Difference between revisions of "Iguaçu Falls"
Revision as of 14:05, 8 January 2018
Access to the Falls is usually done through one of the three cities in the so-called tri-border between Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay.
The city on the Brazilian side is Foz do Iguaçu - big and reasonably safe by Brazilian standards. The town on the Argentine side is called Puerto Iguazu and is small and pretty. Although the falls are between Brazil and Argentina only, Ciudad del Este, the city on the Paraguayan side, is just across the bridge from Brazil. It's a hectic (but exciting) centre for contraband and cheap electronic goods, and some say it's not safe there.
Border crossing between these countries is fairly relaxed - authorities assume most people are on a day trip across the border. US passport holders require a visa (US$160) to visit the Brazilian side of the falls which is NOT issued at the border although it is worth noting that as of 25 March 2017 Brazilian border control is closed on weekends and the visa requirement for US citizens is not enforced at that time for day trips, more information is needed on day trips during the week. European Union passport holders do not normally need a visa to enter Brazil for tourism. Better check before setting off as the Brazilian side of the falls is "a must".
Beware that there may be lines on either side of the border, depending on the time of the day and holidays.
Also check regarding immunization requirements. Australian residents, for example, require yellow fever shots if returning to Australia within 6 days following a visit to Brazil.
ENTRY / EXIT REQUIREMENTS FOR U.S. CITIZENS TO ARGENTINA: A valid passport is required for U.S. citizens to enter Argentina. U.S. citizens do not need a visa for visits of up to 90 days for tourism or business. As of March 24th, 2016, the Argentina has suspended the $160 reciprocity fee previously required for US citizens per the website of the Embassy of Argentina in the US.
Both the Brazilian and Argentinean cities have nearby airports.
Foz do Iguaçu International Airport (Brazil) is served by TAM Airlines, Gol Transportes Aéreos, Trip Airlines, Sol Linhas Aéreas, Azul, and LAN with direct scheduled flights to and from Lima, Peru, São Paulo Guarulhos/Congonhas/Viracopos, Rio de Janeiro, Curitiba, Recife, Salvador, Cascavel, Porto Alegre, Londrina, and some more. Pluna airlines from Uruguay has direct flights from Montevideo. The airport is located just off the main road between the city of Foz do Iguaçu and the entrance to the Iguaçu National Park. Taxis are readily available - go to the taxi desk at the entrance to the terminal building and tell them your destination (they speak English) and they will arrange for a car and give you a price. You can either pay by card at the desk or pay the driver in cash. Expect the fare to Foz do Iguaçu to be around R$25-30. The fare to the park entrance in Brazil is closer and will be less. The airport is on the bus route between Foz do Iguaçu and the National Park entrance. The bus service runs every half hour and is cheap R$3.20 (June 2016), efficient and easy to use. The stop is right outside the terminal building - board the front of the bus and pay the person sat at the turnstile (change is given) before passing through. The bus passes many of the main hotels on the way into the city (stops are frequent) and ends up at the urban bus terminal (TTU) on the far side of the city where there's a friendly tourist information office. In the other direction the bus will drop you off just outside the main visitor's centre at the entrance to the park.
If you arrive to Foz do Iguaçu airport and are staying at the Melia Iguazu (previously Sheraton) (on the Argentinian side), or just staying in Puerto Iguazu city on the Argentinian side, it is recommended to rent a car at the airport instead (make reservations in advance), so that you can travel from the hotel to the nearby town (which you will want to do if you want to eat there and do some sightseeing) and also to give you the flexibility to go to the Brazilian side of the falls and visit Itaipu dam. Otherwise, a one-way taxi from Foz do Iguaçu airport to the Sheraton is R$100 (does not include AR$60/person entry fee for the park), and about AR$150 to go back to the airport from the hotel. A taxi from Foz do Iguazu International Airport (Brazil) to Puerto Iguazu (Argentina), will set you back US$40. You will have to arrange to go to the Brazilian side of the park for about AR$150 or so by taxi (be sure to negotiate down). To go to and from Puerto Iguazu, there is a bus that costs AR$5 and runs every half hour but the last one leaves at 8pm so if you are dining later than that, you will need to hire a taxi for about AR$70. You can also rent a car from the hotel (they will bring the car to you) but book in advance (and check the rates) as there can be a shortage of cars and is usually more expensive (AR$300-450 per day).
If you arrive at Iguazu International Airport, there is a taxi stand at the baggage claim where you can book transfer to either Pte. Iguaze (if you're staying in town) or the Melia if you're staying there. Consider renting a car (Hertz, Budget, ...) instead to give you more flexibility, esp. if you plan to spend a day in Brazil as well. It's about 15 minutes from the airport to the park/ Sheraton and about 30-45 minutes to Pte Iguazu. There is also a minibus to Puerto Iguazu for AR$120 (May 2017). A tourist tax of AR$25 is charged at a stop on the way to the city.
Taxis are fixed price to various locations. To Pte Iguazu it is AR$350 (May 2017). The taxi company offered to exchange brazilian real to argentinian pesos at a very poor rate. There are official exchange locations at tourist shops outside the airport that have a better rates but it's still better to come with peso. An alternative to the taxis is the tour group operator adjacent to arrivals door - who organised a ride for the same price and offered to stop to change money. Argentinian park entry for foreigners is AR$500 (May 2017).
Buses from all major cities in the country arrive in each of the three towns (see there for details).
In Foz do Iguaçu the long-distance coaches arrive at the Terminal Rodoviária Internacional on Av Costa e Silva. This is about 3km from the centre of town and 4km or a R$15 taxi ride from the Urban Transport Terminal (TTU). A UneSul Executivo bus from Porto Alegre takes 14-16 hours, costs R$145-170 (Nov 2014) , and has free WiFi.
A one way bus ticket from Buenos Aires to Puerto Iguazu costs AR$1005-1400 (paying cash).
Buses from Asuncion to Ciudad del Este cost between 60,000 and 88,000 guaranis sand take about 6 hours.
From Puerto Iguazu there are buses to the entrance on their side of the park (07:00 - 20:50 daily) roughly every twenty minutes (about :00, :20 :40 past the hour) for AR$150 return with the bus Rio Uruguay departing from the main bus terminal (Terminal de Ómnibus) and many other stops in town and on the way to the falls.
From Foz do Iguaçu buses run every 22 minutes from the urban bus terminal (Terminal de Transporte Urbano) to the visitor's centre at the park entrance, passing many of the main hotels in the city along the way as well as the airport. The R$3.20 flat fare makes the bus a very cheap way to visit the Falls and it's also easy to use. If you're starting your journey at the bus terminal you pay your fare on entering the terminal (the bus is No. 120 to 'Parque Nacional' - the tourist information office at the terminal will point you in the right direction if you have any trouble finding it). When boarding the bus anywhere else you use the front door and pay at the turnstile onboard. The journey takes about 40 minutes. Schedules can be found via the FozTrans web site ; as at Nov 2014 the timetables were at .
From Foz do Iguaçu to the Argentinian Iguazú National Park, there is a bus that leaves from just outside the bus terminal, at the corner of Rua Mem de Sá and Rua Tarobá. It costs R$4 or AR$8. The bus may or may not stop at the Brazilian border checkpoint but will stop at the Argentine border checkpoint, where your passport will be stamped (visitors from US, Canada and Australia need to have pre-purchased a visa 'reciprocal' fee online and have the printout for immigration). You can also exchange foreign currency at the Argentine border checkpoint, but be aware that the bus may leave without you if you take too long, leaving you to take a taxi (approx. AR$80) or wait for the next bus. This bus terminates at the Puerto Iguazu bus terminal where you can catch the bus to the National Park (see above on how to get from Puerto Iguazu to the park.
Alternatively, many Foz do Iguaçu hotels and guest houses offer a shared minibus service to take guests to the Argentine side of the Falls. Prices (in November 2014) were R$35 for transport to the Park entrance, R$45 to cover entry to the park (otherwise payable only in Argentine pesos cash) and R$90 for an optional (but recommended) boat trip into the spray at the foot of the falls. The minibus driver takes care of all the paperwork at the border. With immigration and multiple hotel pick-ups, the journey takes about an hour each way and gives 6-7 hours at the Park.
From Puerto Iguazu to the Brazilian Iguaçu Falls National Park, you have two options, depending on how you're traveling. If you are doing a day trip and plan on returning to Puerto Iguazu, you you can take the bus Cruzero del Norte or the public bus. Cruzero del Norte is best if you want a peace of mind not having to worry about changing buses and dealing with the border and it takes you all the way to the entrance of the park. It's not frequent, but the first bus is at 8:10am and the second at 10:30am (you can ask them for a timetable at the bus terminal), it costs AR$80 return (Jan 2017) and takes 1h to go to the falls. The second option is taking the public bus (which is recommended if you're traveling one way and you're hauling luggage). If you plan on taking the public bus, the first buses start to leave at 7:00am and then every 30 minutes or so thereafter and the bus is usually Rio Uruguay. To be sure, check that the front of the bus says Foz do Iguaçu (you will get on at gate 7 or 9). The trip costs AR$20 (Feb '15) one way. At the Argentine border control, everyone, including the driver, gets off to get an exit stamp (it's safe to leave your baggage on the bus here). The bus driver will wait for everyone before continuing over the bridge to the Brazilian side. If you require an entry stamp (i.e. You hold a foreign passport), you must tell the bus driver you need to get off. He will have to give you a reembarqué ticket so you can reboard the next bus that comes by. You will get off (remember to take your luggage with you!) and the bus will leave. Go to immigration and get your passport stamped. If you're flying out of Foz do Iguaçu and leaving the country from another destination in Brazil, you will need to fill out the arrival form. The immigrations officer will check with you. At this point you can either 1) walk 500m to the main road (which is not recommended if you have luggage and the road is not pedestrian friendly). Heading right there is a bus stop to the falls (just outside the big hotel), 10 minutes or 2) reboard the next bus and get off at the next stop, cross the road, and then take the bus to the park as in 1). However, if you're not sure, you could just take the bus to the bus terminal in town and then take the bus to the park from there (see above on how to get from Foz do Iguaçu to the park) - recommended if you're hauling luggage with you. Just remember the bus from the border to the terminal does not end at the terminal, but it will stop there. Just let the bus driver know you want to stop there (Terminal Urbano) or you'll miss it. In both cases 1) and 2) the bus to the park is No. 120 (Parque Nacional) and costs R$2.90 (November 2014) / AR$15 (April 2014). Once you're at the park, there are large lockers that fit backpacks or large sized checkin baggage at the falls entrance (R$20 for a large locker). Which means you can see the falls and then take the bus back to town (or the airport) and get out. You'll be taking the same No. 120 bus.
TIP: Do not pay the park entrance fee in AR pesos (or any other currency for that matter). They have horrendous rates and you will be losing a lot of money. Instead, if you don't have Reals, you have 2 options, 1) there are ATMs there so you can draw out cash and 2) you can pay by credit card. Entrance fee is R$62.
TIP: when/if coming back to Argentina they maybe a bit surprised at the Argentine immigration that you are not travelling on a tourist bus or in a group. You may need to show them your public bus ticket to prove you are travelling independently. So make sure you keep your ticket safe!
It is not uncommon for policemen to check passports in the Argentinian side of the falls, even during domestic journeys. It is advised to carry some documentation of citizenship. If you are coming from the Brazilian side, tell the bus driver you need to stop at the Brazilian border crossing to get your passport stamped. If you try to re-enter Brazil without having been stamped you may need to pay a substantial fine.
The main car rental companies have offices at the Brazilian Foz do Iguaçu airport. Make sure that you mention at the time of your reservation that you intend to cross into the Argentine side to visit the park. You need a special authorization from the rental car company for that. Insurance bought on the Brazilian rental car is not valid in Argentina. You need to buy a special "carta verde" while still on the Brazilian side. It is sold at lottery stands. A three-day pass costs R$45. If caught without a "carta verde" on the Argentine side you are liable to be charged very heavy fines.
Renting a car gives you a lot of flexibility in exploring both Brazilian and Argentinian side of the cataracts.
If you stay at either of the two hotels in the park (either on Argentinean or Brazilian side), you are within walking distance of the falls, so no need for taxis, buses etc. Consider this when planning your trip. See in "Sleep" section for details.
Both sides of the park are well served with foot trails.
On the Argentine side of the park there's a small train leaving about every half an hour from near the entrance going all the way to the beginning of the trail to the Garganta del Diablo.
On the Brazilian side, there's a bus service connecting the falls with other activities. That service runs from the entrance to the end of the park every 10 minutes in both directions.
The Iguaçu Falls are an awesome sight as tonnes of water throw themselves over cliffs and the mist rises amongst the jungle. They are taller than Niagara Falls, and twice as wide, for which Eleanor Roosevelt is said to have exclaimed on her first sight of the Falls: "Poor Niagara!"
It is well worth spending a day on each side of the falls, especially if you plan to do any of the boat rides or other activities offered.
Don't just rush past the main viewpoints and leave. It's important to get a good perspective on the park overall to appreciate this awesome sight.
Whilst the majority of the falls are in Argentina, a better overview is had from the Brazilian side.
A map of the area including all trails can be found here: http://mappery.com/map-of/Iguazu-National-Park-Map
On the Argentine side (500 AR$ pp (plus $50 for parking a motorcycle), second day for half price if you get your ticket stamped before leaving on the first day, subsequent days are free if you tell them you are staying at the Sheraton). Flooding closed many paths in June 2014, but they are now reopened though see Garganta del Diablo below. Wear waterproofs and protect your camera as it can get quite wet on some viewpoints. Some people visit the waterfalls in swimsuits (recommended in summer). The park itself is fairly well organized, they have a train line so you can get from the entrance to the main circuits (Circuito Superior, Garganta del Diablo, etc. See below). They also have food stands inside the park (Subway & El Noble) close to the train stations, but food and drinks are very expensive there. It is a good idea to bring some food and water if you are going to spend the day on the park.
There are five main tracks all of which are paved and well marked with the exception of Sendero Macuco:
Circuito Superior - is a short walk to some nice viewpoints along the upper rim of the waterfalls.
Circuito Inferior - is a longer walk on the bottom end of the falls with the main attraction being the lookout to watch Salto Bossetti and Dos Hermanas. This pathway leads also to the free ferry service to Isla San Martin (that may or not be closed), and the tour operators.
Isla San Martin - has two main lookouts to different sides of the falls. There are also a lot of birds. Access by ferry only (free). This may be closed when the river level is high. You can always ask the park authorities or watch the information tv sets within the park to see if the access to the island is open. The ferry begins sometime after 10AM and stops taking passengers by 1PM. Check with official park center for more details.
Garganta del Diablo - The main attraction of the Argentine side - do not leave without having seen it. There is a free train running up to a 1 km-long walkway across the river to stand just back from the main horseshoe of falls where the roar and spray are most tremendous.
Sendero Macuco - is the trail through the rainforest to the Arrechea waterfall and is a good way to get away from the crowds. It's about 7 km return on an unpaved but easy path starting at the Estacion Central. Swimming is possible beneath the fall, so consider bringing a bathing suit and towel. An informative brochure for the trail is available from the park information desk. It is recommended to do it in daylight, so don't start it if it's 3 or 4PM.
On the Brazilian side (R$57.30 pp, cheaper for Brazilian residents and Mercosur) you get an excellent overview of Devil's Throat and the rest of the falls, from both above and below.
Upon paid admission, you get a boarding group/time to get on the bus. Assuming you do not pay for the extra activities, take the bus to "Trilha das Cataratas" (a large pinkish house is on the left). Most people will be getting off here anyway, so it's not easy to miss. Take the trail to the walkway that runs beneath the falls. Sometimes there will be someone selling official Iguaçu Falls rain ponchos for R$15. It is advisable to bring water protection if you wish to stay on the walkway under the falls for more than a minute. Even if you have a poncho, the lower half of your body will still get very wet. The "Panoramic" elevator saves about a 5 minute hike, so you decide if a line is worth waiting in.
The entire Brazilian side can be seen in about 2~4 hours depending on your timing/crowds. The falls are best seen when it's sunny.
Spectacular boat trips can be made under the falls.
If you go all the way to the "Las Cateratas" station, you will be offered e.g. whitewater rafting & abseiling activities at better rates. When you arrive shortly before the activities close for the day or they're just not busy you can easily bargain about the price and get a really good rate!
Be sure to pre-purchase your tickets as there can be horrendous lines during busy times to buy tickets on the day. After buying your ticket online you are given a voucher number. Take this, with your ID to the preferential line to save a lot of time.
The Melia Iguazu (previously Sheraton) right in the park provides a good alternative to the junk food stalls located throughout the park. There's a nice terrace you can rest from which you can see the mist coming out of the falls and also generally see toucans and other birds flying around.
There are some very good restaurants in the town of Puerto Iguassu, serving a very good choice of Argentinian wines.
On the Brazil side, there's a buffet that stands right next to the throat at the Porto Canoas station at the end of the walking trail. The food is not good but the view of the river makes for a surreal sight as you know the falls are really close by but you can't really see them other than the mist and the noise.It's a nice place to eat. In addition to the buffet at R$ 52 you can grab a (burger) combo meal at one of the outlets right in front of the buffet restaurant for around R$ 18.
Both on the Argentine and the Brazilian side of the falls there are enough opportunities to buy a drink.
There are only two options to stay inside the park within walking distance to the falls: Sheraton in Argentina and Hotel das Cataratas in Brazil. Both are a bit pricey and take advantage of their position. Most people prefer to stay in either Puerto Iguazu in Argentina or in Foz do Iguaçu on the Brazilian side, where a large number and range of accommodation options can be found. Transport to the falls during daytime is a 20 min bus ride.
Other than visiting the falls, the activities offered by tour operators on both sides of the park and having a drink/ dinner at either Pt. Iguazu or Foz do Iguaçu there isn't much else to do in the falls. So don't plan on staying your entire holiday here, 2 or max 3 days should do it. For the Brazil side you need no more than 4 hours total for the simplest tours. If you do the more complete ones, one full day may be enough in that side. The Argentinian side can take another full day because it has a few long trails.
Nevertheless, there are some other options in Foz do Iguaçu city, such as Park of the Birds and Itaipu Dam.
Sometimes, it is cheaper to fly out of the Brasilian side to Sao Paulo for example, than to take the bus (not to mention quicker).