhoods are so vast. While in BA, we witnessed many spontaneous protests spring up out of no where. Walking along, all of a sudden there was some protest or another with disgruntled people lumbering by with loudspeakers, fireworks, etc. Met many people, particularly those who were in town at the beginning or end of a cruise, who had their passports stolen and were despondent because it was such a hassle and expense to solve the problem. We did dine at some fine restaurants and had some nice experiences but the overall experience was just so so. Mendoza and North were entirely different as well as southern Patagonia which is vast. By the way, we were in BA in November and it was HOT!

Much nicer to us was Uruguay. What a gorgeous country. We took the ferry from BA to Montevideo and rented a car and spent two marvelous weeks driving up the coast all the way to Punta del Diablo. What a wonderful country.

More later...


boudecca Jul 31st, 2011 12:13 PM

One other thing re: Santa Theresa. While we were in town, armed gunmen entered the posh Hotel Santa Teresa and held up I think it was fourteen guests at gunpoint. This area is quite near a favela and I have read many reports of crime in the last six months while planning this trip. I would be very careful wandering around here. In fact, we opted out and will give it a try when we return to Rio in September. While planning our trip I kept up with local goings on by reading

boudecca Jul 31st, 2011 04:53 PM

Here's the link about the armed robbery at Hotel Santa Teresa.

Carlos69 Aug 1st, 2011 01:25 AM

Jesus Christ, you must be fun to travel with. Nobody spoke English? Que surpresa! And you don't speak Portuguese? Now whose problem is that? I read the comments on Thorntree and most of the problems you reported, language difficulties, expense, heavy vehicle traffic and the danger of getting lost were all pointed out to you. You make your bed and....

Enjoy finding a park In Salvador btw oh and don't get lost heading out via Sete Portas lest you end up somewhere 'interesting' or indeed exciting. ;-)

You have been scammed every day? Really? That either suggests incredible ill luck, considerable naivete or perhaps problems communicating. Perhaps all three. Maybe the obverse is true. perhaps I'm exceptionally lucky because I could probably count the number of times a taxi driver has tried to rip me off on one hand. Perhaps it's because I speak the language. then again I know very few people who make such claims so perhaps it is just you after all.

Events like the robbery at the hotel in santa Teresa are rare. That said this sort of thing has happened in Zona Sul as well. It's like most freak events, largely unavoidable and purely a matter of luck. The proximity of a favela has nothing to do with it. There are favelas next to Ipanema and Copacabana.

Hopefully your trip will improve. Good luck.

boudecca Aug 2nd, 2011 01:44 AM

To Carlos69

I'm missing the point of your unnecessarily aggressive post. I am reporting exactly what happened to us. Our experiences do not make us lucky or unlucky, naive or without communication skills. These are facts whether you like the way they reflect upon Brazil or not. Low level corruption in the cities appears to be part of life in Brazil and I think it is sad because the Brazilians are lovely. We have spoken to many locals in our few weeks here and none of them are surprised by our experiences.

We have traveled to over 84 countries. We know how to travel and what to expect. And we know the difference between right and wrong. So what if our Portuguese is not perfect and if we stumble on the correct word. You imply that makes it okay to rip us off. Well, I don't think it's okay to rip anyone off for any reason whether one speaks Portuguese or not.

Regarding the armed robbery at Hotel Santa Teresa, all fine and well for you to say it is rare. The fact that it happened at all is disturbing. I doubt any of the guests staying at that very expensive hotel had ever been robbed at gunpoint before. Who has? And why should they have had to endure an armed robbery at all! I challenge you to find a newspaper article in any other country where an armed robbery of a well known hotel is reported. The danger of Santa Teresa is well documented throughout the boards. You know that!

The tone of your post is insulting and does not further the discussion or aid fellow travelers in any way. There is very little written on Brazil on this board and my intent is to be as helpful as possible. What is your point?

Elizabeth_S Aug 3rd, 2011 07:09 AM

boudecca - thanks for remembering me and the info here. I have a question re Brazl for Less - could you email me when it's convenient?

eseibertca AT yahoo DOT ca


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