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Big South America trip next year: looking for suggestions.

post #1 of 62
Thread Starter 
So I decided to suck it up and keep my job until next May when i'm done school, as it will make paying for this trip easy. I'm planning on a 4 month trip from the beginning of May until the end of August next year. I figure that if i skip the luxury hotels this time, I can do it on a tentative budget of around 10k. I may have to adjust for the diving, but that's ok. My priorities are 1) get my spanish to a good level 2) have fun and relax (women, dancing, beaches, diving) 3) see lots of cool stuff and take lots of pictures. 4) Get a Dive license and do lots of diving (gonna buy an underwater kit for my camera) ^_^


I intend to spend my first month in Buenos Aires. I'm going to take intensive spanish for a month before i head out to more rural areas and less developed countries because I won't have a bilingual spanish-speaking girlfriend as a crutch this time. Aside from that, everything else is flexible so I'm open to ideas from anyone that's spent time down there.

This is what I can think of so far:

Argentina: Buenos Aires (tango and spanish lessons, just have fun), Patagonia region, Parque Nacional Los Glaciares, Ushuaia (southermost city in the world), Mendoza (wine country), Iguazu Falls.

Uruguay: Montevideo.

Chile: Torres del Paine national park (penguins and more glaciers/mountains), Santiago and valparaiso. Not sure what else there is to do in Chile so I'm open to suggestions at this point. If I can find the time to get back in to very good climbing shape, I could also do a lot of it in Chile/Argentina.

Bolivia: Salar de Uyuni (largest salt flats in the world), La Paz, Lake Titicaca, maybe Isla del Sol.

Peru: seen much of it already, but missed Southern Peru on the last trip. Might go to Ica and Arequipa and then catch a flight in Lima to my next destination. Haven't really considered logistics so I might skip it completely.

Ecuador: Galapagos Islands, Quito, maybe spend more time in the rainforest (could also do this in Brazil). Do some diving there.

Brazil: Huge country. Aside from a short stay in Rio, haven't a clue what to see. Could use suggestions from anyone that's spent time there. I'll probably minimize my time here since I'm trying to improve my spanish and not portuguese. Then again, the beaches of Brazil are supposed to be great (as are the women, but with no portuguese it would be difficult), so I might spend more time here. I don't know...

Colombia: definitely Cartagena and Islas del Rosario (more diving). Not sure how much time I'll spend in Bogota. I intend to leave colombia to the end of the trip since my spanish will be best at that point and if my camera equipment gets jacked it won't spoil my enjoyment too much.

Panama, Costa Rica, etc.: Would like to tack this on to end of trip if there's still time. I'm open to suggestions since I'll try hard to fit them in. Could do yet more diving here. ^_^

I'll probably rent a nice apartment in Buenos Aires for a month and stay in hostels for the rest of the time. It seems to be quite easy to find safe and clean places to stay down there. I'll probably have to spend more in the Galapagos and Rio, but in other places I'll be spending like $20/night so it's not a big deal. I'm going to try to limit air travel to keep travel costs down and see more of the countries i'm travelling through.

Packing will be a bit of a challenge. It will be a long trip and I'll have to prepare for average temperatures of 0 to 30. I'd like to have nice clothes for going out at night in BA (temps there will be 5-17 celsius) but I don't want to carry around too much stuff when I'm on buses, as I'm a little paranoid of things getting stolen. Has anyone done a trip like this before? How did you pack? I'm probably going to bring two sets of camera equipment. I'll keep one on me and one in the hotel. I like taking pictures so I don't want to be stuck with a point and shoot if i get robbed.

Most importantly, what am I missing on my list of things to see and do? For those that have been to brazil, what is a must see/do? For those that dive, what are the best spots? It's something i've wanted to do for a long time so i'd like to do as much of it as possible.
post #2 of 62
I'll get back to you
post #3 of 62
you do realize that our summer is their winter.

i've never been down there but i've heard good things about mar del plata in argentina. also, paraguay supposedly has the highest ratio of women to men, anywhere.
post #4 of 62
As far as Rio is concerned you should stay in ipanema. Copa is a dump. Best restaurants and upscale nightlife is in leblon or ipanema or barra which is a little out of the way. Lapa is one big party at night but its more downscale (and much more fun) and for the adventuresome and portuguese speakers.

Great nightlife in BA and you wont really be out of place if you dress up as you would be in other parts of SA.
post #5 of 62
In Rio, make sure to go up the Corcovado - the Pao de Acucar is less necessary. The Palace of Culture is cool if you're into architecture and Leblon is, as redc said, a very cool place.

A city I think is really cool is Ouro Preto in the interior, it's a UNESCO site that is pretty much all original 18th/19th century buildings.
post #6 of 62
i've always wanted to see brasilia.
post #7 of 62
FLMountainMan posted a thread about going down to CR and I'm pretty sure I gave a rundown of what there was to do down here. I'm obviously biased about this place but not without good reason: volcanoes, rainforests, and beaches all with impressionable young women. You've got a lot on your plate as it is but if you're remotely serious about coming over here, PM me.
post #8 of 62
You might want to reconsider that much time in BA. My girlfriend was just there for over a month and hated it. The farmers have been staging protests by setting crops on fire, so the whole city was smoky. She found the people in the city extremely rude, which didn't help with her Spanish. She loved the surrounding area, but from what she told me, one month is way too much. Just a thought.
post #9 of 62
Forgot to add Maracana stadium if you end up in rio. I dont know the first thing about soccer/futebol but even if you dont, you really should catch a game there. The place is huge and its a giant party.
post #10 of 62
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by matadorpoeta View Post
you do realize that our summer is their winter.

i've never been down there but i've heard good things about mar del plata in argentina. also, paraguay supposedly has the highest ratio of women to men, anywhere.

Yes, I'm not Connie's roommate, but I'm covering a lot of ground. Some places I'll be at are right on the equator or slightly above it, so it will still be hot. Buenos Aires temps will be 6-17, so no women walking around in bikinis there, unfortunately. I was surprised that temps only drop to about -1 in the Patagonia region though. I thought it would be colder.

Good call on the futbol in Brazil. I intend to attend in Argentina too. Bull fights too.

Augusto, did you ever end up making that trip of yours? It sounded like fun but I never saw a follow-up post (if you haven't you should forget the job search for a while and take a trip!). I'll take a look at Ouro Preto.

Btw, what does upscale nightlife in Rio cost? Same question for BA if anyone can answer. I can extend the budget if necessary, but don't really want to do it for $100 covers. If that's the case I'll just chill with the commoners. :P I'm really looking at spending a lot of time diving, the more I think about it. I'm very excited about that.

Oh and that's an interesting stat about Paraguay, Mata. I wonder if it's true. Still, at some point the smaller cities will all start to look the same (they did in Peru), and there isn't anything that stands out in Paraguay that I want to see. And I'm sure I'll get my fill of hot women in Argentina and Colombia. :P

Looking forward to Globe's response. That dude has been everywhere. And my thanks to everyone that's responded so far.
post #11 of 62
You will make many Brazilian men very happy.
post #12 of 62
Quote:
Originally Posted by GQgeek View Post
Brazil: (as are the women, but with no Portuguese it would be difficult), so I might spend more time here.
False. Many of them speak English, at least functionally enough for you to take them home with you. As long as you have some semblance of skills you can do quite well.
Quote:
Originally Posted by GQgeek View Post
Has anyone done a trip like this before? How did you pack? I'm probably going to bring two sets of camera equipment. I'll keep one on me and one in the hotel. I like taking pictures so I don't want to be stuck with a point and shoot if i get robbed.
Went down for two weeks to Salvador, Rio and BA. Spent 6 days in BA which IMO was a little long. 5 days in Rio, which IMO was a little short. If you are smart about using your camera and staying in safe situations, you should have no problems with it getting stolen.
Quote:
Originally Posted by GQgeek View Post
Good call on the futbol in Brazil. I intend to attend in Argentina too.
Went to two futbol matches, one in Rio, the Taça Guanabara, which . was . ridiculous . Also went to a River Plate, which was a Copa Libertadores game. They played America, a team from Mexico. It was a much different environment. I believe partially because River plays in an upscale neighborhood, so there wasn't any craziness at all outside the stadium. We couldn't even find a jersey vendor. Also, because the team was from Mexico, they had only a handful of visiting fans. Both games were crazy though, and we got very lucky seeing both home teams score goals in injury time to win. Also, the game in Rio was a much bigger deal because it was a Rio Cup match. I'm sure a River Plate v. Boca Juniors match is awesome. Though I would suggest trying to see them play at La Bombonera.
Quote:
Originally Posted by GQgeek View Post
Btw, what does upscale nightlife in Rio cost? Same question for BA if anyone can answer. I can extend the budget if necessary, but don't really want to do it for $100 covers. If that's the case I'll just chill with the commoners. :P I'm really looking at spending a lot of time diving, the more I think about it. I'm very excited about that.
Upscale in Rio cost far more than BA. We were a group of 5 and regularly found ourselves spending at least 500 Reais, often more on dinner. Granted, we were going to the nicest restaurants in Rio and not even worrying about prices. You can grab a drink and empanada special on the street for 4 Reais. We ate unbelievably well in BA. Meals that would cost approx $200/pp in NYC cost approx $50. It feels like you are stealing. Have a great time. Also, check out hang gliding in Rio. Here's a random picture from Google that is pretty representative of the experience: One thing I would add. If you can, look into renting apartments everywhere. You will get much more for your money than hotels and often be in better locations.
post #13 of 62
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by StockwellDay View Post
False. Many of them speak English, at least functionally enough for you to take them home with you. As long as you have some semblance of skills you can do quite well.

Everyone knows teh g33k has skillz!


Quote:
Went down for two weeks to Salvador, Rio and BA. Spent 6 days in BA which IMO was a little long. 5 days in Rio, which IMO was a little short. If you are smart about using your camera and staying in safe situations, you should have no problems with it getting stolen.

What did you actually do in rio besides see a futbol game and party? Beaches? Just general sight-seeing? Good to know the women speak some english. I'd just heard so many bad things about Rio recently: violent crime, congestion, etc.

Quote:
Upscale in Rio cost far more than BA. We were a group of 5 and regularly found ourselves regularly spending at least 500 Reais, often more on dinner. Granted, we were going to the nicest restaurants in Rio and not even worrying about prices. You can grab a drink and empanada special on the street for 4 Reais.

We ate unbelievably well in BA. Meals that would cost approx $200/pp in NYC cost approx $50. It feels like you are stealing.

500 reais per person? If for the group that's not so bad. And ya, I ate at some places in peru that were like that but were $60 for two. I didn't feel like I was stealing. I just thought it was awesome! Generally speaking, I'm going to keep that sort of thing to a minimum on this trip and spend my money on more experiential things like diving. I've eaten at enough high-end restaurants in my life.

Quote:
Have a great time. Also, check out hang gliding in Rio. Here's a random picture from Google that is pretty representative of the experience:

One thing I would add. If you can, look into renting apartments everywhere. You will get much more for your money than hotels and often be in better locations.

Done sky diving, never considered hang gliding before... Will look in to it. And I'm definitely renting an apartment for BA. Basically, anywhere that I stay long enough I will rent an apartment, for places I spend less time in I will will stay in hostels. I'm definitely not spending on hotels because it's a minimum 4 month trip.
post #14 of 62
Quote:
Originally Posted by GQgeek View Post


What did you actually do in rio besides see a futbol game and party? Beaches? Just general sight-seeing? Good to know the women speak some english. I'd just heard so many bad things about Rio recently: violent crime, congestion, etc.

Yeah, general sightseeing... Let's see. Beaches, lots of partying. Saw the Christ. Hang gliding. Futbol. Skip the Botanical Garden. Pão de Açúcar is cool at night, they have samba shows and concerts. We actually only had one full day to hang at the beach and I wish we had had more -- it's quite a scene.

I stayed in a nice apt in Impanema on R. Barao de Torre and R. Farme de Amoedo. It's a very nice neighborhood and you wouldn't think anything of walking around alone. It also happens to be one block from a Favela in the other direction and at no time did anyone feel unsafe.

The only minor incident we had was we were exiting a taxi about a block south of the same Favela to go to a bar. The taxi door was open and my friend had a 10 Real note in his hand. A 10 or 11 yo kid came up and just snatched it out of his hand and kind of skipped away laughing. We also started laughing.


Quote:
500 reais per person? If for the group that's not so bad. And ya, I ate at some places in peru that were like that but were $60 for two. I didn't feel like I was stealing. I just thought it was awesome! Generally speaking, I'm going to keep that sort of thing to a minimum on this trip and spend my money on more experiential things like diving. I've eaten at enough high-end restaurants in my life.

True. I guess typically it was more in the 800-1000 Reais range. 500 was the minimum for the upper end restaurants. We joked once we moved on to BA that the restaurants were too cheap and that we felt strange not spending at least 500 Reais. However, for our meals we also ordered a ton of apps, entrees, wine and alcohol. You can do it cheaper.

Quote:
Done sky diving, never considered hang gliding before... Will look in to it. And I'm definitely renting an apartment for BA. Basically, anywhere that I stay long enough I will rent an apartment, for places I spend less time in I will will stay in hostels. I'm definitely not spending on hotels because it's a minimum 4 month trip.

4 month trip! Wow, you have a ton of time. I definitely recommend hitting up Salvador, Bahia as well. On the one hand it certainly felt a lot less safe than Rio, but on the other its a completely different experience and worth the trip.

I've never been skydiving, but would imagine that is much much more of an adrenaline rush. The hang gliding is for a little rush, but more so for the sightseeing aspect.

In terms of sightseeing, I actually felt there was more to do in Rio than in BA. The shopping in BA is much better and the neighborhoods are cuter to walk around, but it also felt less exciting. Rio seemed to have a lot more energy, the people were friendly, and the women easier.
post #15 of 62
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by StockwellDay View Post
I stayed in a nice apt in Impanema on R. Barao de Torre and R. Farme de Amoedo. It's a very nice neighborhood and you wouldn't think anything of walking around alone. It also happens to be one block from a Favela in the other direction and at no time did anyone feel unsafe.

4 month trip! Wow, you have a ton of time. I definitely recommend hitting up Salvador, Bahia as well. On the one hand it certainly felt a lot less safe than Rio, but on the other its a completely different experience and worth the trip.

I've never been skydiving, but would imagine that is much much more of an adrenaline rush. The hang gliding is for a little rush, but more so for the sightseeing aspect.

In terms of sightseeing, I actually felt there was more to do in Rio than in BA. The shopping in BA is much better and the neighborhoods are cuter to walk around, but it also felt less exciting. Rio seemed to have a lot more energy, the people were friendly, and the women easier.

Ya, I'm really looking forward to it. I've had very very little free time in the past year and a half so I need the extended vacation. In a way, it would be kinda cool if i don't get in to grad school so that I could spend more time down there! (ok not really)

How much time would you ideally spend in rio so as not to rush? Two weeks? I just read some more about rio and i'm more keen on it now. Apparently, just like colombia, the safety issue is over-stated. I'm starting to feel like I'm going to be rushed with only 4 months!
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