The biggest waterfalls in South America.

Trip Start Mar 06, 2005
Trip End May 27, 2005

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Monday, April 11, 2005

Here's what my travel guidebook says about this place:

"The mighty Iguazu Falls are the most overwhelmingly magnificent in all of South America. So impressive are they that Eleanor Roosevelt remarked 'poor Niagara' on witnessing them (they are four times wider than Niagara Falls)."

I spent the morning in the scorching sun exploring the various waterfalls. (There are quite a number of them in the area, and they can all be viewed from a series of paths and platforms that are very well laid out.) Just as I was finishing the circuit, though, my prized Machu Picchu hat blew away. What a shame.

Okay, go ahead and look at the pictures now.

Thoughts on travel costs: One of my friends asked me to mention something about travel costs on my trip. This sort of information could be useful for those of you contemplating such a trip yourselves - but thinking it might be unaffordable. So here are my thoughts on the subject:

By far the biggest single cost associated with this trip was for the plane tickets to get here. (After all, I did come from the other side of the world!) But once you're here, the day to day travel costs are so reasonable that it makes sense to stay for quite awhile - as I am doing.

So for an idea of costs in the places I've been so far: On average, I found myself paying 8 dollars a night for accommodation in Peru and Bolivia; in Chile it was 17 dollars a night; and in Argentina and Paraguay it has been between 12 and 24 dollars a night, most often towards the lower end of that range. (The 24 dollar place was a small room in one of the best hotels in Cordoba, Argentina.) But even with a small room, I still had access to the gym, the wonderful buffet breakfast, the free high-speed internet, and the great location of the hotel. So it was a 24 dollars well spent. In fact, I'd rather pay 24 dollars for that type of place than 6 dollars for a, how shall I say, "shithole"!

Most of the time breakfast is included in the price of the hotel (although South American breakfasts are usually, but not always, insubstantial). That leaves lunch and dinner to pay for, which almost invariable seems to cost around 3 or 4 dollars - whether the meal be good or bad. It is even possible to get an all-you-can-eat buffet for four dollars.

To those costs must be added the cost of laundry every few days (at, say, 2 dollars a pop); the price of admission tickets to various sights (another few dollars for minor sights - and more for major ones, such as 10 dollars entrance for the waterfalls today.)

Further costs include ground transportation between the various destinations. For example, the 15 hour bus ride in a luxury bus, crossing half the country, cost in the area of 30 to 40 dollars.

Not to be forgotten (I say that because I had forgotten it, even though it is so obvious): Internet! As you have noticed, I use the internet pretty much every day. This is easy to do because it is generally so cheap that spending time (and money) on the internet actually saves money that I would be spending somewhere else. (That was a bit of a joke - but only a bit.) Actually I get a feeling of having contact with family and friends when I sit down to the internet, as well as a feeling of accomplishment when I update my website, so that makes it worth the average of 50 cents an hour that it costs.

In order to keep costs down, then, it would make sense to stay in any given place a little longer if possible. (At the same time, there is no point in staying somewhere that you don't like - just to keep costs down - but if you do like a place, sticking around can save money.) Also, the longer you stay somewhere, the more likely you are to find the cheap places to eat and do your laundry, for example. On this subject, I find that asking locals for advice usually produces good results.

So to conclude for now on this topic: Over the course of this trip, which will last for 12 weeks, I figure I will spend not much more than 3 thousand dollars on the non-air portion of the trip. (The plane tickets, as I recall, cost me about 2 thousand dollars.) So that makes a total of 5 thousand dollars, and lets add another thousand to cover some other flights that I'll take but haven't paid for in advance (Porto Allegre to Montevideo; Caracas to Merida; and several flights inside of Colombia), and we're up to, say, 6 thousand dollars for the whole 12 week trip. Very reasonable, I think.

Thoughts on travel guidebooks:

Guidebooks are good for providing basic information about places, but I tell you, half the information in them is misleading and in many cases just plain incorrect! Another thing I've noticed is that when places manage to get themselves recommended by a travel guide, they raise their prices and thereby become not the bargain they once were. And most people will still stay there because the place was recommended by the guidebook.

From my experience, I would say that I almost never ended up staying in the place I had selected from the guidebook. Usually a place next to the one that sounded so perfect in the guidebook will be just as good for half the price. So be aware of this when you travel. The willingness to choose a place that is NOT recommended can save you a lot of money.
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