Trip Planning and Award Booking for South America: Bogota, Buenos Aires & Iguazu Falls

Good morning and buenos dias amigos!  This weekend, I will be heading to South America for a week.  First stop is Bogota, Colombia, then down to Buenos Aires, Argentina, and then onto Iguazu Falls (on the border of Argentina and Brazil).  Here is how we planned the trip (Great Circle Mapper):

  • SFO-DFW-BOG in economy on American Airlines using 20,000 AA miles + $26.20 taxes/fees
  • BOG-EZE-IGR in economy on Aerolineas Argentinas using 25,000 KLM miles
  • IGR-EZE in economy on Aerolineas Argentinas for $140.70
  • EZE-MIA in business + MIA-ORD-SFO in first on American Airlines for 57,500 AA miles + $93.46 taxes/fees


For our accommodations, we used hotel points to pay for all the hotels.  For safety reasons, I won’t say which hotels and on which days, but I will share my experience of the hotels in later blog posts.

We don’t have anything set in stone on what we are doing in Bogota, Buenos Aires, or Iguazu Falls (other than checking out the falls from both the Argentine and Brazilian side), so I am entirely open to suggestions.  US citizens do not need a tourist visa for travel to Colombia and Argentina, but I did get a tourist visa for Brazil.  If there are any restaurants that you recommend, that would be greatly appreciated too.  I assume Uber is available in Bogota and Buenos Aires, but we are not against taking public transportation if the cost is right and it is easy to navigate.

From my previous trip to Lima, Peru, and Machu Picchu, I learned that you can get a slightly better exchange rate when you exchange clean, fresh looking US Dollars.  I believe that is also the case in Colombia, Argentina, and Brazil, but any advice on exchanging money is welcome.  I went to my local Citibank branch in San Francisco and took out some cash (I am a Citigold checking account customer).  The teller told me that right now is a great time to take out cash since it is right before Chinese / Lunar New Year’s and now is when a lot of cash gifts are given to friends and family members in Asian cultures.

I will have my laptop with me on the trip and will try to post a few updates throughout my trip.  And of course, my talented writers will continue to share their travel experiences, deals, and helpful advice while I am on vacation.  If you have any questions, please leave a comment below.  Have a great weekend everyone.  Adios amigos!

17 thoughts on “Trip Planning and Award Booking for South America: Bogota, Buenos Aires & Iguazu Falls

  1. Julio

    Great trip ! Money exchange in Argentina is easier now, parallel market disappeared 1 year ago.
    Buenos Aires is a huge city and there are tons of things to do, day and night.

  2. Val

    I just got back from a 3 week trip in Argentina. I think you are going to love BA and Iguazu. Argentina restaurants are on Spanish time – open from 12-4pm for lunch, closing, and opening 8-? for dinner. My husband and I can’t eat dinner that late, so my recommendations are based on lunches we had. In BA the first place is a little hole in wall empanada place called Ña Serapia. It is a locals type place that is cheap but delicious. The second place is a nicer ambiance italian spot called Chiuso. Food was fantastic there and I especially recommend the ravioli stuffed with pot roast with a sage butter sauce. You can find both on Yelp.

    I stayed at the the Sheraton in Iguazu and only ate on property. The food there is really mediocre but the view of the falls from the bar is stunning. The park trails are not “open” until 8am, but I snuck out early and went on the trails before the mob arrived. Most amazing national park experience of my life – the level of the falls is very high right now and it is awe inspiring to be in the spray of the falls all by yourself.

    The only other advice I have is that I found the ATM fees very high. You need cash fairly often in Argentina because you can’t add a tip to your meal at restaurants on your credit card. You can usually pay the bill with a CC, but need to leave a tip (usually 10% is expected) in cash. So I’m now motivated to get a Schwab account for my next trip.

    Enjoy your South American adventure.

  3. JNC

    Awesome! Quick tip, withdraw cash as soon as you can in Buenos Aires. Was there in November and the atms at the airport had no cash. To make matters worse, you have a limit and not all debit cards work.

  4. silverorchid

    Have fun! Make sure you have enough cash before heading out to Iguazu. We went to all the ATM machines in town and there was no money left. The day we went to Iguazu park (in Argentina side), all the money outside the park and inside the park had no money. The Iguazu park entrance ticket can only be purchased with cash, and only in peso. The ticket booth person saw me sweating after running around and I explained there was no money in ATM, he said he will make an exception to take my US dollar, but of course at very bad rate.

    Public transportation is very unreliable by Iguazu and we ended up taking taxi, which is expensive. Rent the car from the airport if you can. Also, check the moon calendar, every month for 5 nights during around full moon, you can make reservation to visit the Iguazu park at night, which is beautiful! You’ll go with a small group of 20-30 people, and you’ll be the only people in the park, which is much better compare to the day time.

    In BA, we love the steak house from Don Julio. The steak and the blood sausage are amazing. Make sure you make reservation or show up when it’s first open.

    There are a lot of fake peso in Argentina, ask your hotel how to spot the fake ones when you check in.

    1. Grant Post author

      Thank you for the great advice. How much cash do you recommend to visit the Iguazu Park? I definitely want to check out some of the steak houses in Buenos Aires.

      1. silverorchid

        Besides the park entrance ticket around $30 USD and food (food is relatively cheap $8-$15 usd per person/per meal), transportation is the biggest factor. Taxi has no meter there and everything is negotiated. The price range widely, ride from airport to same hotel can range from $25-$50 USD. Even when hotel called taxi for us, we asked for two quotes and price were twice the difference. We used the bus during the day time without issue, but bus after 6pm just never came
        after we had dinner in town (we even confirmed the bus number and schedule with hotel before we left). So bring some emergency money just in case.

  5. Mser

    Curious why not naming hotels for “safety reasons”? Have you been accosted before? Or just garden variety paranoia?

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  7. THH

    Hey Grant, on this route: EZE-MIA in business + MIA-ORD-SFO in first on American Airlines for 57,500 AA miles + $93.46 taxes/fees

    Can you explain the difference on the AA award chart between Business/First = 57.5k miles and First at 85k miles? I notice you flew both Business & First.


    1. Grant Post author

      If I flew EZE-MIA in AA First Class, the whole trip would have been 85,000 AA miles. Since I flew EZE-MIA in AA Business Class, the whole trip was only 57,500 AA miles. The domestic legs (MIA-ORD and ORD-SFO) are free in first class when you have an international business or first class redemption.

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