Wednesday night, February 27th, we took the bus from Ipanema to the Rio International Airport with 3 hours until our flight. However, the bus made numerous stops causing us to arrive with little time to spare. We were fortunate that we had some assistance from the GOL attendants and we made our on-time departure to Foz de Iguacu. Hotel Rouver, our room for the next 2 nights, sent a shuttle to the airport at midnight to retrieve us. The hotel was nice enough, but at only $50USD in Brazil, you get what you pay for – a spacious room with a/c, good wireless and a free airport shuttle were the highlights. The breakfast was very basic and the room and bathroom could use some upgrades.
Iguazu Falls – Brazil
Friday morning we headed to Iguazu Falls on the bus at 8:15am. The park opens at 9am and we were there when it opened. After paying $20USD per person at the entrance, we loaded another bus for the 10km trip to see the Falls. As soon as you exit the bus, you can hear the thunderous roar of the crashing water. The Falls are made up of 275 different waterfalls, but they are closely connected. Some have huge amounts of water flowing from them and others are small, but still quite impressive. Around 80% of the falls are on the Argentina side, so you get the best panoramic views from Brazil. The Falls are created from the Iguazu River and they divide the river into the upper and lower Iguazu – they are considered as one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature.
After walking the entire length of the falls (about 3km) and viewing the most impressive “Devil’s Throat”, we had a small snack above the falls as we planned the rest of our day in the park. Come to find out, everything on the Brazilian side is optional, meaning more money! We didn’t think any of these optional tours were worth it so we decided to walk part of the 10km back to the main entrance. This was a bit disappointing because we wanted to spend the entire day at the falls. We made it about 5km to the next bus station and headed back to the hotel for our trip across the border to Argentina.
Getting into Argentina – Disaster Avoided!
We had researched the entry requirements for Argentina when we started planning this trip – no issues for UK citizens and $160USD reciprocity fee for US citizens only charged at the airports. While in Rio, I checked a few forums on visiting the Falls in Argentina and read that they had changed the fee for US citizens to be paid online before arrival, but again, only at the airports. So, we were good to go! We caught the bus from our hotel to the immigration office at the Brazilian border. The bus driver gives you a receipt to catch the next bus so they don’t have to wait with passengers that don’t need the exit stamp. Exiting Brazil was easy and we were off on the next bus to the Argentina Border about 20 minutes later. Wayne was first and no issues at immigration, they stamped his passport and he was off. I, on the other hand was stuck.
The immigration officer didn’t speak English, but he was clearly asking for my PREPAID voucher for $160 to enter the country…uh oh…I didn’t have one and there was no way of obtaining one without going back to Brazil. There was a duty free shopping area between the countries and we thought we could get online, pay the fee, and be on our way. No such luck! We sat for a while contemplating our next move. Going back to Brazil was going to be a huge hassle, but I had no other option. Wayne volunteered to go back and I would stay to watch the bags, but before going he went back to the immigration office for one last effort. I see him running back, thinking he was able to pull a fast one, but we are dealing with country politics and this isn’t a 3rd world country where you can bribe the immigration officer. However, he did have an epiphany, he was going to take my passport with him to Puerto Iguazu, in Argentina, which was only 2km away, look for a hotel with a business center and pay the fee. I agreed to let him take my passport as I sat in no man’s land, unable to go in either direction without it.
Less than an hour later Wayne returned and we were BOTH off to Argentina. After getting to the hotel, I checked the US immigration website and it clearly states that US citizens need to have prepaid vouchers at ALL points of entry! Hopefully, this will be our only immigration mistake! Wayne was my hero! We made it to our hotel, Casa Yaguarete B&B, and promptly had a beer in celebration! Casa Yaguarete was a wonderful place to stay just outside of town but convenient to the park and airport. Our room was new and beautiful, the bed was comfortable and the a/c worked like a charm! The first night we stayed at the hotel for a delicious family style dinner with other guests.
Dollars to Pesos in Argentina
While in Paraty, we met an Aussie guy and we were giving him our itinerary for the next few weeks. He told us when going to Argentina to take US dollars as you can exchange them on the black market for 25% more pesos to the dollar than the government rate of around 5 pesos to the dollar. We didn’t dismiss his suggestion, but we also didn’t fully understand the advise he was giving us. Where would we find this “blue dollar market”, what if we were stuck with a few thousand dollars as we travelled around, and what if the rate was really 5 anyway? So many unanswered questions that we left our decision until the last day in Rio! We bit the bullet and pulled out all the cash that was allotted for a day with the ATM – $900USD. We first had to get Brazilian currency, Reais, from the bank, then exchange it at a currency exchange for hard dollars. Even with the $87 in exchange rate losses we decided it was worth a shot if we could exchange at 6.5 pesos. When we arrived at our Posada in Puerto Iguazu, we mentioned that we needed to get money to pay the park entrance; our luck was in and a kind woman offered to take us to get “a better rate”. Ahhhh…the plan was coming together! She said she hoped for 6.5 for us, but maybe more. Great! After all was said and done, we received 6.8 pesos per dollar – our trip was going to be so much cheaper. Now our goal when passing into Chile for our trek next week is to get as many dollars as possible because we’ll be heading back into Argentina for a few more weeks!!
We hear that the public has no faith in their currency and they would prefer to have US dollars instead of putting their money in the bank. There are places where you can get up to 8 pesos to the dollar – maybe we’ll find that place in our next exchange!
Iguazu Falls – Argentina
Saturday we headed once again to visit the Falls, but from the opposite side in Argentina. The two sides are completely different. From Brazil you see the Falls from afar and get great views of it’s enormity and from Argentina you are up close and personal, but you also get great views.
If I only had one day, I would see the Argentine side. The park entrance fee was over $30USD which was a bit more expensive than Brazil, but there was so much more to see and do and we spent the entire day there that it seemed worth it. After arriving, we headed out to see “Devil’s Throat”, the highlight of the day.
We were soaked! There is so much water pouring over the edge of the falls and spraying back up to us. It was an incredible moment – I wish the pictures could do it justice! We spent the rest of the day walking around the park viewing the waterfalls from the numerous platforms.
The day ended in Puerto Iguazu at a fabulous restaurant, Color, where we indulged in the best succulent Argentine beef! YUM! This was definitely the beginning of our cow eating binge.
What a fantastic day!
February 27th – March 3rd 2013