Go Back  FlyerTalk Forums > Destinations > Americas > South America
Reload this Page >

Where to go in Central/South America?

Where to go in Central/South America?

Old Sep 1, 17, 4:39 am
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Aug 2015
Location: Europe
Programs: Marriott Titanium Elite, Hyatt Globalist, Hilton Diamond, BA Silver, A3 Gold, Sixt Diamond
Posts: 1,478
Where to go in Central/South America?

I'm currently planning a trip to some place warm for New Year's.
Ideally somewhere safe with great beaches/resorts, views and nice bars and restaurants.
Last year, my girl-friend and I went to Puerto Rico, and that was great.
At the IC for example, we could spend the day on the beach/by the pool, and then go to the old town of San Juan for the evening, where they had great food and people were dancing salsa etc.

For this year I got lucky and found a cheap award MAD-GRU for December 27.
I haven't been to Central/South America before, so I thought I could use the opportunity to go to Rio de Janeiro, and maybe Buenos Aires.
But from what I've heard, neither place has nice beaches, and especially Rio isn't really safe.
So I was thinking about maybe doing 2 days in Rio, 2 days in Buenos Aires, and spending 4-5 days somewhere else just relaxing.

The only challenge here seems to be that award availability is currently quite sparse and everything is so far apart.
Where would you go? Which places would you recommend for a first time visitor?
I'm not a big fan of hiking by the way (especially not in the heat), I want this to be nice and relaxing, but I don't mind walking around exploring a city or maybe going on shorter hikes (1-2 hours).
We like good food (steaks, seafood, ...).
My girl-friend speaks some Spanish, I don't, in case that matters. Neither of us speaks Portuguese.

Any destinations you would recommend?
Maybe it's not such a good idea to fly to GRU after all (but the flight time is so good, and the award was so cheap...)?

Thanks!

Last edited by ChocolateFactory; Sep 1, 17 at 6:27 am
ChocolateFactory is offline  
Old Sep 1, 17, 6:20 am
  #2  
 
Join Date: May 2009
Location: South Park, CO
Programs: Tegridy Elite
Posts: 5,142
So you've already booked the MAD-GRU (and return?) award tickets? It's a little confusing as you mention that but then talk about scarcity of award seats. Do you mean award seats between GRU and other locations once you arrive?

Christmas-New Year holiday timeframes will typically have very limited or no award seats, or only at standard/anytime type levels for programs that have that feature.

What do you mean by "Middle"/South America? Do you mean to say that you considering Central America as well as your South America destination(s)? It sounds like a fairly short trip so I'm not sure you'd have much time to venture too far afield from where you arrive without spending lots of time in transit.
84fiero is offline  
Old Sep 1, 17, 6:27 am
  #3  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Aug 2015
Location: Europe
Programs: Marriott Titanium Elite, Hyatt Globalist, Hilton Diamond, BA Silver, A3 Gold, Sixt Diamond
Posts: 1,478
I haven't booked a return flight yet, that's what I meant by scarcity of award seats.
However, there is quite good availability from UIO for example.

Sorry, Central America, yes. Too much switching back and forth between languages here.
Yes, indeed I cannot leave before December 25 (ideally 26/27) and would need to back in Europe before January 8.
Which is why I was wondering if it would make sense at all to fly to GRU for my purposes.

But then again, I've always wanted to see Rio and Buenos Aires...
I'm just not sure if it would work as a bach/relaxation vacation, given the limited amount of time...
ChocolateFactory is offline  
Old Sep 1, 17, 11:27 am
  #4  
 
Join Date: Dec 2012
Posts: 468
Compared to Rio and BA, Sao Paulo is not worth visiting. Last I transited the airport there was a mess. I'd just fly directly where you're going or transit anywhere else.

Rio beaches are great but they're not a quiet, relaxed atmosphere... especially during New Years. There are some great older sections of the city that have music and dancing like what you're looking for. You may want to look at towns outside of Rio like Buzios that are more laid back if quiet in the daytime is more important. Safety is OK in all of the tourist areas. You will also get the pickpocketing/petty theft in BA.

BA does not have beaches at all. A few days there is more than enough. It's also a great city but more sightseeing, museums, eating, etc. than outdoor activities. Food in both cities is great. You'll get around a little easier in BA with some Spanish but Rio is not at all impossible without Portuguese. BA will be lower cost.

Another thing I'd consider is your visa costs. Not sure what passport you hold and requirements but both can have higher fees.

IMO, I'd do Rio first. It's a pretty unique combination of beautiful geography and city life.
ne52 is offline  
Old Sep 1, 17, 11:59 am
  #5  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Jul 1999
Location: Over the Bay Bridge, CA
Programs: Jumbo mas
Posts: 30,595
The best "beach spot" for Argentina is actually Punta del Este (Uruguay). It gets quite expensive and crowded over that time of year. I'd skip Mar del Plata (Argentina). One trip many years ago was enough.
Eastbay1K is online now  
Old Sep 1, 17, 2:03 pm
  #6  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Aug 2015
Location: Europe
Programs: Marriott Titanium Elite, Hyatt Globalist, Hilton Diamond, BA Silver, A3 Gold, Sixt Diamond
Posts: 1,478
Thank you both for your feedback!

Originally Posted by ne52 View Post
Compared to Rio and BA, Sao Paulo is not worth visiting. Last I transited the airport there was a mess. I'd just fly directly where you're going or transit anywhere else.
Yeah, that's what I've heard. We would just take the award flight to GRU and then fly on to GIG, flights are cheap.

Originally Posted by ne52 View Post
Rio beaches are great but they're not a quiet, relaxed atmosphere... especially during New Years.
I was thinking about staying at the Sheraton Grande, which is supposed to have a private beach. However, I've also heard it's right next to a favela, so you can't walk anywhere from there.

Originally Posted by ne52 View Post
There are some great older sections of the city that have music and dancing like what you're looking for.
Sounds good! That's what I had hoped.

Originally Posted by ne52 View Post
You may want to look at towns outside of Rio like Buzios that are more laid back if quiet in the daytime is more important.
Well, usually one can just stay at the hotel during the day if tired?

Originally Posted by ne52 View Post
Safety is OK in all of the tourist areas.
That's one of my main concerns. I really liked San Juan because it felt so safe, there were nice restaurants and bars and it was a good mix of locals (dancing to salsa music) and tourists.
I wouldn't want to be stuck among tons of drunk tourists (or families with kids running around and screaming), but I guess Rio is big enough to avoid that? But even more than that, I would of course like to be safe... And we don't speak Portuguese...

Originally Posted by ne52 View Post
You will also get the pickpocketing/petty theft in BA.
As long as it's just that, I don't mind. I would just leave all valuables at home and only carry some cash. I would just like to avoid violent crime. (Heck, as a European even some parts of US cities can get scary.)

Originally Posted by ne52 View Post
BA does not have beaches at all. A few days there is more than enough. It's also a great city but more sightseeing, museums, eating, etc. than outdoor activities. Food in both cities is great. You'll get around a little easier in BA with some Spanish but Rio is not at all impossible without Portuguese. BA will be lower cost.
Sounds good!

Originally Posted by ne52 View Post
Another thing I'd consider is your visa costs. Not sure what passport you hold and requirements but both can have higher fees.
We fortunately both hold German passports. There are very few countries that require a paid visa, neither Brazil nor Argentina are among them.
But it's a very good point, I am so used to not needing a visa that I'd tend to forget checking that.

Originally Posted by ne52 View Post
IMO, I'd do Rio first. It's a pretty unique combination of beautiful geography and city life.
Yeah, I think my original idea to do both a few days in Rio as well as a few days in Buenos Aires (maybe 3 and 2), wasn't that bad.
But I'm not sure we'd get enough "lazy" days from that, so I'm still wondering if I can't somehow fit in a few extra pure beach/pool days... Rio doesn't really seem ideal for that...
ChocolateFactory is offline  
Old Sep 1, 17, 2:29 pm
  #7  
 
Join Date: Apr 2002
Location: NYC
Posts: 7,635
Finding an award flight back might be very difficult. Internal SA flights can be very expensive - though if you are flexible there a typically good options in economy. Also, Brazil can be very expensive. BA at that time is better but can be dead after Christmas. Rio for NYE is great - but hot and crowded.
erik123 is offline  
Old Sep 1, 17, 2:35 pm
  #8  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Aug 2015
Location: Europe
Programs: Marriott Titanium Elite, Hyatt Globalist, Hilton Diamond, BA Silver, A3 Gold, Sixt Diamond
Posts: 1,478
I have found award availability from UIO and I'm still hoping for LH F availability to open up...
AZ has wide open award availability through their own frequent flyer program, even from EZE, but I wouldn't really want to book with them at the moment. ;-)
Up to 4 hours I don't mind flying economy. If the flight is longer than that, I would definitely try to fly business class...

What do you mean by expensive? I have about 80k SPG Starpoints and you can usually lower hotel rates using BRG claims. I would be fine with paying up to 250-300 USD per night for a nice hotel.
In Puerto Rico last year, the hotels we stayed at were about 500 USD per night, but we just bought points and redeemed them immediately, which meant we paid about 200-250 USD per night, which I found ok.

Originally Posted by Eastbay1K View Post
The best "beach spot" for Argentina is actually Punta del Este (Uruguay). It gets quite expensive and crowded over that time of year. I'd skip Mar del Plata (Argentina). One trip many years ago was enough.
I just googled, hadn't heard about it before.
Sounds similar to St. Tropez, just even uglier, more expensive and without nice hotels.

I guess Chile isn't interesting beach-/resort-wise?

Which frequent flier program is best for awards within South America?
For instance to get from EZE to LIM, UIO, BOG or so (wherever I find award availability back to Europe).

Last edited by JY1024; Sep 2, 17 at 7:47 am Reason: Merged consecutive posts
ChocolateFactory is offline  
Old Sep 1, 17, 3:15 pm
  #9  
 
Join Date: Dec 2012
Posts: 468
I'd look at connecting to SDU airport in Rio before GIG if you can. It's a smaller domestic airport and closer to where you'll be going. You can also "start off" in BA connecting from GRU... whatever you can work in farewise. AEP has flights from GRU which is again a much smaller and central airport (10-20 min ride to your likely hotel vs. one hour from EZE). Customs is also much faster at AEP.

On the favela, the reality is you're going to be close to one almost everywhere you go in Rio. You really can't accidentally wander into one. You will see theft at the beach and crowded areas downtown but it's not strongarm. You can also usually tell who is going to be targeted and probably even watch it unfold (think men wearing black dress socks and sandals with shopping bags at the beach). Most areas with common violent crime you wouldn't be visiting.

Where that hotel is located, there's not going to as much to walk to anyways. Leblon is about a mile away. There's a walking/bike path that is probably fine during the day but I wouldn't try it at night. You're also going to want to go farther so it could turn into a long walk. Cabs are easy and you'll need them to get most places from that location. They're pretty easy in most parts of the city. That's where you'll have most of the language barrier. Having the hotel address printed out is fine, you're issue will likely just be getting them to run the meter instead of charging their own custom flat fare.

On Chile, it's a beautiful country but not as conducive to tourism yet. Santiago is completely passable IMO. Food also doesn't compare to Argentina or Brazil. Economy is much better so much more expensive. Vina del Mar is about an hour west of the city which has beaches but you're in the Pacific so much colder water.

3 days in BA is good for a first visit. Two totally different but very enjoyable cities.
ChocolateFactory likes this.
ne52 is offline  
Old Sep 1, 17, 3:22 pm
  #10  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Aug 2015
Location: Europe
Programs: Marriott Titanium Elite, Hyatt Globalist, Hilton Diamond, BA Silver, A3 Gold, Sixt Diamond
Posts: 1,478
Thank you so much!
I'm actually beginning to think I can stop worrying.

If we do 2-3 days in each city, we'd still have a few days left to go somewhere else.
What would you recommend?
Maybe something where it's more likely that award availability will open up?
ChocolateFactory is offline  
Old Sep 1, 17, 7:42 pm
  #11  
 
Join Date: Apr 2002
Location: NYC
Posts: 7,635
Originally Posted by ChocolateFactory View Post
I have found award availability from UIO and I'm still hoping for LH F availability to open up...

What do you mean by expensive? I have about 80k SPG Starpoints and you can usually lower hotel rates using BRG claims. I would be fine with paying up to 250-300 USD per night for a nice hotel.
UIO is not around the corner from Brazil.

NYE in Rio in a top location is 3 night minimum at $3-600/night for a decent hotel. Top end is 600+

Avios on LATAM work well for South America.

Also, Punta is not St Tropez - but if you only have a few days you will not be able to find out what it is all about in any case.

Maybe do some more research yourself?
erik123 is offline  
Old Sep 1, 17, 7:51 pm
  #12  
 
Join Date: Dec 2012
Posts: 468
Completely depends your preferences. Personally, I'd do like 5 days in Rio with plenty of pool/beach time then 3 days in BA. Save the other destinations for another trip unless you have longer overall. Haven't been but everyone says Iguazu Falls is worth the trip.
ne52 is offline  
Old Sep 2, 17, 5:24 am
  #13  
A FlyerTalk Posting Legend
 
Join Date: Sep 2009
Location: Minneapolis: DL DM charter 2.3MM
Programs: A3*Gold, SPG Plat, HyattDiamond, MarriottPP, LHW exAccess, ICI, Raffles Amb, NW PE MM, TWA Gold MM
Posts: 83,784
To me, Rio is scary. Violent crime is common, including in the famous tourist areas of Ipanima and Copacabana. Buenos Aires seems much less so.

If OP does want a relaxing beach place and nevertheless wants to experience Rio, I highly suggest the Grand Hyatt in Barra, especially for anyone who's a Glob/Diamond and gets lounge access there. It's a lovely new hotel facing a beach (with lifeguards, beach chairs and water sports provided by the hotel) with an attractive pool, nice suites with great views (I had a corner one with a balcony on the top floor with views of both the ocean and the lagoon), interesting restaurants, etc. so that it's somewhat of a resort. Barra is new upscale suburb on a clean beach about 45 minutes from most of the stuff to see in Rio and the airport, although of course more time is needed when traffic is bad.

I agree that visiting the Falls is very worthwhile, but I would suggest ideally planning two nights in the Belmond Palace (former Orient Express chain) hotel in the park on the Brazil side followed by two nights in the Sheraton (but leaving Starwood very soon) hotel in the park on the Argentina side.
MSPeconomist is offline  
Old Sep 2, 17, 9:22 am
  #14  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Jul 1999
Location: Over the Bay Bridge, CA
Programs: Jumbo mas
Posts: 30,595
Originally Posted by ChocolateFactory View Post
I guess Chile isn't interesting beach-/resort-wise?
Chile beaches generally have very rough and cold waters. The current comes up from Antarctica. Also, the summer temps are quite mild. Frequently, nights and mornings will have coastal fog.

I like Viña del Mar - the "premier" resort area in Chile. Note that it is a larger city (next to Valparaiso). There are smaller resort towns just a few km up the coast. I also like Iquique, which is way up the coast. Desert on the beach. Not super resort like (as far as facilities) but has beaches, and a very cute town center. Also doesn't typically get very hot, despite being in the tropical zone.
Eastbay1K is online now  
Old Sep 2, 17, 11:08 am
  #15  
 
Join Date: Nov 2010
Posts: 1,119
How about the beaches accessible from Rio like Paraty? I was there ages ago and it was lovely.

http://www.fodors.com/news/5-reasons...y-brazil-12043

http://www.paraty.com.br/us/

Older article about it.
http://archive.boston.com/travel/get...brazils_coast/
mules is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread