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Old Nov 2, 11, 7:13 pm   #1
 
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Help with first international trip

I finally managed to get my trip to SA booked and I'm excited! I've been pouring over these forums, looking for advice and things to do, especially since this is my first international trip. Some threads are fairly old, so I thought I'd start a new one.

I'll be travelling in Feb/March 2012. I've taken out any transit time and will have this amount of quality time in each location:

4 days in Lima
3 days on Easter Island
2.5 days in Santiago
4.5 days in Buenos Aires

1. Are there any "must see/do" things in any of these places?
2. How common is Internet access, especially free wifi with lodging? I'm not sure what the practices are.
3. Is it crazy to bring 2 or 3 suitcases (for two people to share)?
4. How accessible is laundry service? If I don't bring much luggage, I'll need to figure out how to get clean clothes.
5. Are there liquid restrictions on international or LAN flights? Meaning, can I buy a big bottle of shampoo, conditioner, mouth wash, etc in Lima and take it with me through the rest of the trip?
6. On that note, hotels in the US usually provide shampoo and conditioner. Is this common in SA, too, or do I need to make sure to have my own?
7. Anything to make sure I bring from home that might surprise me? Like, should I be able to easily find Tums, Advil, feminine hygiene products, sunblock, or anything else like that?
8. If you were going on a similar trip, how much USD cash would you carry? My preference would be to not rely on a bank/ATM in SA but it seems crazy to carry enough cash for 2.5 weeks.
9. I tend to take my laptop with me, but is this a bad idea? What about an iPad or netbook?
10. I have an iPhone on AT&T. What's the best way to go about getting a data/phone plan? Should I just get a prepaid phone? Is there one that would work across my whole trip?

For 2, 9 and 10, I'm mostly thinking about an occasional call/text to the family and posting a picture or two on Facebook.

If my questions didn't give me away, I am really new to all this so I appreciate your patience and help. Thanks!
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Old Nov 2, 11, 7:43 pm   #2
 
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Re 2, 9 and 10, my suggestion is that you leave your laptop and iPad home. Internet cafes tend to be plentiful and very inexpensive. In downtown Buenos Aires for example you'll find one on almost every block. You can also place a phone call to the US for pennies from those places.
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Old Nov 2, 11, 8:29 pm   #3
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1. Are there any "must see/do" things in any of these places?

Yes, but others will chime in before me at this point.

2. How common is Internet access, especially free wifi with lodging? I'm not sure what the practices are.

Variable - internet cafes are plentiful, but with your hotel, kind of like the US - the fancier the place, the less likely it will be free.

3. Is it crazy to bring 2 or 3 suitcases (for two people to share)?

1 per person plus your carry on - don't bring more. Many taxis are fairly small.

4. How accessible is laundry service? If I don't bring much luggage, I'll need to figure out how to get clean clothes.

If your clothes are a little dirty, so what. Most hotels have a laundry service - but you could pay dearly. A hotel can steer you to the closest lavanderia. Note that with the relatively short stays at each stop, if you choose this option, you need to hop on it as soon as you get somewhere.

5. Are there liquid restrictions on international or LAN flights? Meaning, can I buy a big bottle of shampoo, conditioner, mouth wash, etc in Lima and take it with me through the rest of the trip?

LAN has no restrictions as an airline. LIM won't let you through security with 100ml+ liquid bottles even though there are no restrictions flying i.e., to SCL or EZE. Besides, if you don't have your favo(u)rite shampoo or conditioner while on vacation, it is not the end of the world. In fact, it will make you a better traveler.

6. On that note, hotels in the US usually provide shampoo and conditioner. Is this common in SA, too, or do I need to make sure to have my own?

I think I've yet to not have shampoo in South America, and I've stayed in some relatively spartan (but not hostel) accommodations. If you miss a few days without conditioner, your frizzy hair will not ruin your trip. It will make you a better traveler.

7. Anything to make sure I bring from home that might surprise me? Like, should I be able to easily find Tums, Advil, feminine hygiene products, sunblock, or anything else like that?

Most everything is available - but may not be obvious, i.e., in Chile, you might need to ask at the counter for an antacid (even though no prescription is required.) You will likely not find your favorite name brand.

8. If you were going on a similar trip, how much USD cash would you carry? My preference would be to not rely on a bank/ATM in SA but it seems crazy to carry enough cash for 2.5 weeks.

Use your ATM, and see if you can find a local bank that will reimburse you for ATM fees. Also, get a credit card with no Forex % charges. Also note that smaller places don't take CCs or may give a cash discount.

9. I tend to take my laptop with me, but is this a bad idea? What about an iPad or netbook?

It can't hurt to have your laptop, esp. if it easily fits in your carry-on.

10. I have an iPhone on AT&T. What's the best way to go about getting a data/phone plan? Should I just get a prepaid phone? Is there one that would work across my whole trip?

You need to call AT&T to see if they have short term data plans. Verizon used to have a great one, but now they don't. A prepaid phone won't work in all the countries you are going to - you'd probably need different sim cards. Not worth the trouble. If you need to call home, there are many "locutorios" (with various names) where you can call the USA and most of the world, for cheap. Also, if you aren't paying for toll-free calls from a hotel, in Argentina they have cheap int'l phone calling cards - AR$10 (under $2.50) for an hour or so of calling the US. Many little kioscos sell them. If loved ones need to get in touch with you (i.e., real emergency) they can call your hotel. Otherwise, email is fine - enjoy your trip and don't worry about keeping in touch with North America each and every minute.
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Old Nov 3, 11, 10:02 am   #4
 
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@Panam Clipper -- Thanks for the tips. I wanted to be able to share a few photos from my phone during the trip, but it probably won't be worth the costs. I can just use internet cafes/phone cards.

@Eastbay1K -- Thank you for the detailed reply!

4 -- I'm willing to wear pants and such 2 or even 3 times if they aren't soiled, but not so with socks and panties. I've been doing research into doing my own laundry in my room. It's good to know there are lavanderias fairly accessible in case my own attempts don't go so well.

5 -- It's not about having my favorite, really. It's that buying a new bottle in each location would be a silly expense. So, I was asking about large bottles to save money and cut down on waste.

6 -- I once went a week with nothing but men's body wash for bathing, so I know what my hair is like with no conditioner. By the end, I couldn't even get a brush through my hair! But no, it's not the end of the world if I miss a day or two.

7 -- That's a good tip. I'm not concerned about the name brand, just something that addresses the problem!

8 -- I do have a bank that reimburses ATM fees, but I'm not sure if that extends to international. Good idea -- I'll follow up on that. I just hate paying ATM fees. I do have a credit card that doesn't charge fees on international purchases. I've seen comments that working ATMs aren't always around, so that's why I was wondering how much cash I should have.

Thanks again for the help! Any other tips?

A couple of other questions:

11. Can I pay the reciprocity fee(s) with a credit card?
12. Feb/Mar seems to be the end of summer, so I'm guessing I'll want shorts and skirts (is this correct?). Does it get cool at night?
13. What about rain? Is that a very rainy time of year?
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Old Nov 3, 11, 11:55 am   #5
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11. Can I pay the reciprocity fee(s) with a credit card?

Yes

12. Feb/Mar seems to be the end of summer, so I'm guessing I'll want shorts and skirts (is this correct?). Does it get cool at night?

Santiago is going to be much like central (inland) California - nice/warm days, cooler nights. Chance of rain extremely slim. Buenos Aires should be nice, but it can always rain there. The worst of summer thunderstorms should be over. Nights warmer than Santiago. No idea re: the other places.

13. What about rain? Is that a very rainy time of year?

See above
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Old Nov 3, 11, 12:57 pm   #6
 
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Originally Posted by Jax78 View Post
7. Anything to make sure I bring from home that might surprise me? Like, should I be able to easily find Tums, Advil, feminine hygiene products, sunblock, or anything else like that?
Speaking from Chile, if you must have a certain OTC med or personal care product, bring it! Any substitute, assuming you can locate it in Chile, or the real thing, if they have it, will be ridiculously overpriced. The time and $$ to locate your products would be better spent seeing and touring the place. Sunblock is very expensive in Chile so bring your own.
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Old Nov 3, 11, 6:27 pm   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jax78 View Post
5 -- It's not about having my favorite, really. It's that buying a new bottle in each location would be a silly expense. So, I was asking about large bottles to save money and cut down on waste.
The restrictions that EastBay1K mentioned are referred to cabin luggage. You will have no problems if your larger liquids go in your checked luggage.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jax78 View Post
7. Anything to make sure I bring from home that might surprise me? Like, should I be able to easily find Tums, Advil, feminine hygiene products, sunblock, or anything else like that?
Speaking of Perú. One of the things that my dad usually brings from the US is Tums. Ibuprofen (and generic OTC stuff) you can find for cheap. There's even a handy nationwide price search engine. About femenine hygene products, in Lima pads are pretty much the norm, so if you prefer tampons then bring some as those are expensive there.

13. What about rain? Is that a very rainy time of year?

In Lima rain is pretty much non-existant year round.
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Old Nov 7, 11, 9:29 am   #8
 
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This is exactly what I was hoping to find out -- thanks for the answers!
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Old Nov 10, 11, 10:38 pm   #9
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jax78 View Post
I finally managed to get my trip to SA booked and I'm excited! I've been pouring over these forums, looking for advice and things to do, especially since this is my first international trip. Some threads are fairly old, so I thought I'd start a new one.

I'll be travelling in Feb/March 2012. I've taken out any transit time and will have this amount of quality time in each location:

4 days in Lima
3 days on Easter Island
2.5 days in Santiago
4.5 days in Buenos Aires

1. Are there any "must see/do" things in any of these places?
2. How common is Internet access, especially free wifi with lodging? I'm not sure what the practices are.
3. Is it crazy to bring 2 or 3 suitcases (for two people to share)?
4. How accessible is laundry service? If I don't bring much luggage, I'll need to figure out how to get clean clothes.
5. Are there liquid restrictions on international or LAN flights? Meaning, can I buy a big bottle of shampoo, conditioner, mouth wash, etc in Lima and take it with me through the rest of the trip?
6. On that note, hotels in the US usually provide shampoo and conditioner. Is this common in SA, too, or do I need to make sure to have my own?
7. Anything to make sure I bring from home that might surprise me? Like, should I be able to easily find Tums, Advil, feminine hygiene products, sunblock, or anything else like that?
8. If you were going on a similar trip, how much USD cash would you carry? My preference would be to not rely on a bank/ATM in SA but it seems crazy to carry enough cash for 2.5 weeks.
9. I tend to take my laptop with me, but is this a bad idea? What about an iPad or netbook?
10. I have an iPhone on AT&T. What's the best way to go about getting a data/phone plan? Should I just get a prepaid phone? Is there one that would work across my whole trip?

For 2, 9 and 10, I'm mostly thinking about an occasional call/text to the family and posting a picture or two on Facebook.

If my questions didn't give me away, I am really new to all this so I appreciate your patience and help. Thanks!

Just like yourself I have my first "crazy" trip idea..... GRR - IAH - CUN. Spend an afternoon/night in Cancun, fly out the next morning to Santiago. Spend a night in Santiago, next morning fly to Mendoza. Grab a shuttle from Mendoza to Las Lenas. Ski.......then MDZ - SCL. SCL - GRR.

Not as elaborate as yours, but this awesome trip has prompted me to start considering all kinds of new cultures/customs. I look forward to the responses. Someone should compose a "101 Must knows" guide that has well..101 tips for visiting a general area. E.G. southern-South America. Northern South America. Australia, etc.

I have a question about safety I guess. Do Americans stick out like a sore thumb in these locations? Do we get targeted? What are the best tips anyone could give for locations like SCL, MDZ?
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Old Nov 17, 11, 9:57 pm   #10
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This is an interesting thread, especially since some/many of us are headed to South America.

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Old Nov 17, 11, 10:21 pm   #11
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Feb/March should be great in South America.

You can stay in touch pretty well with just your iPhone or an iPod Touch - make sure to shut off things so you don't get charged for data, etc. There are apps for Skype, etc. to call home cheap while on Wifi, and you can definitely email that way.
.
I agree with traveling light. In terms of washing clothes, you can use regular old shampoo as detergent in your hotel room sink - it gives the laundered clothing a nice scent, too. Some clothes dry more easily than others, though. One trick for drying is to roll up the wet laundry in towels, then step on the roll to help dry the clothes. Get a flat rubber round stopper for sinks, as they don't always have them. Your hotels will also know where cheap lavanderias are.

You can find decent little places to stay in Easter Island from locals, who show up at the airport with pictures of their lodgings, often with breakfast supplied. Should be able to get a decent spot for less than $45 a night or so. Supplies on Easter Island are a little harder to come by.....

One tip for Buenos Aires is to go on these free walking tours - just tip the great guides a few bucks at the end. You will have a great time, and get a idea what you want to go back and visit on your own later. http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attractio..._District.html

(Do both the tours, they take in different parts of the city.)

RE: Time in Peru- I really suggest you go to Cuzco to see the Inca ruins and Spanish colonial architecture. You might be pushing it to try to get to Macchu Pichhu, though that can be done in a single day train trip from Cuzco, and is a one of kind place. Not sure that you need more than a day in Lima, though others may suggest differently.

Have a great time. I'm jealous!

Add: As far as "sticking out" as an American, one really doesn't in Argentina at all. You will be assumed to be local, and spoken to in Spanish, with many folks able to switch to English without a hitch. Chile is much the same, as is Lima. When you get to the tourist areas in Peru, they are more geared to recognizing travelers. Easter Island is such a small place that I think everyone knows everyone else who lives there.

Any big city, be it in the US or in South America or elsewhere, is going to have those who seek out the bewildered looking and might try to take advantage. A money belt or pocket hanging around your neck or inside your clothing is a good precaution in any big city where you might be amongst crowds. Learn a little Spanish, meet some nice people, have some great meals (wonderful ceviche in Peru/Chile, wonderful beef in Argentina, etc.) and have a great time.

Last edited by Doc Savage; Nov 17, 11 at 10:58 pm.
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Old Nov 18, 11, 9:00 am   #12
 
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I'm glad this thread is helping other people, too -- there is some great information here.

Machu Picchu is actually at the top of my list of places I want to visit and so I'm now trying to work it in since I do have several days in Lima. I didn't book it originally because the Inca Trail is closed in Feb -- but I didn't realize I could still visit MP!

Does anyone have any tips on the best way to do this? Since it's Feb and a slower time, do I need to book things ahead? I've reached out to a couple of travel agents, trying to book things for MP but I'm getting quotes of $5000 USD just for the MP segment. When I look up the lodging, they're on Trip Advisor for $50 - $95 USD/night and the flights are $160 - $250 /USD so I cannot figure out how they want to charge me so much for the MP package (which does include transfers, but still ... $5K seems really high).

But, I'm nervous that if I try to book it on my own something will go wrong / I won't be able to make it to MP / it'll be sold out, etc. I'd appreciate any advice!

I like the idea about taking my iPhone but just sticking to WiFi access. All the lodging I've seen online seems to offer wifi so that should actually work very well.

If you find a must know/must see guide, please share! I'm having a hard time figuring out the "don't miss" things to see and do.

Thank you again for all the help!
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Old Nov 19, 11, 2:35 pm   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jax78 View Post
I'm glad this thread is helping other people, too -- there is some great information here.

Machu Picchu is actually at the top of my list of places I want to visit and so I'm now trying to work it in since I do have several days in Lima. I didn't book it originally because the Inca Trail is closed in Feb -- but I didn't realize I could still visit MP!

Does anyone have any tips on the best way to do this? Since it's Feb and a slower time, do I need to book things ahead? I've reached out to a couple of travel agents, trying to book things for MP but I'm getting quotes of $5000 USD just for the MP segment. When I look up the lodging, they're on Trip Advisor for $50 - $95 USD/night and the flights are $160 - $250 /USD so I cannot figure out how they want to charge me so much for the MP package (which does include transfers, but still ... $5K seems really high).
RE: Macchu Picchu - try contacting this travel agency - galapagosholidays.com about booking the train from Cuzco to MP.

They are the best travel agents I have ever worked with, and can likely get you set up with just the MP trip, or arrange the flights to Cuzco + lodging+ trip if you like. Really super, and very fair prices.

MP can be done as a day train trip from Cuzco - a long day, with a few hours at the ruins, but a nice train with refreshments available.

If there are other parts of your trip you want to check into, they would likely have a range of recc's regarding hotels, etc.

I'm really jealous now... Have a great trip.

Doc

Add: The direct place to check train prices is here: https://www.perurail.com/en/guide_train_machupicchu.php
Looks like about $150 round trip or less.

Last edited by Doc Savage; Nov 19, 11 at 2:42 pm.
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Old Nov 19, 11, 6:43 pm   #14
 
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You have to book the train tickets ahead of time, the rest you can do the day of. You can book Perurail tickets online. You can also buy entrance tickets online, which they limit to 2500 per day (I believe).

I stayed in Ollantaytambo, which is cheaper than Cuzco and where the train to MP actually is. You just have to take a minibus or taxi from Cusco, the minibus is about 10 soles each way, the taxi will be more. This takes about 1 1/2 hrs from the center of Cusco.

I took Cruz del sur bus to cusco, but the people I spoke with that were flying said not to take Taca or LAN because they charge a fee if you book their cheapest fares.

MP, like much of Perú, is amazing.
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Old Nov 20, 11, 12:59 pm   #15
 
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12. Feb/Mar seems to be the end of summer, so I'm guessing I'll want shorts and skirts (is this correct?). Does it get cool at night?
As it's your first trip outside the US, I would like to chime in here, as a fellow female:
Shorts are what American women often turn to in hot weather, but it is not the first choice throughout much of the world. Even Bermuda or walking shorts often leave one feeling out of place and under- or inappropriately dressed. Do yourself a favor and have very light khakis or capris, or an elastic-waisted skirt you can twist and roll up in your luggage.
Also, it's best to avoid tank tops. A simple cap sleeve is more modest and is OK in churches, etc. Tank tops are generally inappropriate in most non-US places. (And will also make you stand out as a tourist.)
Clothing: In general, you will find that folks will be dressed less casually than would Americans in cities of similar size. Tennis shoes on men are less seen than in the US, for example. If you are in sandals or flats or colored Keds you'll feel better than in running shoes. A very lightweight blouse, slacks or skirt, as well as panties and unpadded bras should wash out and dry overnight. Once dry, pack by rolling the clothes to avoid wrinkles. My husband and I stay on the road 4 to 6 weeks at a time, and one 14 to 20 kilo bag is the absolute max for each of us. Companies like Columbia make blouses that are easily washable, lightweight and somewhat tailored -- they wash better and look better than T-shirts. Button-up fronts are usually dressier-appearing than things that go over the head. It is important to remember that you are a visitor -- and to respect cultural norms and customs in the place you are visiting. So, in general, sexy or provocative clothing is a no-no.
I always visit thrift shops in advance of a long trip. I can find light sweaters, blouses, skirts, slacks that I mightn't be able to afford new, and have a fun wardrobe specifically for a trip.
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