Hotels Near Iguazú Falls

Hotel Saint George in Puerto Iguazú, Argentina

If your plans in the future include a visit to Iguazú Falls (if you are a traveler – it should) we would recommend staying for a night or two in the area. The falls are truly one of the natural wonders of the world. See our article on the Falls HERE.

If you are inclined toward deluxe accommodations you can’t do any better than the Gran Melia Iguazu, a five star resort located right inside the park with spectacular views of the falls and only a short drive from the airport. All the remaining accommodations are about fifteen miles away in the town of Puerto Iguazú which boasts almost a dozen four star rated hotels.

We booked our stay at the Hotel Saint George and were pleased with its location. Overall the staff was very friendly and helpful, the rooms were large, clean and well appointed. The pool patio area was attractive with a nice snack bar. Unfortunately the hot tub wasn’t operational while we were there.

The Saint George is located right in the middle of town and right across the street was the Restaurant Parrilla where we enjoyed pizza and beers in the evening with a tango dance show that was a surprise bonus.

After our day at the falls we went back to the Saint George to clean up and pick up our bags before our flight . Again the staff was most accommodating, providing us with a place to clean up with plenty of towels.

Standard king room

When you start planning and begin reading reviews keep in mind that you are going to be visiting an isolated area and even four star ratings will most likely not rise to the level you come to expect in the U.S. or Europe. After all it is an outpost of civilization a couple of hundred miles up into the South American rain forest. For that reason you should discount many of the negatives you read. We did and were generally pleased with this part of our trip.

Downtown Puerto Iguazu
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Iguazú Falls, Elephant Island Antarctica, The Faulklands, Patagonia…

Going Off-Grid for 3 to 4 Weeks

Visiting Iguazú Falls in Argentina, Elephant Island Antarctica, The Faulklands, Patagonia and a couple of big cities along the way. See you on the other side.

Courtesy Argentina Tourist Agency

In researching this trip we have every reason to believe that other than a few days in Buenus Aries and Montoviedo we will have very little access to the Internet and aren’t expecting to post or upload much. We look forward to sharing this adventure when we get back…

A Road Like No Other

A Short Story
The Hogsback on Route 12 in Utah

Last summer we spent a couple of weeks checking off items on our bucket list in the National Parks of Utah. We rented a car in Salt Lake City, toured the parks and dropped off the car in Los Vegas.

After leaving Capital Reef National Park one afternoon we were headed for our next hotel in the town of Panguitch near Bryce Canyon National Park to the southwest. We came out of Capital Reef on Route 24 and soon hit an intersection with Route 12. At the intersection Rt. 24 headed to the north, which is the way we had been told to go but Rt. 12 went south. Just looking at the map it seemed like 12 was a much shorter route to take.

At this point I need to confess that the older I get the more nervous I am about heights. Already on this trip I had driven a couple of roads that had given me reason to pause. I’m not sure where this fear of heights has come from but when I was much younger I was fearless. lately I find it hard to believe that decades ago that young man that hung one handed off high catwalks and jumped out of helicopters was actually me. At this point I am much more nervous than my wife.

Anyway at that junction we made a snap decision and headed south on Utah Route 12. Some distance along this two lane road, near Boulder Mountain we came across the Anasazi State Park and archaeological site. This was a lucky find and well worth the stop. It was built around the excavation of an ancient Anasazi village and included a nice museum.

Back on the road we headed southwest again and soon came up on one of the scariest bit of road I can remember. Its called the Hogsback (or Hog Back) and it’s a narrow two lane road with, at times, barley any shoulder on either side. It rides along a ridge for about four miles with often sheer drops of over a hundred feet on one side or the other and sometimes both sides at once. Few guard rails and almost no room to pull off. The speed limit was between 25 and 35 mph and with my fear kicking in that seemed way too fast.

The good news was there was almost no traffic and the one car ahead of us seemed really terrified. He crept along at 15 to 20 mph and that was just fine with me. Not only did I feel safer but he gave me an excuse when eventually another car caught up to us.

Watch this YouTube video of a drive along the Hogsback.

 

Cruise Port of Call Akaroa, New Zealand

The cruise port of Akaroa, New Zealand is seeing more frequent visits by cruise ships with the growing popularity of  cruising around Australia and New Zealand.

The cruise port of call Akaroa, New Zealand is located on the southeast side of sheltered Akaroa Harbor, centered on the cute resort township of Akaroa. It is on the east coast of New Zealand’s south island. With frequent cruise ship visits this quant resort town is becoming more and  more popular. 

 

Historically its heritage is unique as it was the only French settlement in New Zealand. The region was named for the botanist Joseph Banks, who sailed with Captain Cook on the Endeavour.

Geologically it was originally an island formed by two volcanoes. The current peninsula has two ancient craters which form Lyttelton and Akaroa Harbors. The region was named for the botanist Joseph Banks, who sailed with Captain Cook on the HMS Endeavour.

Where You’re Docked – Cruise ships need to anchor out and use tenders to reach the Akaroa dock. The dock is the focus of a number of boat tours and water attractions and is located right in the town near restaurants and shops.

Money – New Zealand uses the NZ$ which currently is worth US$0.70 and you will need to exchange money or use credit cards while visiting.

Attractions – Akaroa, is famous for its several beautiful bays and harbors and there are numerous boat tours as well as sea kayaking. In Flea bay, a couple of miles southeast of town, is a rare penguin colony. Akaroa harbor is home to the worlds rarest and smallest dolphin, the Hector’s dolphins  and Akaroa is the only place in the world where you can take a trip out to swim with them. A short walk out of town is Meniscus Wines, a vineyard which usually is open when ships are visiting. Also not to miss is The Giants House, a unique sculpture mosaic garden above town.

 

Money and Roads Less Traveled

Financial Considerations for When You Travel Internationally

You’ve got your passport and your bags are packed, but are you ready financially to travel abroad?

We’ve been to some pretty interesting places over the years but usually haven’t had issues with getting local currency or being able to use credit cards.

While some time back our favorite credit card was Discover. It offered a generous point system and claimed no transaction fees when used internationally. It took a number of trips over a couple of years to actually give up on trying to travel with our Discover cards. While they claimed that the card would be accepted anywhere the Diners Club emblem was displayed we found that to rarely be the case. So we arranged for Visa and MC cards with no transaction fees and haven’t experienced any difficulties.

Getting ready for this months trip has proven to be a bit of a new challenge. We’re off to the Falkland Islands, Argentina, Uruguay, and points South and immediately hit problems with Argentina. In attempting to reserve a hotel the first few wouldn’t accept the Visa card. It seems that credit cards are not widely used there. We then went to our bank to exchange for Argentine Pesos and were told they weren’t available. Checked with AAA – same thing.

Next we reserved a guide and 4×4 in the Falklands but were told that we couldn’t use credit cards. No ATMs and they also use their own version of Pound Sterling. After several emails back and forth we settled with being able to pay with cash in British Pounds or US Dollars (no Euro’s).

Because Argentina has had a currency crises over the past few years money can be a problem. Our trip begins at the international airport for Buenos Aries but have been told to avoid the exchange counters there. We have now resorted to planning on using a debit card (which we rarely do), attaching it to an account with a specific balance without overdraft and will access some limited cash at an airport ATM. We will need cash to get into the city. After that we have mapped several locations for Citi operated ATM’s in Buenos Aries with no service fees.

We will also be traveling out to Iguaçu Falls for a couple of days and while the hotel will accept Visa cards most everywhere else will require cash. This need for cash and not being sure where we can use credit cards is making us a bit nervous. We’ll let you know how it works out…

Here are a few tips on money and international travel

1. Let the bank know where and when you will be traveling.

Many banks will freeze your accounts if unexpected foreign purchases show up. It’s important that the bank or credit card issuer is aware of your travel plans so they can ensure the remains active with proper safeguards.

2. Determine if your PIN number will work where you’re going.

Before your trip, call your bank and credit card issuers and ask if your PIN will work at your destination ATM’s. Four-digit PINs work in most countries. If your PIN contains zeroes, however, that may be a problem in some non-network ATMs. Additionally, many foreign ATMs don’t recognize four-digit PINs. Calling ahead gives you time to change your PIN, if necessary.

3. Watch out for international transaction and currency conversion fees.

Since fees and conversion rates vary widely, it’s important to know exactly what you will be paying to make ATM withdrawals or paying with your debit or credit card. A new process that has become common is for merchants to ask if you want to charge in your home currency or local money? Avoid the temptation to ask for charges in your home currency. If you do you will discover that the bill included high transaction fees and a less than customary exchange rate and usually the merchant gets a commission. If you plan to travel with a credit card get one that doesn’t charge transaction fees and let your bank calculate the exchange rate.

Contact your bank before you travel internationally to avoid any financial surprises

4. Ask about daily withdrawal limits on ATMs

Banks may have different withdrawal limits than ATMs. Keep in mind that any individual ATM may have a different withdrawal limit and limits may be expressed in the local currency. Have a backup plan that involves more than one way to pay.

5. Verify your account balance.

Be sure there’s enough money in your accounts to pay for travel expenses once you get there; you don’t want to find yourself overdrawn on your trip. To alleviate any additional stresses of overdraft fees, on top of running out of money, you can transfer funds from one account to the other using a mobile banking app.

6. Carry telephone numbers.

Get all the information you will need to contact your financial institution while traveling in case of stolen or lost cards. Most banks and credit card issuers will have local numbers you can call to report any mishaps that may occur while traveling internationally.

7. When booking your hotel or rental car, use your credit card not a debit card.

It is best to use a credit card for reserving a hotel or rental car because hotels and rental car companies may place a hold on your card for a certain dollar amount for incidentals. If placed on a debit card these funds could be tied up for some time.

Use a credit card to pay for your hotel or rental car in case they place a hold on your card for incidentals

8. When getting cash in local currency, use your debit card.

Your debit card is ideal for getting cash in local currency because you may get the same interbank exchange rate as you do with credit card purchases – this is generally the cheapest way to get local currency. Getting cash with your debit card allows you to avoid the cash advance fees that your credit card would charge. It’s also convenient as there are ATMs available in many international airports. Most major bank ATMs don’t charge a usage fee, but watch out for ATMs that are not affiliated with any banks-they may charge expensive fees.

9. Set up auto notifications on your credit cards.

We also set up options to be notified by text message for all transactions where the card is not presented in person. This has helped on a couple of occasions. Once while in Spain it looked we went on a bicycle buying spree in Rome. Nice to able to contact your bank when something like this happens.

Bon Voyage!

A Tale of a Whale

Whale Watching In Alaska

Sunset at Icy Straight Point

A Short Story

Kayakers searching for whales

A few years ago while on an early season Alaska cruise our ship stopped at Icy Straight Point. For a number of reasons we had decided to take it easy that day. The ship was anchored out and we had gone ashore early in the morning and took a nice hike thru the forest. We were back on the ship well before noon and had gone out on our balcony to read.

Some of our friends had taken the opportunity to go on excursions in the port and whale watching seemed to be the choice of the day. Of the whale watching options one was a kayak trip and as we sat on our balcony we could see the kayaks move along the shore and head out toward open water.

Humpback whale at Icy Straight Point

A little over thirty minutes into our reading we were startled by a load noise coming directly below us. It was a large Humpback whale that had crossed under the ship and was blowing as it surfaced directly below our stateroom.

We had been whale watching before and had seen whales off of Hawaii, Vancouver Island and in Alaska. On one cruse up the Inner Passage we had a pod of Orcas pace the ship for over a half hour. With them I never got a picture because we never knew where they would surface next and before you could react – they were gone.

Whale pod of Humpbacks encountered off Vancouver Island

This time at Icy Straight Point our Humpback stayed near us for twenty minutes, circling and diving and putting on a real show. Most of our fellow passengers were off exploring and it didn’t seem this whale was drawing much attention at all.

That evening talking to our fellow passengers it seemed that the whale watch tours that day were mostly a dud. The kayakers had seen whales but none had come anywhere near the group and one whale watching boat had not seen any whales at all.

Sometimes lady luck just smiles in your direction…

Port of Bangkok, Laem Chabang

Laem Chabang Cruise Gateway to Bangkok, Thailand

Cruising in the South China Sea is becoming increasingly popular which normally includes one or two ports of call in Thailand.

Thailand is one of the most advanced and open nations in Southeast Asia, and was once known as Siam. It is bordered by Myanmar (Burma) to the north, Laos to the northeast, Cambodia to the southeast and Malaysia on the south along Thailand’s isthmus. Thailand is a constitutional monarchy, and tourists are welcomed with open arms by these friendly people.

 

Where The Ship Docks

Most cruise ships dock at the port of Laem Chabang on the Gulf of Thailand, a full two hours south of Bangkok, the nation’s capital.

Often smaller ships dock at Klong Toey on the Chao Phraya River, right on the outskirts of Bangkok.

Terminal facilities at Laem Chabang

This port is located along the southeast coast and serves primarily as a working industrial port. While there are supposed to be facilities being developed to include a terminal currently there is not much there for cruise passengers.

Inside the Grand Palace Complex
Transportation

Getting into Bangkok by taxi is estimated to cost about $40 each way with bus service costing about $7.50. We ran into some people that tried the buses and eventually gave up trying to catch the right bus and hired a taxi.

The roads and highways in Thailand are very well maintained and if you want to go it alone and see some of the countryside there are good car rental services. We’ve always been amazed with Thailands highway rest stops usually lined with a half dozen or more American franchises. One rental company near Laem Chabang that comes highly recommended is:

Take it Easy Bike & Car Rental

Address: 329/48, Soi Pattaya New Plaza, 50m off 2nd Road, Opposite Soi 7 – Soi 8, Central Pattaya, Pattaya 20150 .                      Phone: 089 007 7804    Rental cars can be arranged ahead of arrival for pick up at the port through their web site.

On our last visit we were on a cruise that spent two days in Laem Chabang. After some research we pre-booked a private tour through Travel Hub. They picked us up at the port and took us straight to Bangkok where we spent a busy day with that night in a hotel. Early the next morning we headed out into the country and ended up at the port with plenty of time to spare.

Currency

Thailand uses the Baht at an exchange rate to the U.S. Dollar of one Baht equals about 3¢. While most credit cards are welcome if you are going to spend a day or two in Bangkok it is recommended that you exchange for local Baht.

The Reclining Buddha
Attractions

The capital city of Bangkok is the big attraction, with the best place to start being the Grand Palace. This is the central sightseeing attraction in the city, and it’s overwhelming in its historical significance and stunning architecture. The grounds are packed full with royal palaces, temples, and history, the highlight is Wat Phra Kaeo, Temple of the Emerald Buddha. A relic within this temple is said to be a piece of bone from the Buddha himself. While there also visit the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, its official name is Wat Phra Chetuphon Vimolmangklararm Rajwaramahaviharn and it measures 135 feet long. Allow a number of hours to do the Grand Palace grounds but also try and visit the famous Wat Po and Wat Arun, the Temple of the Dawn rising above the Chao Phraya River. We would also recommend taking a water trip through canals and along the river.

Thailand is also famous for floating markets where goods are sold from boats. Originally developed when rivers and canals played an important role in daily life, most floating markets operating today serve primarily as tourist attractions.

Maeklong Railway Market

One unique market is the Famous Maeklong Railway Market. It is located in a congested town and sits right on an active train track. As trains approach vendors pull back their awnings and displays with only minutes to spare and are right back in business as soon as the trains pass. A unique experience as you stand there with train only only inches away.

While there are tons of cultural and historic attractions to see in Bangkok and the people are remarkably polite and friendly be aware of con artists; who frequently prey on tourists. Though the cruise port is a good distance from the city, venturing into the city to see the sights is something that shouldn’t be missed.