Final Thoughts and Tips on 2009
South America Trip
1) Pay it forward. I got a lot of great information from other travelers and so I am going to be as detailed as possible on this blog to help future travelers.  
2) If you go to Argentina, learn Spanish. We did not run into a single waiter or taxi driver who could speak English. We stayed at the Hilton in Buenos Aires and the staff there speak English but outside the hotel, we were on our own. Luckily, I learned Spanish from a CD a month before I left the US and was able to get by. In Brazil, people speak Portuguese but in touristy areas, most locals can speak English. I tried to learn Portuguese but it's a hard language to learn. It is not very similar to Spanish. 
3) Getting around in Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro is easy. We used a combination of metro, taxis, and walking. Research in advance where you want to go and you can find a troveful of information from the internet. 

4) The fancier the hotels, the more they charge you for things like parking and internet access. My costs for internet usage at the Hilton in Buenos Aires and Sheraton in Rio are $15 and $20 per day, respectively. On the other hand, staying at American-brand hotels has advantages. Our hotels have irons, iron tables, safes, hair dryers, and American-type electrical outlets into which you can plug your laptop. No need to worry about which adapters you should bring with you.
Women's Bridge in Buenos Aires 
The Hilton in Buenos Aires 
5) People warned me about Rio de Janeiro as being unsafe but since we stayed mostly in the high traffic areas, we did not feel unsafe at all. Leaving the Sambadrome at 3:00 a.m. after the Carnival, we were whisked to a cabstand by one of the attendants and the cab driver took us to our hotel efficiently and safely.

6) Waiters and cab drivers would really appreciate 10% tips. I guess Argentineans and Brazilians don't give much tips to people who serve them.
A 10% tip would make a wait-person smile 
7) I recommend the dinner-tango show at El Vajo Almacen in Buenos Aires. For $90 a person, you'd get a great three-course steak dinner including a bottle of wine and a two-hour tango show.  I also enjoyed our dinner at El Establo Restaurant at the corner of San Martin and Paraguay in Buenos Aires. Of course, it's a given that you must go to Cafe Tortoni at least once. In Rio, sitting at a sidewalk cafe along Copacabana watching people is the thing to do.
Historic Cafe Tortoni
You can find live local music in La Boca, Buenos Aires

8) The accordion plays a major role in Argentinean music but in Brazil, it's definitely the drums.The difference permeates through both cultures. While Buenos Aires is elegant and romantic, Rio de Janeiro is sexy and full of energy. I love them both.
9) Expect to pay an airport tax at the Buenos Aires Airport before you leave Argentina. 

10) Argentineans and Brazilians are helpful people although they don't say hello or make eye contacts with strangers. 

11) We enjoyed our day trip to various sites in Rio. The cost for a full-day tour is $115 a person if booked in the US and it includes transportation, entrance fees, and a nice lunch.
A "must-see" site in Rio de Janeiro
12) I am so glad we were able to witness the Rio Carnival in person. I have never been to New Orleans' Mardi Gras but people told me the Rio Carnival is ten times wilder.

13) Things in Argentina and Brazil are slightly cheaper than the US. A fun and inexpensive day in Rio could be had on the beach. Pack a picnic, rent an umbrella and a couple of chairs, and you're set for the day.
A "can't-miss" event in Rio de Janeiro
Our hotel, the Sheraton Rio is in the background
14) Once again, pay it forward. If you find this blog beneficial to you, write a comment or create a blog next time you travel. I frequently get information from a website called Travel Advisor and usually post comments on it to help others. You can do the same.
Happy traveling.

What do you think?
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(Written March 22, 2009)