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Waiting, Waiting, Waiting

Iguazu Falls is a beautiful destination that I highly recommend, but it is also a tourist trap.  Although the all inclusive hotel, flight and tour packages may save you money, I recommend you tour Parque Nacional Iguazu (Iguazu National Park) without a tour group.

The tours have you constantly waiting; wait for a bus, wait for other passengers, wait while Suzi takes a picture, wait, wait, wait.  It is much more enjoyable and you see so much more, in less time, if you ditch the tour group, grab a taxi and visit the waterfalls on your own schedule.

It is convenient to have a schedule of your entire trip to Iguazu Falls provided by a travel agency.  When you are traveling on tours you know you are going to see all of the highlights, and you don’t have to worry about figuring things out yourself.  It is very nice to have someone pick you up at your hotel lobby and not have to worry about the safety of a taxi, but there are disadvantages.

South Americans, Argentineans in particular, are notorious for being late, and that includes tour companies.  I have been on about 10 tours in South America and only one of these tour companies picked me up on time.  Usually I must wait 20 to 30 minutes for my shuttle or tour guide to arrive.

Take a Taxi

There are several advantages to taking a taxi around Iguazu Falls as opposed to going with a tour group.  The first is that you leave your hotel when you are ready, not a second sooner or later.  Another advantage is that you are the only stop for the taxi.  When you take a shuttle or bus you may have several stops before you reach the Iguazu Falls Park, and sometimes the people at the stops are not ready and you must wait for them.

The biggest advantage of taking a taxi over a bus is skipping the Brazilian Customs when you cross from the Argentinean side to the Brazilian side to see the falls.  A good taxi will skip half of the cars waiting in line, you then show your passports and visa to the guards and you are off.  It only takes a few minutes, even when it is crowded.

If you are taking a tour bus the bus must wait in the bus line, then the guide takes everyone’s passport to the guards to check for visas and criminals, this takes about 20 minutes.  After you pass the first set of guards the bus stops again at the Brazilian Customs Station where all non Argentinean or Brazilian citizens must exit the bus, fill out a declarations sheet, and stand in line for the Brazilian passport stamp.  This process takes another 40 minutes.  Of course this hour wait can be avoided, or at least trimmed into about 15 minutes if you just take a taxi or private driver.

The Tour Guide

Once you arrive at the park it is nice to have a guide tell you about the park.  We had one guide name the various species that inhabit the park.  He told us how many acres the park encompassed on both the Brazilian side and the Argentinean side.  He told us about the plans and regulations in place to protect the rainforest and wildlife and he explained the layout of the park.   A good tour guide can make your visit much more interesting if they give you lots of information about the area, but many times they have poor English and they just lead you around like sheep without providing any interesting details on the area.

Unfortunately if you are with a large group, you may not get the coveted shots of the falls without lots of people in your frame.  Also, it seems all the tour guides take the same paths, in the same order, at the same times -- so you are constantly surrounded by two or three other groups and guide giving presentation in various languages.  If you ditch the group and do things backwards, like take the lower circuit first, you can see much of the falls without stepping on other people's heels.  See my suggested itinerary for hints on how to avoid the crowd.

Tres Fronterias

Other Iguazu Falls Articles

Iguazu Falls General Information

Iguazu Falls Legend

Suggested Itinerary of Iguazu Falls

Helicopter Ride over Iguazu Falls

Unwanted Stops

After our short stay at the Brazilian side of Iguazu Falls, our bus made two stops.  The first was at tourist shop, filled with chocolate, crafts and other souvenirs.  The second was at a restaurant, which also sold souvenirs. We were previously informed of the arts and crafts stop, so it wasn't a problem.  We weren't interested in any of the items sold in the store, but we were able to sit down for the 45 minute stop.  After we left the Tres Frontiers Arts and Crafts shop, the tour guide informed us that we would stop for lunch.  He told everyone that they didn't have to eat there, but we would be there for two hours and there were no other restaurants in the area - so you could either eat or sit on the bus for two hours!  It was a buffet style restaurant and we were forced to sit at school cafeteria style tables with everyone else on the bus.  I prefer a private relaxing setting when I eat, but there was nothing I could do!

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