I just got back yesterday from a whirlwind of a trip on My South America Mileage Run Vacation to Puerto Iguazu, Argentina. Last month I visited the Brazilian side of the falls (Iguacu National Park) and this time around I visited the Argentinian side of the falls (Iguazu National Park). I spent one night in Puerto Iguazu, one night in Foz do Iguacu, 23 hours in Sao Paulo, and 11 hours in Santiago Chile. Here are 10 Things I Learned From My Recent Trip to Puerto Iguazu Argentina:
1. The Taxi Cab Mafia is for real at Foz do Iguacu International Airport – There were several options on getting from Foz do Iguacu International Airport (IGU) in Brazil to Puerto Iguazu, Argentina. The first option was to take a public bus from Foz do Iguacu Airport to the Central Bus Station in Foz do Iguacu (TTU) and then take a bus from the T.T.U bus station in Centro Foz do Iguacu to the Central Bus Station in Puerto Iguazu, Argentina. This option is for the real hardcore backpacker with a lot of time on their hands and not to mention the hassle of the buses not stopping at the border to get you stamped out of Brazil and into Argentina.
The second option is to take a taxi from IGU Airport to your hotel in Puerto Iguazu, Argentina. I’ve looked all over the internet for a quote on the price for this kind of trip and I couldn’t find any reliable updated information. I landed at Foz do Iguacu Airport at 7pm and I needed to get to my hotel in Puerto Iguazu, Argentina. There’s only 1 taxi cab company at the airport and they’re run by two big men manning the desk (they look like nightclub bouncers).
I asked one of the taxi mafia men a price quote for a taxi from Foz do Iguacu airport to Puerto Iguazu and I was quoted 80 reais ~ $25.81 USD which was reasonable. I also asked if the taxi driver would stop at the border to stamp me out of Brazil and into Argentina and he said yes. As soon as I agreed, he asked for my hotel address in Puerto Iguazu and he consulted his GPS on the phone to tell the taxi driver in Portuguese on how to get to my hotel in Argentina.
A second taxi mafia man came up to me and said the price is 135 reais ~ $43.56 USD because it’s a holiday. He was correct that it was a holiday in Brazil (Corpus Christi) and I knew that as well beforehand. I told him that I was just quoted 80 reais ~ $25.81 USD a few minutes ago and he said that he could do 100 reais ~ $32.27 USD. I had no choice but to accept his new offer because there was absolutely no other way to get to my hotel. I absolutely only take airport taxis if there are no viable alternatives and I had to succumb to the taxi scam and the taxi cab mafia this time around.
2. Crossing the border from Brazil to Argentina was easier than I thought – I had read online that the Brazil/Argentina border could take hours to cross on the Tancredo Neves Bridge because of the recent protests. Apparently there were several thousand protesters standing on the bridge because of the tanking economy in Argentina and there’s some kind of bridge war between Argentina and Brazil. I took a taxi from Foz do Iguacu to Puerto Iguazu and it the process was painless. There were no protestors present and there was an actual fast lane for taxi’s which there was literally no wait. My taxi driver actually requested my U.S. passport and my Brazilian immigration form and he parked outside the customs office at the Brazilian border. In less than 1 minute he was already coming back to the taxi as I waited in the car with my passport in hand. I didn’t even need to be present at the customs window which was shocking. Just like that, I was stamped out of Brazil and the taxi driver continued on the Tancredo Neves Bridge towards Argentina.
3. Getting into Argentina from the Brazil border was through a drive up window – After getting stamped out of Brazil and crossing the Tancredo Neves Bridge towards Argentina, the taxi driver drove up to the Argentina customs officer like a drive through window. The taxi driver handed over my US passport along with my printed Argentina visa to the Argentina immigration officer. In less than 1 minute, I was processed into Argentina and there was a customs checkpoint which we were waived through. It was quick and painless and it only took 25 minutes by taxi from Foz do Iguacu Airport to my hotel in Puerto Iguazu, Argentina including stopping at both Brazilian/Argentinean customs officials. It was definitely worth the 100 reais ~ $32.27 USD that I paid, but I wish I had paid the earlier quoted 80 reais ~ $25.81 USD! Pro tip: You don’t get an Argentina stamp on passport when you cross the border by land (only at EZE and AEP airports), so don’t freak out. Proof of entry is entered on the computer, so exiting won’t be a problem without an Argentinian stamp on the passport.
4. Puerto Iguazu is a very small town – I would say the size of Puerto Iguazu is like the size of downtown Los Angeles where it’s walk able everywhere. It’s very easy to walk from your hotel in Downtown Centro Puerto Iguazu to ATM’s, banks, restaurants, bars, shops, boutique shops, and supermarkets. They’re all located on the main street of Avenida Victoria Aguirre and the adjacent side streets. Puerto Iguazu reminds me of a small quaint town with friendly people.
5. It’s very safe in Puerto Iguazu – After witnessing a crime when I was in Foz do Iguacu last time around, I went on the internet to research crime and safety in Puerto Iguazu, Argentina. I couldn’t find anything about recent crime or on the safety in Puerto Iguazu, but I was prepared. I asked the taxi driver if it was safe in Puerto Iguazu and he said it was very safe. I also noticed a lot of people were walking along the main streets of Av. Victoria Aguirre at night which was also a good sign. I also asked the hotel receptionist if Puerto Iguazu was safe at night and he said it was absolutely safe.
6. You can get black market currency in Puerto Iguazu – The economy of Argentina is in a dire situation with the tanking Argentine Peso and Argentinians are hoarding US dollars which created a parallel market (precio paralelo) called the dolar blue on the black market. The US dollar is stronger than ever and it’s awesome for Americans to visit Argentina because you can get a much better exchange rate on the black market (12:1) rather than the official rate (currently 9:1). Last year I wrote How to Find Black Market Currency Exchange Rates in Argentina and Where to Physically Locate Black Market Cuevas in Argentina.
When I went to Buenos Aires twice last year, I had an amazing time reducing my costs by almost 45% by getting black market currency. This time around, the official rate of the Argentine peso went up against the dollar to 9:1. The dolar blue rate was at 12:1, but I knew it would be hard to find black market casa de cambio exchange houses in Puerto Iguazu. There isn’t a Calle Florida in Puerto Iguazu where you can Argentinian pesos on the black market from a hawker on the street. I actually asked around from shop to shop if there was a ‘casa de cambio’ nearby because I couldn’t find any ATM’s at night. A lot of them told me the official exchange houses were closed during the night. After my 3rd try, I went into a small convenience store in Puerto Iguazu and he said he was able to help me out. I asked what the ‘tipo de cambio’ (exchange rate) was and he said ’11:1′. I was not going to argue for a higher rate (12:1) because I didn’t even know if a parallel market existed in the small quaint town of Puerto Iguazu. I was happy to exchange money at 8pm since the banks and the official exchange houses were closed for the night. I exchange five 20 dollar bills for 1100 Argentine pesos which gave me pretty much 18% off everything. It was not as good as last year (45%), but it’s good to know that you can get black market currency in Puerto Iguazu since everyone is pretty much hoarding the strong US Dollar.
7. The best way to get to Iguazu Falls on the Argentina side is by bus – There are two methods on getting from Puerto Iguazu to Iguazu National Park on the Argentina side. The easy way out is to take a fixed price taxi from Puerto Iguazu for 250 Argentina pesos ~ $27.69 for a one way trip to the Argentina side of the falls. A round-trip would cost 500 Argentine pesos ~ $55.39 USD. Keep in mind that taxis in Argentina are not on the meter and must be negotiated before getting into a taxi.
The best way to get from Puerto Iguazu to Iguazu Falls on the Argentinian side is by public transportation from a bus company called Rio Uruguay. A one-way ticket from the Central Bus Terminal in Puerto Iguazu costs 50 Argentine pesos ~ $5.53 USD and a round-trip price is 100 pesos ~ $11 USD which is much better than paying for an expensive taxi.
8. Iguazu Falls on the Argentinian side accepts only cash – I read online that you must have Argentine pesos ready on hand to pay for admission at Iguazu Falls in Argentina because the only accept cash and not credit cards. Yes, the Iguazu National Park on the Argentina side only accepts cash for ticket admission. However, don’t freak out because you don’t have cash when you arrive at Iguazu National Park. What you don’t read on the internet is that there is an ATM machine right next to the ticket booth and I’m sure some tourists will gladly help you exchange your dollars for Argentine pesos. The price of general admission is 260 Argentine pesos ~ $28.80 USD.
9. Iguazu Falls in Argentina is much better than Cataratas do Iguacu on the Brazil side – Last month, I went to the Brazilian side of Iguacu National Park which was jaw dropping with the Devil’s throat and the amazing panoramic views. The Brazilian side only has 1 circuit and I was in and out within a few hours. Keep in mind there are like 5 different paid activities that you can do there such as a helicopter ride, boat ride, and hiking trails. I kept hearing that the Brazilian side was the best and I had to see the Argentinian side to find out for myself.
This time around, I visited the Argentinian side of Iguazu National Park which was hands down 100x better than the Brazilian side. There was so much more to do on the Argentinian side with two different circuits (Upper trail and Lower Trail), a train ride to the Devil’s Throat, and a free boat ride to Isla San Martin (depending on water levels). There were additional services such as a paid boat ride under the waterfall itself. There’s seriously so much more to do for free on the Argentinian side of Iguazu Falls and I spent a good 6 hours there (without the boat ride to San Martin Island). You can literally spend all day there and not do everything, but the good part is that they grant you half priced admission if you come the next day (get your ticket stamped when exiting).
You can also get a great panoramic view of the falls on the Argentinian side and you feel like you’re actually IN the falls itself whereas you’re really just looking from the outside on the Brazilian side. I’d give an edge to the Brazil side for the better Gargantua del Diablo (Devil’s throat). If you only go to the Brazilian side, you are missing out on the falls completely.
10. You can take a taxi from Puerto Iguazu to Foz do Iguacu for 50 reais ~ $16.13 USD – After spending one night in Puerto Iguazu, I needed to get from Puerto Iguazu to my hotel in Downtown Centro Foz do Iguacu and there were two options.
I was contemplating about taking a public bus from Centro Downtown Puerto Iguazu to the Central Bus Terminal (TTU) in Foz do Iguacu, but I kept reading on the internet that the buses won’t stop at the border and that you’ll have to tell the bus driver to stamp you out of Argentina therefore delaying other passengers (mostly Argentinians, Brazilians, and Paraguayans who don’t need passport checks). After convincing the bus driver to exit Argentina, then you’ll need to tell the bus driver to let you off at the Brazil border so you can physically walk to the customs office and get stamped into Brazil. I’ve also read that the bus won’t wait for you and that the driver will leave and give you a ticket to catch another bus. With that ticket, you’ll have to catch another bus (with the same company) which will also cause you more frustration because there are a lot of different bus companies who go through the border. With all that said, that whole ordeal wasn’t just worth my frustration and I opted to go for option number 2 which was taking a taxi from Puerto Iguazu to Foz do Iguacu.
I walked all the way to the closest street near the Argentinian border by a bunch of wine shops and found a taxi stand. I asked ‘Cuanto cuesta un taxi a Foz do Iguacu?’ and he responded with 50 reais ~ $16.13 USD or 200 Argentinian pesos ~ $22.15 USD. I was floored when he said 50 reais and was shocked when I was given an option to pay in Brazilian reais or Argentine pesos. Due to the decline of the Argentinian economy, no one wants pesos and they’re practically useless outside of Argentina. I was still in shock when he said 50 reais because I paid double (100 reais) for the same distance the other way around (Foz do Iguacu to Puerto Iguazu). You di need to tell the taxi driver to stamp you out of Argentina (drive up window) and tell him to park the taxi at the Brazil border so you can physically walk into the Brazilian customs office and fill out an immigration form and get a Brazilian entry stamp on your passport. If you miss this step, you are SOL and will pay heavy fines when departing from Brazil. You will answer to the Brazilian immigration and customs officers at the airport because you illegally entered Brazil (even if it was accidentally).