A Month Down South
When someone on the FlyerTalk Premium Fares Forum posted a sub $2000 round-trip business class fare to Buenos Aires that was available for October 2022 via United, I knew I needed to make it work. Initially requiring an origin in Edmonton and a destination in Buenos Aires, a little tweaking in ITA Matrix allowed me to replicate the fare out of Vancouver and create an open jaw between Santiago and Buenos Aires.
However - booking fares like this is always a bit of a gamble, as you never know how long you want to be away for, and it usually requires booking one year in advance. I finally confirmed when I realized the fare could be built as a one-way for a little less than $1000.
I’ll spend one month in South America, hopping between three countries. My first leg will have me flying to Santiago, via Houston, out of Vancouver, on United Polaris. Let’s jump in.
After seeing the Polaris lounge in Houston for 30 minutes, it’s off to Santiago on an overnight flight in United Polaris.
I’m eager to try out the bed and memory foam pillow to see if it is as good as people say. Exciting note as well, this is my first flight on a 767. It’s still humorous to see an old plane like the 767 equipped with such a new interior.
My flight arrives early in the morning, Santiago. From here, it’s a quick walk to the rental car counter to pick up a rental car to drive to the coast. The coast of Chile has exciting cities. I’ll spend a few nights in Vina Del Mar and the Sheraton and use it as a home base to visit Valparaiso and the Casablanca wine region.
While Valparaiso is interesting and, in my opinion, deserves a night’s stay, I couldn’t find any hotels that felt like they hit the spot.
Vina Del Mar is very close to Valparaiso, so that transferring back and forth won’t be an issue, and the area is notably safer.
While many people would argue that Santiago doesn’t have much going on, I enjoy seeing large Latin American cities. Each city has its vibe, and exploring Santiago for four days is well worth it.
The home is the Ritz-Carlton Santiago which comes with good reviews.
It was either the Ritz Carlton or the W, both very close to each other in the upscale El Golf neighborhood. The Ritz ultimately had a much better rate, and I felt like I couldn't pass the rate to move to the W.
From Santiago, it’s a day of traveling to Iguazu Falls via Sao Paulo. The iconic Iguazu Falls are considered a Natural Seven Wonder of the world, split between the border of Argentina and Brazil, with the river continuing to the “three fronts” where Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay meet.
I’ll be experiencing a new hotel brand, the luxurious Belmond brand, which operates a series of trains and hotels worldwide. In Iguazu Falls, they run the Hotel Das Cataratas.
This hotel is the only hotel within the national park grounds, which adds to the exclusivity as the park closes to the regular public after 4 PM. The entire park grounds are exclusive only to 400 or so hotel guests before 9 AM and after 4 PM.
There are two airports that serve Iguazu Falls, both with similar names - IGU (Brazil) and IGR (Argentina). I'll fly into the Brazilian side of the falls as that airport is closer to the Hotel Das Catartas, but afterwards fly to Buenos Aires, domestically, from the Argentinian airport. This means I'll cross the Argentine border by land in a taxi.
The third country, Argentina, is next, and I’ll be here for two weeks, splitting my time between Puerto Madero and the neighbourhood of Palermo. If I can fit it in, a day trip to Colonia, a UNESCO world heritage town across the water in Uruguay, might be done.
Argentina has been on my list for a while due to the food and nightlife, and accessibility - counting for the Blue Dollar rate makes Argentina a cheap country.
Rio De Janeiro
I’ll be back in Brazil for the final week of the trip. Flights from Buenos Aires to Sao Paulo are exciting for Avgeeks, as many airlines operate fifth-freedom flights between these cities. Swiss, Turkish, Qatar, Air Canada, and British Airways operate flights between these countries.
An exciting tidbit is that all cabins are operated and sold on this route; you could find yourself in Swiss First for over two hours. While not nearly enough to enjoy the experience, it’s a great taster and is bookable with United Miles.
I don’t have any United Miles, so I turned to Avios and booked British Airways business class in their Club Suites for the 2-hour hop to Brazil, connecting to a GOL-operated 737 to Rio.
Emirates operates non-stop flights from Buenos Aires to Rio, and I thought this could be a good use of my US-issued American Express Membership Rewards to fly Emirates First Class. However, I didn’t realize that Emirates recent surcharges also applied to these two-hour fifth-freedom flights, and I was shocked to see taxes and fees a little over $1000. No thanks.
I’m back in my favourite continent for the second time this year. Visiting a Natural Wonder of the World and a Wonder of the World (my first!).