- Trip Notes Brazil Part 1: 10 Years Of Travel And Deal Blogging And A Return To Where It All Began (Published 11/23/14)
- Trip Notes Brazil Part 2: Flying “Private” To Sao Paulo With Miles (Published 2/7/16)
- Trip Notes Brazil Part 3: Iguaçu Falls (Published 4/17/16)
- Trip Notes Brazil Part 4: Rio de Janeiro (Published 5/1/16)
-This trip occurred in October 2014, better late than never, right? I posted that Brazil was waiving their $160 Visa fee for Americans that arrive between June 1-September 18, so that was the impetus to continue writing these trip notes. Argentina is now also waiving their $160 reciprocity fee for US citizens, making this an amazing time to visit Iguaçu Falls thanks to $320 in reciprocity savings and hassles!
We always bring carseats for our kids on the plane. It controls their environment and gives them something they’re comfortable to fall asleep in. Plus many experts say that you should never check a carseat under the plane, so bringing them on the plane avoids the debate of whether a checked carseat is considered damaged and still leaves you with a carseat at your destination.
Or in the words of the FAA, “Did you know that the safest place for your child on an airplane is in a government-approved child safety restraint system (CRS) or device, not on your lap? Your arms aren’t capable of holding your child securely, especially during unexpected turbulence. The FAA strongly urges you to secure your child in a CRS or device for the duration of your flight. It’s the smart and right thing to do so that everyone in your family arrives safely at your destination.”
Currently we use an Evenflo Maestro travel carseat for Rafi and Cosco Scenara travel carseat for Talia, but at the time of this trip in October 2014 Talia was still in her infant Chicco Keyfit and Rafi was in the Scenara. Back then we would gate check our UppaBaby Vista and snap the Chicco out of the stroller and into the plane for an easy transfer. For the Scenara and Maestro we use GogoBabys Travelmates to wheel them around the airport and the Travelmates fit into the overhead compartments.
So as usual we strapped the kids into their carseats on the plane. Previously we ran into issues on Cathay Pacific with carseats in business and first class, but we had never run into any issues in coach.
This time the flight attendant came to our seats and said point blank, we’re going to need to check those. Now I had long since learned that flight attendants love to make up rules, so I asked if I could see the rule in writing. Then I searched online for experiences with carseats and GOL and came across this post. And indeed the flight attendant showed us some nonsense about special needs kids needing to notify the airline in advance to receive a special seat. My seatmate argued in Portuguese with the flight attendant for us, to no avail. Then he explained to us that in Brazil most people don’t even own carseats, let alone bring them onto a plane, so it wasn’t surprising that the flight attendants had never seen it before.
I asked to speak to the captain, but the flight attendant threatened to have the police take us off the plane and detain us unless we surrendered both carseats. Not wanting to experience a Brazilian prison, we did just that.
We had 2 more flight legs on GOL (from Iguaçu-Rio and Rio-Sao Paulo) and then I came equipped with the Brazilian FAA equivalent’s regulations permitting carseats. But we didn’t even need it as we were able to use the carseats without any questioning on those flights.
I had been to Iguaçu Falls in 2005 and loved the place. Eleanor Roosevelt had it right when she said “Poor Niagara” upon seeing it. Instead of being in middle of a concrete jungle, it’s in middle of beautiful rainforest with wonderfully fresh air. It’s much bigger and far grander than Niagara Falls.
Alas this time around the place was in the midst of heavy flooding. The flooding turned the water brown and washed away the path to Argentina’s Garganta del Diablo overlooking the falls.
Landing at Foz do Iguaçu airport, Brazil:
We arrived into Iguaçu at noon on Monday and had a flight from Iguaçu to Rio at 6pm on Tuesday.
At the airport I did some negotiating with a taxi driver and worked out a rate of R$220 (currently $62) for him to drive us to the Sheraton on the Argentine side of the falls and then pick us up the following day for a tour of the Brazilian side of the falls before driving us back to the airport. If you go try sending him a Whatsapp at +55-45-9125-2451.
There is a Park Hyatt being built in Foz do Iguaçu, but it won’t be in the national park. The places to stay are in the Hotel das Cataratas on the Brazilian side of the falls or the Sheraton Iguazu on the Argentine side. It’s a Starwood category 5 hotel and has been recently renovated.
I paid the $160 reciprocity fee for Talia to enter Argentina. The rest of us had already paid when we visited Argentina in 2012. Just a few weeks ago Argentina announced that they have temporarily stopped collecting the reciprocity fee for Americans, so there’s never been a better time visit.
It took about 50 minutes including the border crossing to get from the Foz do Iguaçu airport to the Sheraton.
We needed cash to enter the park and our driver was happy to sell us Pesos near the incredible grey market (Blue Dollar) rates that existed at the time.
Unfortunately, when we got to the hotel there was no power and they were unable to check us in. So we left our bags at checkin and walked around for a bit until the power came back on.
We were upgraded to a falls view suite with a balcony.
Fallsview from balcony:
On the Argentine side there are 3 main sections to explore, the lower circuit, the upper circuit, and train to the Garganta del Diablo. As mentioned earlier, the Garganta del Diablo was washed out when we were there in 2014, but I got to experience in 2005 and it’s been reopened now. It’s really the highlight of Iguazu, but you should definitely do all 3 trails.
There’s also a free boat ride to San Martin island, though it wasn’t operating due to the flooding.
We were able to walk around most of the lower and all of the upper circuits with a stroller.
There are also speedboat rides into the falls from both the Argentine and Brazilian sides and I had a blast riding one back in 2005. But they aren’t intended for little kids, so we skipped that this time around.
It really is nice being able to just stroll out of the Sheraton and into the park. The air is fresh and views are stunning. And you really feel like you’re inside the waterfalls. Just beware of the racoon-like Coati which are found throughout the park.
Pictures from the lower circuit:
San Martin Island:
After walking around the lower circuit for a couple hours and taking lots of selfies the kids were hungry and ready for bed.
The spacious balcony was a wonderful place to take in the park:
Shnitzel sandwich from Sao Paulo for dinner:
The power troubles continued for the hotel throughout the night. The power would cut in and out every few minutes and the kids kept waking up every time that happened. It was hot when the AC went off and the WiFi went down as well when the power was down. All in all, not the most pleasant of hotel stays, though they did refund the Starpoints that we used.
The next morning we took a stroll on the upper circuit:
Walking from the park back to the Sheraton:
It’s hot and humid in Iguazu and the pool beckoned as a nice way to cool off:
We packed up our bags and took the taxi back to the Brazilian side. Back in 2005, I got some great bargains at the duty free shop on the border, but this time we went to see if there was anyone to share a helicopter ride with for an aerial view of the falls. There was nobody there when we arrived, but within a few minutes other people showed up and we split a helicopter ride. Our share of the ride came out to R$590 (Currently $168).
Even with the brown water due to the flooding, it’s really an amazing ride and view:
Aerial view of Hotel das Cataratas:
In the meantime, Talia developed a fever and we weren’t interested in walking around too much longer. Argentine taxis can’t enter the park on the Brazilian side, so it worked out quite well that we had our Brazilian driver take us directly into the park without having to shlep the kids onto the park bus. The taxi drove us right to the falls and Mimi strapped Talia into the Ergobaby carrier for a quick view of the scenery.
While the Argentine side feels like you’re in middle of a rainforest, the Brazilian side doesn’t feel that way at all. However it does have more expansive views of the falls. You absolutely need to go to both sides to fully experience it. A few hours on the Brazilian side is more than enough time to explore.
Views from the Brazilian side:
View of the Sheraton Iguazu hotel from the Brazilian side:
And then it was back to Foz do Iguaçu airport airport for our GOL flight nonstop to beautiful Rio de Janeiro, priced at a bargain 12.5K Delta miles.
You can easily spend a few days in Iguaçu by going to Itaipu Dam, the Bird Zoo, and crossing the border into Paraguay. We did it all in a day and a half, though 2 nights would have been more ideal.
I don’t like wasting time in the airport, but I also never miss a flight. There’s a science to that and in the past I’ve booked domestic travel less than an hour before flight time and international travel less than 2 hours before flight time without issue.
It was in Rio though that I made one of my biggest travel blunders and caused us to miss our flight from Rio that would connect to the final TAM first class flight out of Sao Paulo and the last flight back to the US before Shabbos. But I’m getting ahead of myself…that’s a story for part 4.