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Brazil – Highlights & Tips

After 3+ weeks in Peru, it was off to South America’s largest country, Brazil, for 14 days. It was a balanced trip encompassing the bipolar metropolis of Rio de Janeiro, the island of Morro de Sao Paulo, and then to the stunning Iguazu Falls. Oh, and a quick jaunt to San Francisco in between it all.

- See & Do

Morro de Sao Paulo v181) Morro de Sao Paulo – An unassuming beach town with a cool vibe, endless stretches of sand, and a multitude of options to occupy your time. If you find yourself in Brazil needing a break, this is your ticket. 

2) Iguazu Falls – Though Argentina boasts a more intimate experience, the broad scope of the Falls from Brazil is impressive. Moving between countries is a breeze with the proper visa.

3) Rio de Janeiro – Charming, dangerous, and inviting all at the same time. The music, beaches, and drinks (with or without alcoholic) are fantastic.

4) Salvador – The point of embarkation for a trip to Morro, we only spent an evening in this colorful town, but we would have liked a chance to see more.

5) Sao Paulo – After simply flying into the international airport then boarding a bus for Iguazu, the advice to skip this massive city seemed spot on. There didn’t appear much to see and do.

6) So little time – Unless you plan to spend some serious time, Brazil is simply too large and offers too much to see it all. We would have liked to explore the northern coast as well as a few spots in the Amazon Basin.

 - Transportation 

1) Air – Despite its size, much of Brazil can be accessed by the several airlines in the country. Among the largest are TAM and GOL (supposed low cost carrier). Many low cost airlines come and go as well. We took a one-way flight from Rio to Salvador for $85 each on WebJet (you can only purchase tickets in person) and the next cheapest flight was $215 each.

2) Bus – Coastal areas are accessible by bus, but the distances between hot spots are immense. In many long haul cases (1+ days), the cost of a bus fare is more than a flight. For distances of less than 24 hours, there are several companies offering overnight journeys in seats that nearly recline into a bed.

3) Taxis – To and from airports can be expensive. In daylight, buses operating between transportation nodes and the city center are safe and cheap. Cities are full of taxis, but beware the cost. Be on guard when hiring a taxi as stories of armed robbery and theft of baggage are not exaggerated.

- Food

1) The Misto Quente is to die for… think of a grilled cheese with ham and a fried egg. Yum.

2) Churrasco (Brazilian BBQ) – Starve yourself all day then go hog wild for hours. Yep, this was delicious too.

3) Fried Eggs – Brazilians put fried eggs on everything and it is damn good. Next time you cook up a hamburger, throw an egg on top. You can thank us later.

- Drink

Antarctica on the Beach1) Caipirinha (the national drink) – Similar to a mojito, but made with strong Brazilian liquor called Cachaca. Greg wanted to drink these with breakfast! Many bars offer free caipirinha’s at Happy Hour.

2) Beers – If you are an indecisive person, prepare for the worst. When it comes to cerveza, Brazil boasts an array of options. Brahma, Skol, Sol, Antarctica, Nova Schin, and Kaiser appear everywhere. Bohemia was my favorite though.

3) Wine – Ash would steal wine from a death row inmate’s last meal. Sadly, cheap Brazilian vino is hard to find.

4) Fruit Juices – Appearing on almost every corner, bring along extra cash to indulge your taste buds at least twice per day.

- Culture & Citizens

1) Attire – Women have an updated fashion look while men enjoy t-shirts one size too small. Greg’s zip-off travel pants didn’t fit in so much.

2) Culture – Brazil has many geographic areas with unique influences. But regardless of the area, music (mainly samba) plays a large part.

3) People – Machismo among men was evident as they walk confidently and appear to sleep in a weight room. Most people were friendly and helpful.

- Safety

Christ the Redeemer v91) Hyper paranoia is AOK – Particularly in large cities, armed robbery is a legit worry. Travel in groups, trust your gut, and stay aware. If a situation doesn’t feel right, get out of there ASAP. Better to miss that sweet Thursday overnight in Lapa than to be relieved of your wallet and travel confidence.

2) Rio de Janeiro – The tales of danger here are not overblown. A gal visiting from New York City had three instances of being in harms way in just ten days. The best advice is to stay alert.

- Costs

1) General – Make no mistakes, Brazil is not cheap. In fact, the Real (Brazil’s currency) appreciated 35% from January 2009 – October 2009. Of the 16 most traded currencies in the world, the Real has been the best performer. So well in fact, a Big Mac in Sao Paulo costs more than in New York City.

2) Visas – Every American citizen must procure a visa ($130) to enter Brazil. Most visas allow access for up to five years at 90 days per trip.

3) Lodging – Larger cities have a plethora of options. Dorms range from $12 – $25 and privates from $25 – $45 per person. If visiting around Carnival, you should book months in advance and most hostels have a minimum stay requirement.

4) Food – Breakfast is generally included with your hostel, lunch $6 – $12, and dinner (entre & beer) $12 – $25 per person. Cooking at the hostel will cost you about $8 per person.

5) Transportation – Flights between domestic cities vary greatly from $75 to $350 one-way. A 12 hour bus will set you back around $80.

Despite the current economic climate, Brazil continues to shine and for good reason. It has much to offer by way of bustling cities, lazy beaches, verdant rainforests, and natural wonders. With the 2014 World Cup and Summer Games in 2016, this fascinating country will be known more for its merits than the popular Brazilian Wax.

- Greg & Ash

Peru – Highlights & Tips

All told, Peru engaged us for 23 days in September 2009. Our first stop on our world tour was a splendid ice breaker. We spent time with Peruvian families, imbibed on unique drinks, and saw much of what this proud country has to offer.

- See & Do

Lake Sandoval & Amazon Rainforest1) Amazon – the sights/sounds/smells were incredible!

2) Mach Picchu – 4 days of hiking makes you appreciate the remarkable Inca empire

3) If time permits – Lake Titicaca & Colca Canyon

4) Peru is not your “beach vacation” – activities are dominated by hiking and lots of walking.

- Transportation

1) Air – LAN Peru (impressive service & planes) covers much of the country and you can save big $$$ by using the Peru version of the site. Star Peru is a low cost carrier and has decent coverage.

2) Bus – You can go almost everywhere in Peru via bus if you have the patience and time. Opt for the “luxury” buses as they are more reliable, have sober drivers, and are quite comfortable. The extra money is well worth it… trust us.

3) Taxis – Negotiate cheap fares to/from bus terminals and airports. Also widely available in cities. Be sure to get a legit taxi as stories of baggage theft/robbery are rampant.

- Food

1) Greg enjoyed the saltado (alpaca, fries, onions, rice).

2) Ash became quite ill from something or other, so she relied on pasta, pizza, and wrapper type food much of the time.  A diet light on alpaca to be sure. 

3) Soup – they love their soups flavored with a bone, though it is quite bland.

4) Most Peruvian food is laced with salt, watch out!

5) Avoid buffets like the plague.

- Drink

Pisco Sours v11) Pisco Sour (the national drink) – tastes like a margarita, but made with egg white. Captain Ron would be proud!

2) Cusquena – this beer is everywhere and is usually served warm. Opt for the “grande” and share the $$$ saved with a friend. Greg enjoyed many of these.

3) Coca Tea – a classic in the higher elevations. It does wonders for symptoms of altitude sickness.

4) Chicha – consumed for hundreds of years in the Andes. It is a fermented maize drink that only the daring travelers will try… it will reek havoc on the weak’s stomach.

- Culture & Citizens

1) Attire – Regardless of tourism, the friendly people wear the traditional dress.  Women: a blouse with colorful accents, black shahs to cover their head, heavy/colorful skirts, a sash, thick tights, and sandals.  Men: colorful ponchos, dark pants,sandals, and a chullo (beautiful alpaca hats that tie under their neck).  Some men are transitioning to a look more familiar to the West. 

2) Mix of Spanish / Inca heritage– the celebration of these two cultures is equally celebrated.

3) Family – large family units with literate children (Spanish & English) and strong values.  Many young mothers and it seemed every family had a baby.

4) People – incredibly friendly, trusting, and welcoming.  We can’t say enough how much we enjoyed the Peruvians with which we interacted.

- Safety

1) Don’t be a fool – simple rules apply as petty crime is present. Don’t wear jewelery, stash your wallet, and be vigilant.

2) Lima – fly in, then get out! We spent 1 day here and that was plenty. One gets an uneasy feeling in the capital city for good reason. We met a German couple that was held up a gunpoint in broad daylight. Stay in well populated areas and never walk alone.

3) Cusco – the main tourist city (near Machu Picchu) had a fantastic vibe at night with a heavy police presence. We felt very safe here.

- Costs

1) Lodging – when in doubt, pick a hostel near the Plaza de Armas (main square in each city). Dorms range from $6 – $10 and privates from $8 – $12 per person.

2) Food – Breakfast is generally included with your hostel, lunch $4 – $6, and dinner (entre & beer) $7 – $9 per person. Cooking at the hostel will cost you about $4 per person + strange conversations.

3) Transportation – Flights between cities cost between $75 and $125 per person. Buses range from $8 for a “local” to $30 for a “luxury” liner for distances of 6 – 10 hours.

4) Excursions – The Inca Trail fills up months in advance and the price continues to climb. Most trekking operators charge between $450 and $550 for the 4 day / 3 night hike to Machu Picchu. Overnight Amazon tours run in the $130 – $190 range while excursions to Lake Titicaca and Colca Canyon are about $20. Every excursion except for the Inca Trail is negotiable – don’t spend a penny more than you must!

Plaza de Armas Fountain & Peru FlagLooking back, we covered lots of climates, cities, and sights in just over 3 weeks. Perhaps we were giddy and traveled a bit fast as this was our first month. Only 2 days were spent to rest and that clearly is not sustainable. Peru is an inexpensive country for the necessities of life, but the costs add up quickly when embarking on the tantalizing excursions. Peru has so much to offer… incredible sights and even better people.

- Greg & Ash

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