Wednesday, February 23, 2011

South America, Australia Travel ~ Things I Learned on a 6-Week Trip About Hotels, Buses, Airport, Internet

Comparing Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, NSW Australia in Summer 

Nicely back in snowy Ontario Canada, waiting for spring, with my memories and pictures of my Summer south of the Equator trip to keep me warm! Here are some things I learned on my trip, posted in no particular order. I should mention that this was not my first trip to any of these destinations, but it was the longest trip by a few weeks.

Heat has its Place and Time
Six weeks of hot summer weather can wear you down after a while, even though you've come south to escape the snow. When you've been in temps of 30C+ almost every day, with only a few days of rain showers that only make it more humid, you are glad to get back to winter weather to cool off.

Flooring in Hotels
In South America (Chile, Argentina, Uruguay), 7 out of 8 hotels had hardwood or laminate flooring. One hotel in Buenos Aires still clung to carpet. In Australia (Sydney, Leura, Nelson Bay), 4 out of 4 hotels had carpeting. I much prefer the hardwood or laminate. Feels so much cleaner!

Bathrooms in Hotels
About 11/12 hotel bathrooms (South America and Australia) had low-flow toilets and some even had bidets. Never used one, likely never will. Also, facecloths (washcloths) seem to be out of favour in all the places I stayed. Only two places provided washcloths, and they were stacked on the bidet. Umm, no thanks, I'll use my cleansing cloths.

Coffee - Tea Kettles, Fridges in Hotels
Hotels in Australia all provide tea / coffee making facilities, a boon for the jet lagged traveler. Hotels in South America were hit and miss. All hotels provided small fridges, some even stocked with drinks and snacks.

Breakfast Included in Hotel Rate
Hotels in South America always fed me; some more lavishly than others. In Australia, only one hotel out of four provided breakfast.

Airport Security Screening
South America airports aren't all that bothered about liquids and gels and sizes of same in your carryon luggage.  You could take your water bottle through just fine. Australia and New Zealand (stop for passengers, fuel, crew change) are very, very, very fussy. To the point of silliness. And on stopovers for fuel etc in Aukland en route SYD- EZE, passengers must de-plane, and go around corridors to go through security again before getting back on the SAME plane.

Meanwhile, any liquids you've bought at Argentina (Buenos Aires) duty free shops that are in containers larger than 100 ml WILL BE confiscated by Aukland airport security. Well, not mine as I put up a fuss saying things like Not Fair! and the crew took mine and a few other passengers' duty free liquids through for us.

Christmas Decorations South America, Australia
If you think that North Americans go overboard with Christmas decorations in stores, homes, hotels, etc. then spending this holiday season south of the equator is just the thing. Very few decorations were set up, mainly some sort of Christmas tree, and usually in large hotels or malls. Refreshing, to say the least!

Reciprocity Tax Chile, Argentina for Aussies, Canadians, Americans
Enter Chile or Argentina by air with an Australian, or Canadian or American passport (there may be others but those three I noted for sure) and it's going to add to the cost of your trip, about $130 CAD for Chile (5 years pass) and $75 CAD for Argentina (one year) or $150 CAD (five years).

Pay with a credit card then proceed to Immigration. The 'reciprocity' is your clue to Chile and Argentina (among other countries) charging this fee in response to Canada, Australia, United States first charging Chile and Argentine citizens visa fees. Can we not all just get along? Really. Adding $200+ to the cost of a trip is expensive AND annoying.

Aerolineas Argentinas International Flights to Sydney
Not so good -- see this post about my flight.

New Years Eve Fireworks in Sydney Well Worth the Trip!
The 'why' of why I traveled to Australia in high summer holiday season. Those fireworks are well worth the trip, but now that's over and done. Only way you can see them in person, of course, is to go to Sydney in the busiest, most costly time of year.

Bus from Valparaiso, Chile, to Mendoza, Argentina a Great Trip!
A seriously good bus trip that cost about $34 US. The highway leaving Los Andes to climb thousands of feet above the valley is one of the best rides I have ever had. The bus, too, is very comfy, with 4 staff to drive or handle luggage and pass out snacks and lunches (included in fare).

Buses in Chile generally have a good  reputation -- the intercity ones, at least. I took a bus from Santiago Chile to Valparaiso on the coast, a two-hour ride through the Casablanca Valley with a few stops. Total cost $3. Really! And from Montevideo, Uruguay west to Colonia de la Sacramento, about a three hour bus ride, I paid $9 USD.

South America hotels offered free internet use at their public computers. Only one hotel (Leura Garden Resort in Blue Mountains, Australia) in Australia did. Hotel staff in Australia were genuinely amazed that I expected it to be free.

More South America and Australia Travel 
See my web site for pictures and information about this trip. Not all my images have been uploaded as yet.

For travel planning have a look at these resources on Amazon (USA).

Uruguay (Bradt Travel Guide Uruguay) * Uruguay 2011 Travel Guide City Guides for Montevideo, Punta del Este, Piriapolis, Punta del Diablo and Colonia with Spanish Phrasebook* Argentina (EYEWITNESS TRAVEL GUIDE)*