I have a week off of work at the beginning of September. As I have finally racked up a decent amount of miles, I'm thinking of finally visiting South America, either Santiago or Buenos Aires.
A few questions:
1) Is it worth it to make the trek down there, given the amount of time it takes to fly (I fly out of ORD, therefore at least 1 stopover, more likely 2)? Having lived in Europe twice, I know that international/longer flights can have a huge effect on your body, but I also know that the time difference between Santiago & Chicago is only 3 hours (whereas it's 8 hours between Chicago & France).
2) Which city, between Santiago and Buenos Aires, would you choose? And why? Keep in mind that minus travel time, I'll probably only have about 5 days on the ground.
3) How safe are both of these cities, considering that I'm most likely going with at least one other person, and that I speak mediocre Spanish (and fluent French & English)? I am used to traveling around North America (USA & Canada) and all over Europe by myself; however, I'm also aware that South America is probably not as safe as those two places (or am I wrong)? In general, just how safe are these two places?
Of course, if you have any other suggestions/feedback, I'm all ears.
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It's definitely worth the trip. THen again, I'm one of these people who'll go to London for the week.
The nice thing as you pointed out is the small time change. In fact, it works to your benefit to stay on your schedule. They eat late there and you'll be right on time with the locals.
Having been to both several times, if you were going to choose only one, I'd say go to Buenos Aires. Santiago is nice but i find it to a lot more calm and placid than Buenos Aires. I absolutely love the energy that Buenos Aires seems to emanate.
I don't speak a lot of spanish and get along fine in both places.
Santiago is a fair sum safer than Buenos Aires, and increasingly so. But 5 nights in Santiago is a long time, and while you could combine it with a coastal trip, it is late winter and isn't exactly beachy. So, if you combined Santiago with something nearby, that is a good option. Any place a tourist is likely to stay and tour around is at least as safe as most parts of the US and Canada.
Buenos Aires is safe enough, and if you have the same street smarts you have in traveling around the big cities of Europe, you will most likely not encounter any bad experiences. That said, a tourist from France was just killed for resisting the theft of his camera in a public plaza. No piece of anything is worth your life. I go a few times a year and have yet to have a bad experience. For 5 days of a city experience, Buenos Aires is probably a better bet.
I like Santiago better (which puts me in the minority). I own a place in Buenos Aires, which I also like. I probably belong in therapy, which would be a muy argentino thing to be
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If you can squeeze in an extra day then you can do both which would be ideal I would say.
A very unfortunate incident with the French tourist in Buenos Aires. In a way it's because the city doesn't get bad reviews regarding tourist safety that may well have contributed to the poor guy lowering his guard and having very expensive camera equipment in full view.....not recommended in any large city especially when you're on your own. I would say Buenos Aires for tourists is much safer than say Barcelona.
It entirely depends on what you're looking for. If you like history, art, architecture and shopping, coffee and Italian food, then absolutely, definitely Buenos Aires. It is a huge city and each neighbourhood has a different vibe, so I'd recommend spending time in some different ones if you can. (The safest for a tourist are in the centro/downtown, Palermo, San Telmo, Recoleta, I visited them and loved them all.) 5 days is a good amount of time to see the city, though you might not feel it's enough.
I am also originally from the midwest and very familiar with Chicago and felt Buenos Aires was no better or worse, safety-wise, than Chicago. I've felt shockingly unsafe the last few times I've been in downtown Chicago, so you might feel more at ease in some parts of BA (like I did). The only tip I'd have is do not flash your camera (or smartphone if you have one) more than you have to. I felt more comfortable with a small, non-fancy point-and-shoot digital camera since it doesn't attract much attention. If you are a woman, avoid carrying a large purse and take one that goes across your body, not just over your shoulder - I say this mainly because that's what the local women seemed to carry and I followed suit. Other than all you need to do is be aware of your surroundings and don't stray out of the "safer" neighbourhoods (much like Chicago). I felt safer there than I do in some American cities.
Everyone says Santiago is safe, but a friend recently spent some time there with a group of people who let their guard down and were mugged. So, don't let your guard down, just like you shouldn't in downtown Chicago or anywhere else.
I don't seem to suffer from jet lag as much when travelling to South America as I do when travelling to Europe.
Santiago is safer than Buenos Aires... for sure. Buenos Aires is far more interesting, has much more things to see/do than Santiago, that is also for sure. If Safety is your primary concern, then go to Santiago. Else, as pointed above, if you are street smart then its a no brainer.
disclaimer: I'm a native Porteņo, so I kinda' have a horse in this race...
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Why aren't you considering Peru? It offers many great adventures and wonderful food. Just a suggestion.
Once you decide where you're going, check back and you can get lots of suggestions about where to visit. For example, I would agree with Eastbay1K that 5 days is actually a fairly long stay in Santiago, but if you're interested in a wine tour, a port tour, a trip to an eco-resort (horseback riding, hiking, white-water rafting), etc., there's lots to do and see in the surrounding area.
My wife and I just returned from three weeks in Argentina (BA and Mendoza) and Chile (Vina del Mar and Santiago), most of it as part of a food and wine tour. Since we also spend a lot of time every year in Chicago, I have a pretty good perspective on the cities. The previous writers nailed it very well, but (necessarily) in a general way. Yes, Santiago is calmer (and safer), but that doesn't necessarily mean it is boring. Three of the things that we liked best on our trip were Valparaiso, an incredible exhibition of works by the painter Matta that was in progress at the Moneta museum in Santiago, and two (of the three) houses of Pablo Neruda. (Maybe next year we'll go back to see the third house.) They appealed to our interests, but more than likely not to yours.
Last edited by Robbie2; Mar 8, 12 at 5:56 pm.
Reason: one name in error
Both destinations for our trip last year was great. Thanks to Gaucho100K for good tips in our planning.
We spent 4 nights in BA and one night in Iguaza Falls of which if you can get there in day and fly out late the second day, you can do a lot of the fun things it has to offer. I would highly recommend to somehow to incorporate that into your trip, it was absolutely breath taking.
Santiago for 5 nights was very fun and safe. I did 'feel' safer walking around there than BA, but overall BA was still great. Did day trips to Andes, Valipraso and Con Cho Toro (spelling ).
I don't think you can wrong with either destination with lots to do in both locations.
Worth it? Depends on you, of course. Very subjective. The exact number of stops can vary by airline, of course. You could fly to Sao Paulo non-stop from ORD on United (I didn't see with what airline your miles are). Not suggesting staying there for a week, but it's a quick hop to Rio on TAM (if you miles are with UA, TAM's in the Star Alliance so maybe you could use miles but, if not, the flight isn't expensive). I do know people who quite like Sao Paulo (for museums, restaurants, shopping, etc.), but I don't know it well at all, except for the airport. My wife (Brazilian) is not a fan.
I found Santiago a bit more modern, cleaner and perhaps safer than B.A., but also more expensive. Santiago definitely has historic charm, but I think B.a. has more. I'd regard both as safer than Rio, but if you'd be in the main tourist areas of Ipanema and Copacabana, and use tours and taxis when needed (the Metro system is pretty good), you'd likely survive (I did several times). Brazil is more expensive than Argentina. Not sure about Brazil vs. Chile. BTW, if you go to Argentina, don't refer to the Falklands, even in passing; they still strongly believe in "Las Malvinas" (same is true for other S.A. countries, but obvously less of an issue).
You have read up on both cities. If you go to the Lonely Planet Web site (the "Shop" section), you can buy and download individual chapters or their guide books. If I were going to choose a place to work or stay for a prolonged period, I'd probably choose Santiago (the area from Valparaiso, on the coast, to Santiago reminded me of Southern California), but for one week, probably B.A. (if you get bored-- which is unikely-- you could take a boat downriver to Monevideo). My favorite part of Argentina was Patagonia, but you don't have enough time to see both that and B.A.
Before you make a final decision, see if you can get to either place using miles. Having miles and being able to use them to go where you want, and when you want, can be different things. You may have to expand your list of possible cities. Now, if you have enough miles to fly Biz Class, that's the way to go!