We had to get to Ushuaia for our cruise to Antarctica so we figured we might as well put the rest of Argentina into our eyeholes whilst we were there. Be rude not to really. It’s such an incredible and diverse country, absolutely massive though, I’m fucking fed up of being on a bus regardless of how comfortable they are.
Argentina really has it all. Mountains, beaches, subjectively the best waterfall in the world, all manner of exciting wildlife. It stretches from the eyeball-meltingly hot subtropical north where you can’t fucking move between midday and 5pm because you’ll sweat to death, down to the chilly south, the end of the world, where even in the middle of summer you’ll need your coat and a blast of the heating in the morning so you don’t take a window out with a nipple.
Oh, and we tagged Brazil onto the start, because why the fuck not hey?
We interupt your regular South America viewing, because did I mention we went to Antarctica?
We absolutely did not set out to have such an epic day. I’ve not been so tired since I took a load of seasickness tablets during a trip to Antarctica. Did I mention we went to Antarctica? Oh yes, it’s…
With a couple of days spare in Ushuaia we figured we’d go put some more stuff in our eyeholes. Lakes and glaciers and the like. Laguna Esmerelda, or Emerald Lake, is a very popular walk about a 20 minute drive…
You’d think we’d have had enough of glaciers by now but here we were in a cute little Patagonian town whose sole tourist attraction was a large chunk of ice about 80 kilometres away in the Parque Nacional los Glaciares.…
Useful shit to know…
Getting From Guarulhos Airport (GRU) To São Paulo
- We landed at Terminal 3. A free shuttle bus will take you between the terminals and the train station.
- We weren’t sure if the train and Metro system were separate (like Victoria in London) so we bought tickets to Luz Station for R$4.40 each and we’d deal with it once there.
- The Luz Express is clearly signposted. I believe it runs every hour from the airport on the hour (24 hours) but please do check.
- It took less than 40 minutes to get to Luz Station.
- Turns out the train and Metro systems are integrated. We weren’t sure if we’d need to pay again to continue to Clínicas Metro so we exited and bought another ticket (R$4.40) just in case. We probably didn’t need do bother, the exit barriers don’t seem to require your ticket.
Local Transport In São Paulo
- The Metro system is fast and cheap but if you prefer buses you can easily use Google Maps to help with timetables etc.
- You don’t need to state your destination at the Metro, just tell them how many tickets you need.
- It cost R$4.40 per journey when we were there.
- Uber is a thing that exists here.
- You need a CPF (tax number) to buy a SIM card in Brazil.
- We bought a Vivo SIM from a news stand for R$15 and my mate set it all up for us with her CPF, photo and photo of her ID. It looked like a right ballache.
- I recharged it but it confused the fuck out of me. I had options to recharge various amounts so I went for R$20 assuming that I could then choose some manner of package.
- It automatically took R$14.99 and gave me 4GB of data valid for 15 days, and unlimited calls and texts. I have no idea how it works. Brazilian SIM cards are a fucking mystery.
- Brazil uses the real, pronounced hey-al (R$). The plural is reais, pronounced hey-ais.
- Card, contactless and pay by phone is very widely accepted but it’s handy to have a bit of cash as you’ll need it for local buses and São Paulo Metro.
- The ATM at the airport absolutely battered us for banking fees to the tune of GB£25! However, every ATM we used since didn’t charge us at all.
- We needed US dollars to take into Argentina and used an exchange in Ingleses in Florianópolis.
- They didn’t take card so we spent a few days withdrawing cash.
- There was no limit to the amount of dollars they’d let us have and the US$1700 each was no issue for them.
- They didn’t ask to see a passport, nor were we issued a receipt.
- You need a CPF number if you want to send a parcel. Honestly, you need a fucking CPF number to take a shit in this country!
Long Distance Buses
- We used Busbud to book our buses as it was just easier to have everything in English and be charged in British pounds.
- I did look into using the actual bus company websites but the price difference was only a few quid and they kept asking for a CPF number.
Local Transport In Florianópolis
- They have nicer Executivo buses which are yellow and cost R$11 each.
- Apparently the blue and white buses are a little cheaper but less comfortable.
- Bus timetables and a journey planner are available on the Floripanoponto app, or there’s a website if you prefer.
- They also have Uber.
- Brazil uses Type C plugs, same as most of Europe.
- Confusingly, they use 110V in São Paulo (though my friend had one 220V socket in the kitchen) and 220V in Florianópolis. I’m not sure about the rest of the country. We use 240V in the UK so we’re not at risk of frying our stuff with too high of a voltage I guess.
- We’ve basically watched the Argentine peso (AR$) devalue before our eyes. In the few weeks we’ve spent here it’s gone from AR$168 to the dollar to AR$185 to the dollar at the official exchange rate. Inflation is insane, by the time anyone reads this the prices I’ve listed will be out of date. Inflation in 2022 was 98%. December alone was 5.1%.
- There are also several exchange rates. The one you want when changing money is the Blue Dollar as this will give you nearly double the pesos for your dollar. I’d read everywhere that your best bet was to bring loads of crisp US$100 bills and change them on the black market but actually you’re best off sending yourself money through Western Union as they have the best rates.
- The downside to Western Union is the branches in smaller towns often run out of pesos. In Ushuaia I queued for an hour as soon as it opened to make sure they would have enough. I heard that in El Calafate they restricted you to AR$60000. We had no issues taking out over AR$300000 in Mendoza.
- If you want to go the cash route perhaps use a combination of cash dollars and Western Union so you don’t get caught out.
- Having said all this, the Argentine government in a bid to get tourists to move away from the black market have started offering close to Blue Dollar rate if you pay by card.
- This scheme is still in its infancy and people are reporting mixed results. However, when we’ve used our British Mastercard debit and credit cards we’ve initially been charged the full official rate then four or five days later we’ve been issued a partial refund. This applied when using our card online and in person.
- As an example, we were charged £13.51 on a Monzo debit card to get into Recoleta Cemetery. A few days later we were refunded £5.84. That’s over 40%.
- We paid £469.95 for our flights purchased with FlyBondi online with a Natwest credit card. Our refund was £201.18. Again, over 40%.
- The black market is not as terrifying as it sounds and everyone does it. Research the Blue Dollar to understand more.
- In Buenos Aires I was told there were money changers on Florida St but as we were walking there a bloke on 9 de Julio offered us cambio. Look out for the guys holding laminated cards advertising tours around the Oblisco area.
- It’s so normal that we saw a restaurant in La Boca offering cambio, and we also changed money in a shop in Puerto Iguazu with a sign in the window offering cambio. It’s close to the bus station.
- They’ll take you to an office. Again, don’t worry, it’s all very normal. He gave us a good rate.
- The lower denominations are so valueless that they’ll sonetimes let you off for them in the shops. Even when you try and give it them they’ll wave it away. Sometimes you’ll get sweets as change if it’s less than AR$10. One time our shopping came to AR$10211 and he didn’t even want the 211.
For Your Facehole
- Postage is expensive. You’re looking at AR$1000 (US$5.50 official, US$3 Blue Dollar) to send a postcard to Europe.
- Correo Argentino are the postal service. The pillar boxes are disappointingly similar to British boxes.
- We bought a Claro SIM card from a kiosk in Puerto Iguazu. I guess you can buy them in any kiosk in Argentina displaying a Claro sign.
- The SIM cost AR$500 each. He said it was a tourist SIM and the other ones required documentation we didn’t have such as a DNI. We only had to show our passports.
- He set everything up for us and showed us our options for data packages.
- We opted for the AR$3500 package with 25GB of data for 30 days. It was overkill, turns out WiFi is good and plentiful, especially in tourist towns.
- We added AR$300 each too so we could make phone calls and send texts, and still have Internet when we were between data packs. This also came in handy when we were temporarily in Chile as roaming data comes off your credit.
- When it came to recharge we found a kiosk, added credit, then used the Mi Claro app to use that credit to buy another data pack.
- WiFi is everywhere in hostels, hotels, cafés and bars, and it’s good.
- WhatsApp seems to be the preferred form of communication for accommodation and activity providers.