Not all travel is created equal and sometimes having a few insider tips is a necessity! There are a lot of little quirks to consider for a trip to Iguazu Falls. Here are my tips to help make things a little smoother and hopefully save you some money in the process!
There are two sides to the story with this epic waterfall and really you should see both if you have the time. The Argentinian side is a full day and I would give it priority over the Brazilian side, which can be seen in a few hours with an easy border crossing.
Where to stay?
I’d recommend to base yourself in Puerto Iguazu as the town on the Brazilian side hasn’t got too much going for it. There are nice restaurants, some tourist shops, a pharmacy and a public hospital. There are some things to consider with money here though.
What to bring?
Cash! There is one ATM which charges around $10 to withdraw cash (normal in Argentina) and one money exchange open 8:00-20:00 with a 12:00-16:00 closure for siesta. I wouldn’t recommend either as they’re busy and expensive. Try to bring Pesos with you (best to exchange dollars before you get to Argentina) and pay by card for things like dinners, tours etc. Some hostels only accept cash. Some shops charge a credit card fee. Quirks! You can pay with card at the falls and there is an ATM available unlike at the airport where there is very little at all.
Quick breakdown (March 2018, prices are in Argentinian Pesos)
Park entrance 500
Paseo Ecological raft tour 300
Jet boat 1200
Bus to park 150 return
Taxi to three frontiers (borders) 80
Bus to Brazilian side of falls 80 return
Bus to Ciudad del Este Paraguay 25 return
Taxi to Cataratas Argentina airport 500/ Foz Brazil airport 600
How to maximize your time
The Brazilian side is fairly self explanatory and well organised but for the Argentinian side I have a few tips to make the most of your time (and not miss out on the boat because you spent too long looking at monkeys…).
First up the jet boat, the first thing everyone asks about if you say you’ve been to the falls and a sure hit with thrill seekers. It starts at 8 and the last tour is 15:15, but this one can get booked up in advance, so my advice is do this first, plus then you’ll have the rest of the day to dry off.
The two main trails – Upper and Lower – are well covered from direct sun and take around an hour each without rushing. The upper has no stairs and the majority of steps can be avoided on the lower trail by taking the unmarked path to the right of the Viejo Hotel Cataratas. There is also a small trail called sendero macuco starting at the main train station that leads to a waterfall you can swim in and good wildlife spotting opportunities.
Lunch is mostly fast food and an oddly placed Subway! It is around these areas at lunchtime which offer the best opportunity to see coatis and monkeys for obvious reasons.
Quick note on the Brazilian side, try to avoid lunch there if possible, it’s very expensive, not the best quality and the Coatis are expert chip snatchers! Bring your own and you can eat safely at the entrance or across the road at the Park de Aves.
If like me you’re not a massive fan of crowds or melting in the sun it’s best to do el diablo or devils mouth later in the day. The que and crowds were intense around mid day and practically non existent from 14:30 to the last train at 16. It shouldn’t take more than an hour and you can take the paseo ecological by raft back down the river or return by train.
Amenities at the park
There are loads of amenities for tourists on both sides; shops, restaurants, ATM’s, lockers and the like. The lockers on the Argentinian side looked pretty small and I did see one traveller hiking around with his big backpack, did it not fit in a locker or was he just into extreme fitness training? Who knows?! But I can say with some confidence your hold and carry on luggage should fit in the Brazil side lockers which are spacious and plentiful!
Got some time spare? Why not take a day trip to Paraguay?
Ciudad del Este is not a place to rave about in all honesty, massive shopping malls and tons of market stalls selling knock off merch. But why not go to Paraguay when you’re so close right! If nothing else it makes you appreciate how civilized Brazil and Argentina are! Word to the wise – only use the Rio Uruguay or Itaipu buses even if the locals tell you they’re all the same. The local buses do not have Aircon and it’s rammed full! Public sauna with everyones bargain purchases from Paraguay all up in your face. No thank you. Just make sure to get your passport stamped as they don’t stop at the Paraguay border.
Rio Uruguay buses are air-conditioned and not overcrowded
Have even more spare time?
You can visit the Tres Frontieras where you can see all three countries, about 80 pesos by taxi (there’s a fixed price list at the bus terminal) and there’s also one of the world’s largest dams, Itaipu, right on the Brazil/ Paraguay border. There’s also the Park des Aves opposite the Brazilian park entrance- I’m never sure about birds in cages, although the wild hummingbirds there are pretty cool.
Drop a comment with your own tips below.