Post Number: 7
|Posted on Thursday, January 28, 2010 - 10:06 am: |
I have not long returned from a 3 week trip with my girlfriend to South America from London and found all of the advice from this forum extremely useful when planning the trip, so I thought I would write back to say thanks and give any prospective travellers advice from our experience from a tourists point of view.
04/12 - 08/12 Buenos Aires, Argentina
We stayed in a beautiful hotel called the cocker in San Telmo. It is a converted town house and has been renovated brilliantly. The rooms were big, clean and tastefully decorated with local art and the breakfast was huge. Itís in a great location, being a 10 minute walk to the plaza de mayo. Friendly staff that spoke great English and were full of recommendations for food, tango, shopping etc. Would highly recommend being in San Telmo on a Sunday as the street markets and drumming parades are great fun. Really enjoyed the restaurants and bars on Puerto Madero too which is short walk from San Telmo. Much preferred it in San Telmo compared to Palermo as it felt more authentic and oozed with history and art etc. Recoletta was also very nice, and Boca, although you are told to steer clear is cool too if you stick to the tourist path. All of the above mentioned was within a cheap taxi ride from the hotel.
08/12 - 12/12 Mendoza, Argentina
We flew to Mendoza from Buenos Aires in 1 hour 45 minutes. We stayed outside of Mendoza centre in a place called Chacras De Coria in a place called Possada Borravino. It is a really cool place, clean and friendly people with a very rustic decor. The bed was a bit tough on our backs but it was cheap, beautifully quiet and relaxing. Breakfast was nice too. We hired a car from the airport as we planned to drive to Santiago too. If you plan to drive cross border, beware of the A$600 hidden fee for the paperwork to cross the border that the hire company will demand. A car is a must for me in Chacras De Coria as it will allow you to go in and out of the city, and see the surrounding areas at your own leisure and was about US$350 for a week. Chacras is a lovely quiet little village with some nice local eateries and shops in the town (which was about a 10 minute drive from our hotel). We used bikesandwine.com to visit the vineyards which was a nice cheap way of doing it, but the bike saddles are very unforgiving and it is a 24km round trip to visit all of the vineyards. The vineyards and wineries were great though and the wine was sublime. White water rafting on the Rio Mendoza was another highlight, and this was all organised through Possada Borravino.
12/12 - 14/12 Santiago, Chile
We drove from Mendoza to Santiago on what can only be described as the best drive I have ever done. Would highly recommend driving over flying as the scenery is incredible. The drive took us around 8 hours which included a stop at Puenta del Inca which is great for cheap Alpaca garments, souvenirs and more incredible views. The multi coloured natural bridge is very impressive also. Customs was quite hectic but make sure you fill out all of the relevant forms before you get to the window, have some Chilean Pesos on you and go from the Argentinian Border first on your left, and the Chilean second on your right. We couldnít find any English speaking people there so our Spanish was tested severely. The Chilean side of the Andes has a lot of construction work going on so there are more hold ups, but the views are so nice that you wont mind. There are gas stations on the way so even if you are on just over half a tank you will make it to the next gas station. Once in Santiago, we stayed a place called Hostel Amazonas B&B which was very basic, but also very cheap. Really helpful and friendly staff, but make sure you donít get a bed facing the road as it is extremely noisy all night. Good location though, and walk able to everywhere. I would recommend the highly rated Astrid y Gaston restaurant for some luxury food, and some of the parks and national reserves are stunning. We drove back to Mendoza and stayed in a hostel called Chimbas which was cheap and cheerful. We were there for 1 night and seemed nice with a great kitchen to cook your own food and small pool.
15/12 - 19/12 El Calafate, Argentina
We flew from Mendoza to El Calafate via Mendoza which took around 7 hours in total. We had a bit of luxury here and stayed at the design suites hotel which has the most stunning views of the Lago Argentino from your bedroom and the restaurant. The rooms were big and comfortable with a jacuzzi looking out over the lake. Great big heated swimming pool and a huge breakfast buffet. Couldnít recommend this hotel more for a bit of luxury at US$100 - 150 a night. We used Amayco Tour Company to visit Perito Moreno Glacier one day, and go horse riding the other and both were incredible. The company was great, very professional and informative. The glacier and the Lago Argentino were the most impressive things we saw, and if you are planning a trip to Argentina I would make sure this place is on the itinerary. When you are not site seeing, the Design Suites Hotel had a free mini bus that goes to and from the centre on the hour which saves on Taxiís and there are some great restaurants and shops to wonder around. It almost feels like you are on a movie set. The only downfall is that it is full of tourists, and loses some of the Argentinean feel, but you can see why tourists flock here.
19/12 - 22/12 - Punta Del Este, Uruguay
We flew to Punta del Este from El Calafate via Buenos Aires again, and was slightly quicker this time. Punta Del Este was great, with miles and miles of sandy golden beaches. We stayed at a place called Jean Clever which was a good hotel with a great pool. Was a bit out from the town centre (15 minute walk) but was cheaper than most hotels there. Clean, good breakfast and friendly staff and right next to the shopping mall, complete with bowling alley and cinema. Punta Del Este was nice, but we couldnít get over how expensive it was compared to everywhere else, even London. Not too much else to see either but lay on the beach, sleep and eat. Excursions to see the sea lion colony were US$100 per passenger, so we missed that out and the airport tax was extortionate when leaving. Overall though it was nice and relaxing which was exactly what we needed after an action packed site seeing holiday.
I don't think we could have done anything different. I feel we spent enough time in each place (another night in Santiago and El Calafate would have been nice), and flying certainly saved us a lot of time. Overall we paid UK£500 per person for all of the flights, which included returns from BA - Mendoza, BA - Calafate, and BA - Punta del Este with Aerolinas Argentinas and booked them all together over the phone. We were over with our baggage as we had our international allowance with us at all times, but we didnít get charged which was nice. Buses are considerably cheaper, however if you are on a tight schedule it will eat up a lot of your time. Apart from that, we didnít have any problems at all really. Plenty of ATM's in the city centres (however we did get issued with a few fake A$100 notes from the ATMís so be careful and check all the notes before leaving), didnít ever feel unsafe or harassed by street vendors, taxi drivers drove to meter (even though some drove like lunatics), and the people were generally accommodating. We picked up some Spanish to get by with which definitely helped in some situations with taxi drivers and in shops. We also heard that IguaÁu Falls is great but an expensive detour if you are not driving through to Brazil, and apart from the Waterfall there is nothing else to do in the town. We chose El Calafate instead for our 3 week itinerary and havenít regretted it.
I hope this information helps anyone that might want it. I just wanted to share some of the experiences that we had as we were advised so well from this forum. If anyone has any questions I will be happy to answer them.
Post Number: 1957
|Posted on Friday, January 29, 2010 - 8:14 pm: |
Martin, this is very much appreciated. We do not have too many travelers that come back with an extensive report and yours will help many. If you also want to upload pictures, feel free when you have the chance. Only if you want to... Thank you, again.