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Seeking help with Oct '04 Brazil-Bolivia-Peru Trip

Seeking help with Oct '04 Brazil-Bolivia-Peru Trip

Old Sep 7, 2004, 8:46 am
  #1  
PRS
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Join Date: Nov 2000
Location: Crozet, VA, USA
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Posts: 128
Seeking help with Oct '04 Brazil-Bolivia-Peru Trip

Just had an October work leave of absence approved here in Toronto, leaving me and my wife little time to arrange our first trip to S.A. We want to focus on Peru and Bolivia, do some hiking, biking, rainforest, ruins and visit a friend in La Pas. We have travelled in Eastern Europe, South Africa, and Carribean previously, are both active and not afraid to rough it a bit during our trip.

I am hoping to use up some Aeroplan points on a Star Alliance reward and the following flights are available for the moment(openjaw with stopover):
Out: Sept 30/Oct 1 Toronto (YYZ) - Sao Paulo (GRU), Oct 4 GRU - Santa Cruz, BO (VVI) at 9:35am
Back: Originally Oct 30 Lima (LIM) - GRU, Oct 31/Nov 1 GRU - YYZ (until we found out the night in GRU counts as stopover since < 24 hrs). Now LIM-YYZ Nov 2nd direct.

Have searched FlyerTalk/web extensively and found some great info already, but have a few outstanding questions:

1. Travelling through Brazil will mean applying for Visas and paying their hefty departure fees. Unfortunately AC service into Lima doesn't start until November and there are no EZE or SCL reward flights open that we could combine with a quick paid connection. Have we missed anything or would we be better off buying tickets outright instead?

2. Given a three night stopover in Sao Paulo, would anyone suggest spending it there or should we spend $300+ each to fly to Rio or even more to reach/stay at Igausso Falls? I could use Hilton points in Sao Paulo and it sounds like the restaurants/architecture are interesting. We will have to stay one night on the return as well.

3. Should we have safety concerns in Bolivia/Peru beyond standard precautions?

4. We are aiming to hike the Inca Trail with SAS on Oct. 24th - does that sound like good timing to allow for a few more days in Cuzco and Arequipa before flying out Nov. 2nd?

5. During our month we hope to see La Pas, Potosi/Sucre, Uyuni Salt Flats, Coroico (bike down from La Pas), Bolivian rainforest (1 week), Lake Titticaca, Cuzco, Inca Trail/Machu Picchu, Arequipa. Probably won't have time for Santa Cruz, Pisco, or Peru rainforest areas. Any other suggestions on interesting places or activities?

Thanks in advance - look forward to any input you can provide!

Last edited by PRS; Sep 16, 2004 at 3:20 pm Reason: Revised flights
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Old Sep 7, 2004, 2:52 pm
  #2  
 
Join Date: Apr 2001
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My opinion :
1) Half a day and one night in Sao Paulo should be enough. Sao Paulo is great for business, dining and cultural or business events with top notch restaurants. Other than that I always suggest my friends to spend some time in Rio. On top of beautiful beaches, a relaxed way of living from the Cariocas, and the whole place is quite scenic - Would you visit Melbourne and skip Sydney ? Nuff said.

2) If you're coming all the way south DO NOT skip Brazil. These bureaucratic fees cannot be worse than the current US immigration rules, or worse, the dreaded VISA for all countries that don't have the modern passports, regardless of being from visa-waiver countries. Bear in mind that Brazil is completely different from any other South American country you may visit: Language, culture, people, you name it.

3) If you're into nature I'd second your choice for Iguassu Falls or Pantanal, closer than Amazonia and more affordable, as Amazonia should be swamped with Europeans.

Enjoy your time off.
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Old Sep 8, 2004, 8:11 am
  #3  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: SFO
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Another option for the first few days in October would be to fly to EZE from GRU. There are flights for less than $300 on several airlines (and no visa costs or entry fees). If you haven't already, you may want to browse the EZE thread below. Given that you are spending one month in the region, I would strongly suggest going to Buenos Aires for at least a couple of days.
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Old Sep 9, 2004, 7:50 am
  #4  
PRS
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Join Date: Nov 2000
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A quick update on the joys of booking Star Alliance rewards:

1. Called back to book the reward as described above, but GRU-Bolivia seats were gone. My fault for waiting. Time to re-evalute!
2. Checked back half a day later, and they had reappeared! But new agent realized our return stopover in GRU from night of Oct. 30 to night of Oct. 31st was actually > 24 hrs, unable to book trip with two stopovers. Re-evaluate again!
3. Star Alliance schedule shows LIM-YYZ direct starts on November 2nd which avoids stopover problem. With some juggling at work, able to stay a few extra days. Call to book but seats gone again! Re-evaluate again!
4. Check back four more times over 24 hours and on fourth try one econ seat has reappeared between GRU and La Pas. To avoid losing it I book two rewards immediately for 50K points each - one with the whole routing, second ticket lacking the GRU-LPB leg.
5. Will spend the next week or so checking for another seat to Bolivia - if it appears I will cancel the 2nd reward ticket ($80CDN cost plus lost booking fee) and immediately rebook with this extra leg added. If not I will buy a Varig seat for ~$500CDN. Not bad in the big scheme of things.

Costs incurred will influence our stopover plans in Brazil. pb9997 makes a great case for seeing Rio, but apparently using a foreign credit card pays a much higher fare on the SAO-RIO shuttle. Taking train/bus from SP to the coast for a night or two also sounds like a possibility.
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Old Sep 9, 2004, 4:30 pm
  #5  
 
Join Date: Apr 2001
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I would definitely consider visiting Arequipa, especially if you are going to be in the Cuzco area. It is about a 30-40 minute flight from Cuzco to Arequipa and worthy of a day or so. The town has a very nice central plaza and adjacent cathedral and lots old Spanish style architecture. A side trip to Colca Canyon north of Arequipa would also be worth doing if you have time (think Grand Canyon of South America with condors). Personally, I would skip Pisco and do the Nazca lines instead. If you want to see some really spectacular scenery you might head for Huaraz and the Cordillera Blanca north of Lima. Huaraz is a fairly cosmopolitan place for Peru as it gets a ton of climbers from all over the world to climb the various peaks of the Cordillera Blanca. Absolutely spectacular stuff with Nevado Huascaran (second highest peak in South America) looming just outside of town.
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Old Sep 16, 2004, 3:25 pm
  #6  
PRS
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Join Date: Nov 2000
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An update on my original post:
After a few days of trying another seat opened up on GRU-LPB Oct. 4th. Rather than cancelling my initial reward and risk losing the international segments which are now full, I decided to use 25K points on a second Latin America reward and throw away the return segment. Buying the same ticket on Varig would have been $600CDN.

Have also booked the 4-day Inca Trail with SAS for Oct. 25th (must be done a month in advance) and am now working on the rest of our Bolivia schedule.

Hoping to squeeze in a 2-day weekend visit to Rio during our Sao Paulo stopover.
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