Less than a week to spend in South America
April 21, 2011 7:15 PM   Subscribe

I have less than a week -- but where? Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, or Buenos Aires?

I have a maximum of five nights to spend in one or more of these cities in mid-July (I am aware that this is mid-winter in South America). How should I spend my time among them, seeing as how it is my first time to visit South America? My constraints are as follows:

1. I will be flying into Sao Paulo (GRU), arriving at 7 PM on a Sunday.
2. I can fly out of any of the three cities.
3. I don't speak any Portuguese and only speak a bit of Spanish (something I hope to rectify before the trip).
4. I'm not as interested in shopping as I am in partaking of the local cuisine, culture, and architecture.
5. I don't currently have either Brazilian or Argentinian visas, but I will be getting a Brazilian visa at least prior to the trip even if I am just transiting the country (for peace of mind in case something goes awry).

I've read other threads about trips to SP/Rio/BA, but they tend to be by people spending over a week in a single location. Given my time constraints, how should I split (or not split) my stay?
posted by armage to Travel & Transportation (5 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I just returned from a week trip to Sao Paulo and Rio. Brazilian taxis are extremely expensive so I highly recommend you make sure to have a hotel that is close to the sights you'd like to visit. There is so much to see there that I wouldn't bother visiting Buenos Aires. Just be sure to take TAM or GOL flight from the local airports (as opposed to the Intl airports) it was much cheaper for me, and you won't have to waste time w security.

In Sao Paulo you may want to stay downtown (I was there on business so I stayed close to our Brazilian office) and in Rio I suggest Ipanema or Copacabana (I was in Barra, which was a $40 taxi ride there and another $40 back!!!)

The language issue, I'm a native Spanish speaker so all I had to say was "Perdon, no falo portuges, mais eu entendo muito, falo español." (i know that's sorta spelled wrong but that's how I pronounced it) it means "Sorry I don't speak Portuguese but I understand quite a bit I speak Spanish" Once you say that they'll know to speak slowly so you can understand each other. YMMV but it worked for me. Feel free to message me on here if there are any other questions you think I may answer.

Buen viaje!
posted by xicana63 at 7:32 PM on April 21, 2011

Response by poster: I should add that I speak fluent Japanese -- would that help me get by better in Liberdade (the Japanese district of Sao Paulo)?
posted by armage at 7:40 PM on April 21, 2011

Some people in Liberdade do speak Japanese - this might come handy, but since I don't speak Japanese, I don't know to what extent Japanese is spoken there. I've seen friends talking in Japanese to shop owners and restaurant staff. But you don't want to spend more than half a day in Liberdade (Saturday is best).

Hard to tell what you should do without knowing your tastes and preferences besides what you said in #4. But SP is a bit hard without knowing people there, whereas Rio is more obvious and easier to enjoy, and usually more fun especially if you like the beach, and it's gorgeous. Likely it won't be cold. Same with BsAs.

This is an interesting SP Guide. In case you decide to spend some time in SP I have a recommendation of a nice B&B downtown where they speak English, memail me if you're interested.

Not sure where you should go, the 3 places have lots of food, culture, and architecture. But with five days only, I'd pick a single destination. Those are huge cities.
posted by TheGoodBlood at 8:12 PM on April 21, 2011

As a tourist, I felt 2 days were plenty in Sao Paulo. I'm sure there is much more to see / do, but I just wasn't feeling it. I spent 4 days in Rio, but it wasn't winter and just hanging on the beach took up a lot of my time, but it's a visually stunning place.

I am a little biased as I live here, but I would say at least 3 of your 5 nights (if not all) should be in Buenos Aires. Your 3 requirements of cuisine, culture and architecture will be all met, and compared to Brasil, things are cheaper. Not what they used to be of course, but still cheaper. A night in a dorm in a hostel is around the $15 mark at the moment.

Ideally, maybe 2 nights in Rio and 3 in Buenos Aires - although the downside of the this would be time spent travelling between Sao Paulo / Rio and Buenos Aires - the distances aren't huge, but getting to/ from airports may be a little time consuming.

On preview - as for it not being cold - it can get pretty chilly here in July / August. Depends what you're used to of course - it's never below freezing, but the wind can blow pretty damn cold at times.

I run a free tour here, and know the city pretty well - if you have any more questions, drop me a memail.
posted by jontyjago at 8:18 PM on April 21, 2011

Buenos Aires is at the top of my personal list, mostly because I have already been to the other two. I'm not a fan of São Paulo. I like jontyjago's suggestion of 2 nights in Rio and 3 in BA. Rio is a lot of fun and relatively easy to get around, especially if you're staying in the more touristy areas. Buenos Aires just seems cool.
posted by wallaby at 4:00 AM on April 22, 2011

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