Author Topic: ad120's 2022 Brazil, Iguazu, Iguacu, & Buenos Aeries Trip Report  (Read 1869 times)

Offline ad120

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ad120's 2022 Brazil, Iguazu, Iguacu, & Buenos Aeries Trip Report
« on: September 18, 2022, 07:52:29 PM »
An acquaintance of mine manufactures baby furniture and rarely travels. After Tisha B’Av he wanted to check out some factories and asked me to accompany him for a sponsored trip. I was supposed to be with him all day while he oversaw the quality and production.

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Re: ad120's 2022 Brazil, Iguazu, Iguacu, & Buenos Aeries Trip Report
« Reply #1 on: September 18, 2022, 07:52:53 PM »
We departed on Monday the day after Tisha B’Av on American Airlines from Lagaurdia and connected in Miami for our flight to Sao Paulo. After a long wait at check-in we proceeded to the TSA checkpoint. Unfortunately I did not have precheck as I forgot to add it to my reservation before check-in. I then experienced something straight out of a sitcom. The line kept moving and we were all walking around the rope for about ten minutes straight nonstop. It was really odd and very frustrating.

After security we went to the Centurion Lounge but there was a line to get in so we skipped the lounge and went directly to our gate for our flight that was already boarding. Surprisingly we did not experience a delay leaving Lagaudia and pulled into our gate in Miami 20 minutes early giving us 1:15 minutes to connect to our next flight.

Before the end of the flight to Miami I connected to complementary 30 minute Wifi and ordered food from Soho and had an uber pick it up and bring it to the airport. Meanwhile we went to a packed Centurion Lounge that had nowhere to sit. As we were scanning for seats someone offered us the phone room where they were sitting as they were already leaving. I put down my stuff and left it with my acquaintance. I then left the lounge and secure area to pick up my food from the uber driver and had to wait in line again for security. I finally cleared and went back to the Centurion Lounge, picked up my stuff and made it to the gate via skytrain for the final boarding call. In my experience walking either takes longer or just as long as the skytrain so I opted for the train. Why walk fast and sweat if you don’t have to?

At the gate I asked if I could get an exit row seat and surprisingly the AA agent gave me one without asking me for money. In my experience American Airlines has always been about the money. Once again we departed on time and had an uneventful flight. We landed in Sao Paulo in the early morning with about two and half hours to self connect to a Latam flight to Londorina. Interesting to note, that all who connect to domestic flights need to clear customs, pick up their bags and check in along with the general public in the domestic terminal.

We got to the domestic terminal and just like any major airport in the early morning, it was packed with people. My advice is to pay for bags and check-in online. It will make things a lot smoother. We went to the kiosk and picked up boarding passes and bag tags. My travel companion waited on the bag drop line. It seems like you get your bag tag at the kiosk but pay for it at the counter. I am not sure why you can’t pay at the kiosk. It would make things a lot faster. With our bags dropped off we moved quickly through security and I went to the domestic GOL airlines lounge courtesy of Priority Pass. The lounge was average sized and had a very nice design. They had the usual spread of food with only the fruit and vegetables being Kosher. I took some bananas. They  looked and tasted very different. They were small and very sweet. Apparently fruit tastes different in Brazil. The lounge also featured some showers and I was dying for a shower. But I didn't have enough time nor did I have any fresh clothing on me. After making some phone calls I headed to the gate for my flight to Londorina.

Unfortunately masks are still required in airports and on flights in Brazil making an uncomfortable experience. Before take off a flight attendant mentioned to me that two days prior a flight from Sao Paulo to Londorina attempted to land in Londarina but got diverted because of poor visibility in Londarina. The flight was uneventful up until our approach into Londorina. We started descending and then the pilot aborted the landing.  This happened three times and then it was announced that we would be diverting to Curitiba. Now while everyone onboard was annoyed, I was ecstatic. We were meant to spend that day touring factories in Londorina and then fly to Curitiba. Now that we got diverted to Curitiba, I would be able to skip the day in Londorina, take a shower and get to bed early after a really long journey. It was quite amazing that of all places, we diverted to Curitiba. When we arrived at the gate in Curitiba, the flight attendant announced that we were going to stay onboard while the aircraft refuels and then head out to Londorina. I protested and explained that we needed to get off the aircraft and they let us off.

My travel companion had set up for his Brazilian colleagues to meet us in Londorina at the Localiza car rental desk. The problem was that we didn’t have any SIM cards and there were none to purchase in the airport. We could not get in touch with our contact. We decided that we were going to go into the city to purchase a SIM card along with clothing for me to change into. Because of the timing of this trip, I could not wash my dirty clothes in time. I figured I can buy clothing in Brazil. We randomly asked a Localiza car rental rep where to go for clothing and a SIM, through google translate she told us that the Walmart of Brazil is called “BIG” (pronounced like “biggie”). We took an uber to the address she provided and arrived at the store only to be told that that location had closed down. We decided at that point we were going to try one more spot before going to our hotel, Hotel Leffel in Sao Bento. I got back on the wifi and ordered an uber to go to another Big location. The uber showed up and I opened the trunk when I was asked by a stranger, “Are you from New York? “ I was like what the hell? “Yes.” I answered. I just realized who this guy was. He was my companion’s colleague. It was so freaky that he found us. It was like straight out of a movie or FBI investigation. I couldn’t believe it! Apparently his flight from Curitiba to Londorina got turned back because of the weather and never made it to Londorina. Back in Londorina, he was unsure if we made it to Londorina, turned back to Sao Paulo, or some other location. He figured to try his luck and ask the Localiza agent, as that was where we were meant to meet in Londorina. She gave him the address and he found us just in time. 

My companion’s colleague has already bought us SIM cards so we were supposedly set on that front but I still needed clothing. We went to a different hypermarket, Condor. We did not have any luck there as they did not carry my size. From there we went to “Shopping San Jose” which was a local mall. We went to the Brazilian version of H & M. I did not have any luck there either. If you are a big guy like me you will have a difficult time finding your size in Latin America. This is what I  have gathered from my trip to Guatemala as well. Finally we went to Minoon and found my size I paid like $10 for a pair of boxers, it was crazy.
With clothing and a SIM card, we started our 45 minute drive to our hotel in Sao Bento. We arrived and checked in and I had my pom meal warmed up by the hotel kitchen staff. The hotel room wasn’t anything extravagant but it was very nice. This was the first time I had a pom meal. It was absolutely delicious. There is nothing like a kosher hot meal when you are hundreds of miles from kosher food. Especially when the food doesn’t taste catered. After a long and well deserved shower, it was time for bed. I called it a night and hoped for a calmer tomorrow.

Offline ad120

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Re: ad120's 2022 Brazil, Iguazu, Iguacu, & Buenos Aeries Trip Report
« Reply #2 on: September 19, 2022, 05:54:48 PM »
The next morning my travel companion advised me that there would be no need for me to come along with him for the day. He said that we would meet up in the late afternoon to catch our flight from Curitiba to Porto Allegre. This was awesome because it meant I would be able to get some work done. But first I went to check out the rooftop. The rooftop features an indoor swimming pool, fitness center, bar with billiards and foosball. There is also an outside area for soccer and basketball. After a quick swim, I went back to my room, davened and ate an Rx bar for breakfast.

Our SIM cards hadn’t worked since we got them so I decided to go to the TIM store down the street. The rep told me that the SIM can’t be activated even though there is money on there because I don’t have a CPF. In Brazil you need a CPF for everything, even for public wifi. It is very annoying.  You can’t just put in some random number because it wont work. I found out later that there is a CPF generator online that you can use to create a fake CPF for yourself. Across the  street was the Claro store. Claro’s website advises foreigners to go to their store to activate service as only there can they use your passport number instead of CPF. However after sitting in the store for 20 minutes the rep informed me that apparently she could not help me because she is a franchisee and not a corporate store. So without a working SIM card I went back to the hotel to get some work done.

Later in the day we met up again and made our way to the airport. I tried to check in online for my Azul flight but I was unsuccessful because a CPF is required to check in. So after checking in at the airport we went towards security where we randomly met the local Shliach, Rabbi Mendy of Curitaba. He was surprised to see two religious jews in Curitiba. We schmoozed a bit and connected me with one of the Shluchem Leblon (Rio de Janeiro) for a Shabbos meal. After saying goodbye we cleared security and went to the lounge. The lounge was very small but it wasn’t very busy. I found some kosher peanuts and fruit so I made sure to stock up. From there we went to our gate where boarding had already begun. Azul has an interesting  boarding process. There are projectors that project different color squares with numbers on the floor. These squares keep moving. I didn’t exactly understand how the process works. But I guess people are supposed to move along with the squares and their boarding pass has a number on it that correlates to the number projected in the box. This was my first time flying Azul and was very similar to Jetblue. We arrived in Porto Allegre and took an Uber to our Airbnb. But first my companion’s colleague activated the service on the SIM with his CPF.  We arrived at our Airbnb, heated up my pom meal, ate dinner and went to bed. The next day I hoped I  would finally be able to start touring.

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Re: ad120's 2022 Brazil, Iguazu, Iguacu, & Buenos Aeries Trip Report
« Reply #3 on: November 07, 2022, 04:08:46 PM »
The next day we checked out and took an uber to Chabad for Shachris. After shachris my companion went to check out factories and I stayed back and chatted with the Shuchim. He showed me some items that they sell including Kosher meat. He said that there are more people in the community keeping kosher now than before. I asked about a restaurant and he told me that it doesn’t exist. From Chabad I went to do laundry which was surprisingly expensive. While waiting for my laundry I researched a bit and discovered that there was a market in the city center which was a short bus ride away. From the laundromat I went to the market which was really nice. It is an indoor covered market with cafes and food stalls. Unfortunately nothing was kosher so I just enjoyed walking around and admiring the architecture.

From the market I checked google for the closest highly rated barber and found one a few blocks away. The barber seemed very excited that I walked in. I tried to explain to him with google translate about not cutting my payos but he still managed to cut half of it off. While I was disappointed, I could not blame him. From there I walked more into the center onto a pedestrian promenade. The shops and stands sell souvenirs and all sorts of other merchandise. However I had to meet my companion at the airport  before he had to catch his flight to New York via Săo Paulo while I continued on solo to Rio de Janeiro.

After checking in, we went to the lounge where I settled in for the next four hours. The reason why I had to come so early to the airport was because my companion was holding the food.The lounge at Porto Alegre airport was nice and spacious but did not have any restrooms within the lounge. This means that you need to exit the lounge and use the public restrooms. It finally came time to board my GOL flight to Rio’s Santos airport.

Rio has two airports:  Santos, the domestic airport- closer to the city, and Galeao, international airport- farther from the city. This was my first time flying to Rio and my first time flying GOL. We departed on time and arrived on time. Without having checked-in any luggage, I was out of the airport in no time. However, because it was a busy time at the airport, there were no Ubers available. I figured I would get on the light rail for a few stops and get an uber from there to my hostel, the Brazilodge in Leblon. I got on the rail thinking that I would be able to pay onboard with contactless. However it is only possible to pay with a fare card. Luckily my stop- Cinelândia, was only a few stops away. When I got off the light rail I figured I would take public transport to the hostel. I tried purchasing a fare card but it would not accept credit cards. Then it started pouring. I got on my phone and ordered an uber but the driver wasn’t moving at all. I canceled the uber and waited out the rain. There were some national police officers at the rail stop and one helped me buy a farecard with cash. He pointed me to the metro station and told me to put away my phone. Rio has a reputation of a high crime city. So I wasn’t very fond of taking the subway at 11:30 PM but I did it anyway. I guess that is living like a local. But to be honest, throughout my stay in Rio, I never felt unsafe. From the metro station I took the metro to Leblon and walked just a few blocks to my hostel.

For this trip to Rio, I had booked Brazilodge in Leblon. They are just two blocks from Chabad and have dorms and private rooms. In fact they are from the only Hostel’s in the city with male dorms. I had booked a flexible rate so I paid around $20/Night. If I recall correctly, payment is upon arrival in Reas. Check in was smooth, even with the language barrier. I got to my room and noticed the only empty bed was the top bunk, not a good option for a tall and big guy. I climbed up and went to sleep. The bed was shaking the entire night! Another thing to note is that the room looks very different from the photos on their website. Their website makes it look like the beds are private in compartments but in reality the beds are just regular bunk beds with curtains for the bottom bunks. The hostel staff is very kind and friendly. There is also a rooftop terrace and kitchen with an oven, stove, fridge and freezer. This was very useful because it allowed me to freeze and cook my pom meals. Generally they don’t allow guests to use the freezer but they were very accommodating because of my kosher needs. I eventually got to switch to a bottom bunk once someone checked out. All in all, the hostel was okay and I would stay there again if I had to be in Leblon.

Leblon in general is one of  the city’s affluent neighborhoods that is full of vibrant bars and restaurants. As for Jewish life, you have chabad and that is it, Majority of Rio’s jewish community lives in Copacabana, with a small minority living in Lapa. But the tourist sites are outside of these neighborhoods. So for the next day, Friday, I booked a free favela walking tour. However my guide messaged me that he had to cancel because the walking paths got washed out due to the heavy rain and it was not safe. My next options were a paid favela walking tour, free walking tour of the city center, or Sugarloaf Mountain. I asked the receptionist, a local, for her recommendation, she said the city tour. I booked the tour on guruwalks and took the metro to the city center. When I met my guide she told me that the English tour was canceled because there is a minimum of four tourists per tour and there were not enough english speakers for the tour that day. She did give me some recommendations and took me to see the Columbo Bakery which was absolutely beautiful. From the bakery I went to see the Real Gabinete which was very nice. I took some photos and videos and moved on to the market. The Market is pedestrian only and continues for several streets. It is not an open air market and there aren’t any food vendors. Rather it is lined with indoor shops selling various different merchandise. I would have loved to have had more time to browse however it was Erev Shabbos and I needed to make it to the kosher grocery before closing. I jumped back onto the metro and took it to Copacabana. The kosher store is in a gated complex. The store itself sells chicken, meat, snacks,wine etc. They don’t have a large selection and it is expensive. After my shopping, I went across the street to the Bnei Akiva school for their Mikvah (Chabad Leblon’s Mikvah was closed due to construction). This needed to be coordinated in advance. The Bnei Akiva complex was quite big. It also has some sort of bakery/restaurant inside as well. After the mikvah I took an uber to my hostel and bought some fruit from the corner supermarket (Zona Sul) for Shabbos. When I was getting ready for Shabbos, one of my roommates told me that he is in town for Shabbos because of his fiance that goes to the Leblon Chabad. I had a shabbos guest in my room for shabbos.

Offline ad120

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Re: ad120's 2022 Brazil, Iguazu, Iguacu, & Buenos Aeries Trip Report
« Reply #4 on: November 07, 2022, 04:09:33 PM »
During that week, I reached out to Chabad to see if they have Shabbos meals, and the person referred me to the local caterer. If it wasn’t for Rabbi Mendy of Curitiba, I wouldn’t have had a Friday night meal. The Leblon Chabad has about four Shluchim and its congregants are locals. The Shul itself is big and beautiful, Friday night davening starts with Mincha with a long break before Kabbalas Shabbos. This is done so the locals can participate in the davening after work. After davening there was kiddush and mezonos bread for the locals. I went with my host, one of the Shluchim, to his house along with another family that he was hosting for dinner. The meal was pretty standard though I didn’t understand the conversations because they were mostly in Portuguese.

The next morning I woke up and got to Chabad in time for Mussaf and Kiddush. There were rolls for washing and chulent just like ant standard kiddush. On Shabbos afternoon I went to walk by the beach just a couple of blocks away. Leblon Beach was very crowded. It seemed like you wouldn’t be able to really get comfortable there. Supposedly Leblon is a quieter beach though. I wonder what Copacabanna looks like. At the end of the beach there is a Mirante, a lookout. I walked up there and took in the nice views. There is a bar/restaurant at the lookout so it may be a good place to grab a beer. After my walk I went back to the Hostel and napped until Mincha. After Maariv I made havdalah to conclude my Shabbos in Rio.

Offline ad120

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Re: ad120's 2022 Brazil, Iguazu, Iguacu, & Buenos Aeries Trip Report
« Reply #5 on: November 09, 2022, 12:21:33 PM »
The next morning I had a 06:35 AM flight from GIG to Foz do Iguacu on GOL. I did not sleep at all the night before because I did not want to miss my flight. I took an uber from my Hostel to GIG at 4 AM and arrived about 25 minutes later. During the day, this ride can easily take more than an hour because of traffic. According to google, the GOL Domestic Lounge was meant to be open but according to Priority Pass it was meant to be closed.  I needed shower and was hoping that Google was correct but alas they were wrong. The Lounge was closed due to construction/covid. I took a seat in the gate area, davened, shachris, and waited in the gate area. Boarding was uneventful and I slept through the entire flight. Arrival in Foz do Iguacu was seamless and fast. The airport itself is not so big. If I recall correctly, I was out of the terminal within 5-10 minutes from landing. Initially, I was going to take the bus but after waiting for 20 minutes, I decided to take a 7 minute Uber ride for $1.70 USD.  My Uber driver dropped me off at the Park Visitor Center at around 11:30 AM.

To enter the park, you are required to purchase a ticket with a specific entry time. I walked up to the information booth  and I was informed that tickets can only be purchased online or from the vending machines. The line for the vending machines was about two hours long. I quickly got on my phone and attempted to purchase a ticket in portuguese but had a hard time understanding. I made some small talk with a family and I asked them to help. However,  my order was rejected for some reason. I suspect the system does not accept international cards. Luckily I had cash on hand and the family agreed to use their card in exchange for cash.  I immediately received an email confirmation with a 1:30 entry time. So for the next 90 minutes I sat, ate, and relaxed at the pavilion until my entry time. Before queuing up I stored my belongings in the paid lockers. From there I proceed to wait in line to get onto the bus. The bus makes a few stops in the park until it reaches the falls walkway. I disembarked at my stop and started my walk. I was immediately mesmerized by the falls. I wanted to take photos every two feet. As I kept going it just got better and better until I got up close to the falls. It was spellbinding. There aren’t any words that can describe its beauty. From there I continued to the end of the walkway and took the steps to the end of the trail. Back up top there is a gift shop and a cafe with a view of the falls. I took some time to walk around the area before waiting in line to get on the bus. Because it was late in the day the buses were full but efficient. On the way back down back down we passed by The Belmond Hotel located in the park before arriving back at the visitor center. I had booked an Airbnb over the border in Puerto Iguazu, Argentina so I needed to get a bus to Argentina. It was 05:40 and the last bus departed at 06:00 P.M. I quickly withdrew cash from the ATM and waited in line and I am glad I did. The bus was so full that there was standing room only- like the Monsey Bus- and still some people did not make it on the bus. The bus fare was 50 Reas. Once we departed it took about 30 minutes to get to the border. At the border, all foreign nationals were required to disembark and get their passport stamped to exit Brazil while the bus waited. After everyone got back on the bus we proceeded to drive over the bridge into Argentina where everyone got off and went through immigration. On the other side there was a city-like bus waiting that departed once it was semi full. It made several stops until the central bus station where I disembarked. I had booked an airbnb with a full kitchen and AC located just a few blocks from the station. Because I downloaded offline maps and due to my hosts clear check in instructions on the Airbnb app I was easily able to find my apartment. While it was not luxurious, it suited my needs perfectly. Especially at a price of $20/Night.

Before leaving on my trip I researched Argentinian cell phone providers. I found that Movistar best fit my needs. I also discovered that in Argentina, contrary to the rest of the world, it is best to use cash- not a card. Why? Because the official rate is about half the regular rate that people use commonly known as the Blue Dollar. This is why it is better to exchange cash than pulling money out of the ATM because the ATM will give you the official rate. Another thing to note is that if you are going to exchange money, the change offices will only accept newly minted US Dollars.

It was about 7 PM and I decided to go look for a SIM card and try to change money. Unfortunately, after more than an hour searching I only found one shop that sold a SIM card. It was from Claro and it could not be activated by the shop. As per an exchange place, there was only one in town and it was already closed. So after roaming around for about 1.5 hours I came back frustrated and empty handed. In general, from what I understood from others, the Brazilian side has more to offer and has better infrastructure.

Offline ad120

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Re: ad120's 2022 Brazil, Iguazu, Iguacu, & Buenos Aeries Trip Report
« Reply #6 on: November 16, 2022, 04:53:23 PM »
Through my research I found that the main attraction on the Argentinian side of the falls was Garganta del Diablo- The Devil’s Throat. This is a Giant, U-shaped cascade in Iguaçu National Park accessible by hiking trail & a suspended walkway. It was therefore suggested to arrive early because the crowds make it impossible to navigate or get up close to the falls. Considering the park opens at 08:00 AM and I had already purchased a ticket for that time slot the night before, I woke up at 07:00 AM hoping to catch the 07:30 bus to the park. I quickly went to the currency exchange which was located in a tour operator storefront and attempted to change money. They refused to change money because while my $100 bill was new it had a tiny speck of dust on the bill. They are really crazy about this in Argentina and I don’t know why. Additionally, the exchange rate offered was less than the Blue Dollar rate listed online. With no choice, I started to look for an ATM on my way to the bus station. While I didn’t find one directly en route I found a bank close by. I pulled out cash and quickly went to the bus terminal but already missed the 08:00 bus so I bought a ticket on Rio Uruguay for the 08:15 bus. Having learned from the previous day’s experience, I immediately que’d up at the bus stand. The bus showed up in due time. The bus first goes to the park before continuing to the airport so they made sure that airport passengers board first. After everyone boarded the bus we departed for the park and about 25 minutes later we arrived at the park.

The park in Argentina is very different from that of Brazil. When you enter the park, you need to walk a bit until you reach the train central station. From there the train makes three stops, the first stop is not too far from the central station. I actually walked to the first station through a short trail and I recommend you do the same because it was nice and peaceful. The second stop is where you would get off for the cafe or to walk the lower or upper circuit. But because I wanted to get to the “main event” right away, I got off at the third stop: Garganta del Diablo.

From the train station it takes about 10 minutes until you reach Garganta del Diablo. During that walk I encountered some wildlife and great views. The walk itself was very pleasant. When I reached the Garganta del Diablo it was exhilarating. You are immediately slapped in the face with a wow. The size of the falls are massive and dramatic. You hear the constant sound of the falls crash. This was very different from Brazil where you slowly get introduced to the falls throughout your walk. After taking some photos and getting wet from the mist of the falls I headed back to the train station. I boarded the train to the circuit stop. I found a spot to daven Shacharis behind the cafe. I immediately noticed the large crowd trying to get onto the train to go up to Garganta del Diablo and I was glad that I had arrived early.

The Argentinian park is different from the Brazilian park. In the Brazilian park you pretty much walk on the walkway to the falls and that is all to do and see. In Argentina, you can have more of a national park experience. There are the upper and lower trails as well as other trails that are no longer used. These trails allow you to view falls from different vantage points and afford you with many wildlife opportunities. After Shacharis I decided that I was going to hike the lower trail and not the upper trail. Shortly into the hike I felt tired, hot. and cranky. I felt that things started looking repetitive and turned around and headed for the exit. Perhaps if I was better rested I would have enjoyed the hike.

Shortly after arriving at the park entrance I took the Rio Uruguay bus back to the bus station and got there pretty quickly. I wanted to do laundry at the laundromat next door but it was closed due to some national holiday. I wandered a bit to attempt to find another laundromat but was unsuccessful before finally returning to my Airbnb. Back at the Airbnb I heated up my Pom meal and connected with a guide on Guruwalks. We set up a paid walking tour of the La Boca neighborhood in Buenos Aires for the next day.  When I told him that I was having a difficult time changing money in Puerto Iguazu, he said that I can pay him in US dollars. When I asked him where he changes money, he told me he changes money at a local florist in his neighborhood that he trusts but there are many people on Florida Street in the Center soliciting for currency exchange. He then told me the best way to change money is to send myself money through the Western Union app. Interestingly enough the Western Union exchange rate is not the official rate, rather it is the Blue Dollar rate found on bluedollar.net. This rate is higher than what you get on the street. With this newfound information I downloaded the Western Union app, located the closest Western Union location (the post office just 10 minutes away, and sent myself $75 to pick up the next morning.

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Re: ad120's 2022 Brazil, Iguazu, Iguacu, & Buenos Aeries Trip Report
« Reply #7 on: November 21, 2022, 07:07:10 PM »
My flight on Flybondi from Puerto Iguazu to Buenos Aires Aeroparque was scheduled to depart at 10:40 AM. My intention was to go to the closest Western Union, the post office, which was just an 8 minute walk from my apartment to pick up cash. Once I had cash I was going to take the bus to the airport. I got to the post office at 08:15 and there already was a line out the door. It turns out that waiting at the post office is common throughout the world. Finally my turn came and the postal worker gave me a Western Union form to fill out and told me that I need to provide a copy of my identification. He did not speak any english and I don’t speak spanish but somehow we were able to communicate. I advised my to go to some shop a few blocks away by drawing a diagram on a paper ro make a copy. At this point it was getting late and I had to ditch picking up cash in Puerto Iguazu and would have to go a Western Union in Buenos Aires. With no better option, I once again took cash out of the ATM and took the closest taxi to the airport. Fortunately I had already checked in online because the check in que was long and Flybondi charges for boarding passes. The security checkpoint reminded me of Jerusalem’s Central Bus Station’s security checkpoint. There were no people and the checkpoint area was tiny. As Flybondi is a Low Cost Carrier there is no complimentary beverage service. I therefore made sure to purchase water before boarding. The boarding process went smoothly. I took my seat and immediately realized that the seats were not designed with Americans in mind because my head was a full head above the headrest. I noticed that the aisle exit seat was empty and asked the flight attendant if I could be reseated. She allowed me to do so. The seat was very narrow and I barely fit. I was struggling to close the seatbelt and when I asked for an extender I was told that I would not be able to sit in that seat. But luckily I finally fastened the seatbelt. After a short 1.5 hour flight we landed in Buenos Aires Aeroparque.

Buenos Aires has two airports: Ezeiza is located about an hour from the city and services international flights and Aeroparque is located 15 minutes from the city and services domestic flights. My plan in Buenos Aires was to get a SIM card for data so that I can get around and communicate with my guide until we met. I was hoping to find a sim card in the airport and then take a bus to San Telmo Market before meeting my guide in La Boca. However after walking to several shops in the airport there was no SIM card to purchase. Luckily the airport wifi was free and I decided that I was going to first go to a Movistar shop in the city center and purchase a center. I asked the information desk at the airport about the bus fare and if I can pay cash. I was told that the only form of payment is a fare card that can be obtained at the airport shop. Once again I went back to two of those shops and there was no farecard to purchase. At this point I was very frustrated. It seemed like the city was making it difficult for tourists. The lay ant information advised me to get on to the bus and ask some to tap their card and I should pay them cash or take an uber. When I got onto the bus, the driver just let me on for free. After all of that… 

About 20 minutes later I got off the bus and made my way to the Movistar shop. At the shop there was a line to get in. I was asked what I was waiting for and I answered “prepago”. I was informed that they don’t handle prepaid at that location. Luckily I was able to connect to the shop’s free wifi from outside and used google maps to find a nearby “Personal” shop, a different Argentinian provider. But first, as I was near Florida Street I decided to try to get a SIM card there. I found people on the street soliciting for currency exchange or “cambio”. It felt kind of shady but truthfully it seemed how things work there. I found a shop selling a Claro Sim card but the shopkeeper said that I would need to go to a Claro shop to activate it. Instead I went to the personal shop and when I arrived I was told that prepaid was not possible today. I seriously cannot understand, why would a mobile phone provider require you to come into their shop to activate service but then not provide the activation service required in the shop? Once again I connected to the wifi and let my guide know what was happening. He asked me to send him my location and he would come meet me.

After withdrawing cash from the ATM in Iguazu, I was no longer going to need as much cash from Western Union as initially planned. I therefore modified my transfer amount to 50 dollars. Apparently, instead of changing the amount charged, Western Union charges your account again and you need to ask for a refund for the old amount. My transfer declined because I did not have enough money in my bank account for the transfer.  I tried to make a wifi call  over spotty wifi to someone back home if they could Zelle me $50.00. When the money came in, I immediately scheduled a transfer but got an email from Western Union that my transfer was pending. At this point I was really frustrated. Everything in my day was going wrong. I tried making a wifi call three times over a spotty wifi connection until I was finally able to connect. I then waited for a representative for 10 minutes. They asked me security questions and approved the transfer once I was verified. Luckily there was a Western Union location directly across the street. My guide and I went across the street and picked up the cash. From there we got into an uber that brought us to La Boca.

La Boca is a neighborhood that was first started by immigrants. Most of these immigrants were skilled laborers. The buildings and homes in this neighborhood were built from scraps or extra material from construction projects. This is why the neighborhood developed into an area with many different color buildings. People have also taken to this colorful neighborhood to express themselves by painting murals on walls throughout the neighborhood. The government has recently repainted some buildings of the neighborhood that needed a paint job so that it looks vibrant and fresh. My tour guide showed me around the neighborhood and shared its history with me. While my guide was very nice and knowledgeable about the history, I was really interested in understanding the meanings of murals, graffiti, and artwork and what the artists were saying. Unfortunately he did not have much knowledge about that. After the tour we walked down a pedestrian street with souvenir shops but I did not find anything interesting.

From La Boca we took an uber to the Manuel Tienda Leon bus terminal. Manuel Tienda Leon is a bus company that operates an airport transfer service between the airport and the city. It is the best way to get to the airport during rush hour. During rush hour it can take an hour for a taxi to get to Ezeiza Airport. With Tienda Leon the drivers drive in the bus lane which makes the trip to the airport much faster. You can purchase tickets in advance on their website or at the bus station. The bus ride itself was comfortable. The coach had leather seats and a foot rest. I did not have anyone sitting next to me and slept throughout my ride to the airport.

While I checked in online, there was a note in my reservation for a complimentary upgrade to business class and therefore waited on the business class line. The wait took longer than anticipated but finally it was my turn. I spoke to the agent and explained the situation. He saw the note in the reservation, consulted with a supervisor and put me on the standby list for business class. The agent informed me that there are 10 empty seats in the business cabin and as of now I am on top of the list. He advised me to wait in the gate area and listen for announcements.

From the check in counter, I proceed through security to border control. The line to get through immigration was long. It took about 45-60 minutes to leave the country. When I entered Argentina my photo or fingerprints were not captured. When I was told to give my fingerprints and have a photo taken I expressed my displeasure but was ultimately told that if I did not I would not be able to leave the country. After having my prints taken, I proceeded to the gate area. With 45 minutes remaining to board, I made my way to the Star Alliance lounge which allows access to priority pass card holders. There was a line out the door and a lounge attendant offered to take my contact info to put me on a waiting list to enter the lounge. From there I walked a bit to the Centurion Lounge. The Centurion Lounge had kosher ice cream, fruits, smart water, and smart seltzer. I was very happy to be able to eat something after not having eaten much all day. I stocked up and went back to the gate. I checked with the gate agent for my upgrade and he printed out my boarding pass. Seat 1A. I took a few minutes to quickly check out the Admirals Club across the opportunity now that I was a business class passenger. The Admirals Club offerings were the same as the Centurion Lounge. I quickly davened Mincha, changed into Pajamas, and left the lounge for the gate. Right before boarding, all passengers went through an additional security check. I was told that I would not be able to take my water bottle onboard and dispose of it.

This was the first time I had ever flown a lie-flat business product internationally. I flew from New York to Los Angeles in lie-flat business when I took advantage of the Delta error fares many years ago but nothing since. I was very excited. I took my seat and was asked if I wanted a drink. I got oriented in my seat and then it was time for departure. The dinner service started pretty quickly and the food was very good. I learned for a bit, edited some photos, and enjoyed the snacks before going to sleep. As I generally don’t travel in business class, I cannot compare the hard product with other carriers. But as a tall person I did have to bend my knees to fit in lie-flat mode. However, overall I felt comfortable. I fell fast asleep and the next thing I knew we were making our final approach into New York. I was the first to deplane and with Global Entry I was out in no time.

Offline ad120

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Re: ad120's 2022 Brazil, Iguazu, Iguacu, & Buenos Aeries Trip Report
« Reply #8 on: November 22, 2022, 11:40:44 AM »

Offline Moshe Green

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Re: ad120's 2022 Brazil, Iguazu, Iguacu, & Buenos Aeries Trip Report
« Reply #9 on: November 22, 2022, 01:00:00 PM »
i know Brazilian CPF/CNPJ means a Brazilian taxpayer identifying number but what's a Pom meal?

Offline ad120

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Re: ad120's 2022 Brazil, Iguazu, Iguacu, & Buenos Aeries Trip Report
« Reply #10 on: November 23, 2022, 10:08:58 AM »
i know Brazilian CPF/CNPJ means a Brazilian taxpayer identifying number but what's a Pom meal?
Pomegranate Meal