10 Tips to Help You Plan a Trip to the 2016 Rio Olympics

2016 Rio Olympics

Get ready for August 2016 when the world gathers to watch the 2016 Rio Olympic torch lighting ceremony. Now the question is, where will you be watching the Olympic Games? In your living room with some friends, at work, or better yet in Rio de Janeiro! If you are lucky enough to attend the 2016 Rio Olympics, you’ll want to keep reading our 10 Insider Travel Tips on how to best prepare for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

1. Plan Your Trip Ahead of Time – 2016 Rio Olympics

Getting in and out of the city is easy as long as you don’t want to leave the day after the Closing Ceremony. We recommend visiting some other nearby cities before or after the games. Do your research ahead of time and plan out a city tour to see the Christ the Redeemer statue and Sugarloaf, plan ahead or else you run the risk of city tours being all booked up. If you don’t have time to plan this yourself, no need to worry because our Travel Consultants can arrange your tours, transfers, guides, hotels, and any other details you need to make your trip run smoothly. But hurry, hotels are booking up quickly throughout Rio de Janeiro, so contact us soon.

Here are some recommended destinations for Rio de Janeiro:

2016 Rio Olympics

  • Botanical Gardens: In the middle of the city there is a marvelous garden with incredible botany, art, and aesthetics, sure to make your visit worthwhile.
  • Centro Cultural Banco do Brazil: Enjoy strolling through local and international exhibitions and watch live performances at the cultural center.
  • Copacabana Beach: Relax on one of the most famous beaches and watch surfers catch some winter swells.
  • Ipanema Beach: Lie in the sand and sip on fresh coconut water. If you’re looking for souvenirs, shop along the promenade.
  • Maracana Stadium: This football stadium is the home to Rio’s four football teams.
  • Pedra Bonita: As Rio’s most beautiful spots, this hidden gem has an incredible view of the city.
  • Sugarloaf Mountain: Take a cable car to the peak of the mountain to get a 360-degree view of the city.
  • Tijuca Atlantic Rainforest: As the largest urban rainforest in the world, Tijuca is a great place to hike, bike, and hang glide.
  • Museum of Tomorrow: The building alone is a sight to see, but spend a few hours inside and admire the forward thinking museum exemplifying a new sustainable world.

2. Language – 2016 Rio Olympics

In Brazil, the national language is Portuguese, NOT Spanish. There are some English speakers, but it’s important to learn some of the basic words and phrases before heading there.

  • Hello: Olá
  • Excuse me: Com licença
  • Yes: Sim
  • No: Não
  • Please: Por Favor
  • Thank you: Obrigado
  • Can you help me?: Você pode me ajudar?
  • Do you speak English?: Você pode me ajudar?
  • How much?: Quanto?

3. Weather – 2016 Rio Olympics

It might be the Summer Olympics, but it will still be winter in Brazil with temperatures in the mid-60 to 70°F and (15 to 21°C). Expect some showers and opt for layers, but pack light so you can shop in Rio.

4. Visa Waiver Program – 2016 Rio Olympics

From June 1st to September 18th, citizens of the United States, Canada, Australia, and Japan will be able to enter Brazil without a visa. These citizens can then travel throughout Brazil for up to 90 days. That means there’s no hassle making an appointment with the Brazilian consulate and you save $160!

5. Safety – 2016 Rio Olympics

Thanks to the Olympics, Brazil has made safety a priority for its visitors. During the games, there will be a substantial increase in the number of police officers but as for any traveler, it is important to take these safety precautions to ensure a safe and fun trip. All you have to do is use your common sense, be aware, and we recommend traveling with a friend. Brazilians are friendly, kind, generous, and fun-loving people. Here are some safety tips to take into consideration before traveling to any foreign country:

  • Travel in a group: Whether you are heading to a local bar or that cafe down the street, bring a friend to feel comfortable and to share memorable moments together.
  • Dress like a local: Want to wear that new Rolex watch or Kate Spade purse? Think again. It is better to blend in with the crowd than stand out. So leave all of your flashy and expensive items at home, it’s better just to dress casual and comfortable.
  • Never leave your belongings unattended and stay alert!
  • Here are some important phone numbers to know:
    • 55: Calling Code
    • 21: City Code
    • 193: Fire Department
    • 192: Ambulance
    • 190: Police

6. Print two copies of your Passport – 2016 Rio Olympics

Wherever you are traveling, it is important to have at least two copies of your passport in case something ever happens to the original. Keep a copy with you and leave the other copy in your luggage at the hotel. 

7. Stay hydrated – 2016 Rio Olympics

Expect crowds during the Olympics and always have a bottle of water with you on hand. It is better to buy bottled water or travel with a SteriPen or a UV water purifier than to drink Brazil’s water from its tap.

8. Money – 2016 Rio Olympics

For Americans, the US Dollar is stronger than the Brazil Real. Two years ago, it was 1 USD to 1.5 BRL, and today it is upwards of 1 USD to 3 BRL. That’s a 50% savings with those traveling with the US Dollar! Keep a small amount of cash with you as most places accept cards. If you need to go to an ATM, visit a shopping center or gas station but avoid them at night. Keep the rest of your cash in the safe back at your hotel.

9. Transportation – 2016 Rio Olympics

Rio Metro Rio’s metro system is the most convenient way to get around. It is clean, fast, and safe. Purchase a cartão pré-pago, prepaid card (minimum R$5), from a kiosk in any metro station and add money to it at any kiosk. There are also free subway maps available at the ticket booths.

Bus Buses are cheap, starting at R$3.20, but they tend to be very crowded. The new BRS (Bus Rapid System) goes to Copacabana, Ipanema, Leblon, and Barra. There are also express buses, called “Onibus Expreso”  that have limited stops but cover a larger distance in less time, depending on traffic. These prices start at R$4.35. Rio also offers Executive Busses called Frescao. This is a more upscale bus only available during the week. It is a little more expensive, starting at R$3.50, but it is easy and safe to use.

Taxi The taxi system in Rio is a fast and safe way to get around town. No one tips taxi drivers, but it is normal that they round up the fair. Download apps like 99Taxis or Easy Taxi to get a Cab. You can also ask your hotel reception to call you a cab. At night, it’s safer to take a taxi than public transportation. So split the cab with a friend and arrive safely. The flat rate is around R$5.20 plus R$2.50 per kilometer.

Bicycle There is also a public bike-sharing program with over 60 rental stations throughout the city called SAMBA. It is a fast and easy way to get around town and exercise.

Boat Take a ferry to visit the different islands in the bay. Ferries depart every 20 minutes and ticket prices start at R$5. This is an easy way to get out of the busy city.

Uber Yes, Uber is in Rio de Janeiro but wait times could be very long during the Rio Olympics. The base fare is R$2.00 with R$0.15 per minute and R$1.40 per KM. Also, pay attention to those hidden peak fares.

10. Zika – 2016 Rio Olympics

Many South Americans now understand how and what to do in order to avoid the breeding of these mosquitos and how to minimize the risk of Zika. Here are some tips:

  • Avoid improper sanitation and waste deposits, like slums
  • Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registered insect repellents with DEET, lemon eucalyptus, picaridin, or para-menthane-diol.
  • Wear long sleeves and pants with light-colored clothing as they are more attracted to darker colors
  • Stay in hotels with air conditioning and keep windows closed
  • Avoid using scented skin care products
    Remember, the Aedes Aegypti does not fly far, with a maximum distance of an urban block.

Take a look at our featured tours to combine the 2016 Rio Olympics with the rest of Brazil:


The Mato Grosso Travel Guide – Exploring Brazil

Are you dreaming about visiting the wildlife wonders of Brazil?  Follow our Mato Grosso Travel Guide for the best wildlife adventure.

When talking about Brazil, people typically imagine beautiful beaches and Carnival, but there’s so much more to Brazil. If you want to see cascading waterfalls, crystal clear waters with rainbow colored fish and extreme wildlife biodiversity, then the Mato Grosso state is the place for you.

The Mato Grosso state is an expansive plain teaming with wildlife in the very heart of South America.  With the capital, Cuiabá, situated at the intersection to three of the richest ecosystems in the world: the Amazon Rainforest, the Cerrado, and the Pantanal, you can seamlessly combine these three destinations into one customized Brazilian journey.

Getting to the Mato Grosso – Mato Grosso Travel Guide

Almost all the Brazilian airports offer daily flights to Cuiabá, specifically in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. Flights from Rio and São Paulo are only about 1.5 hours making these the perfect starting points for your Brazilian trip of a lifetime.

Visiting the Amazon Rainforest – Mato Grosso Travel Guide

Sure you can access the rainforest on a road trip leaving from Cuiabá, but due to the massive size of the region and the lack of accomMato-Grosso-travel-guidemodations in the Mato Grosso, the best way to enjoy the biodiversity offered by this ecosystem is to fly directly to Manaus. From Manaus you can choose between staying in one of our recommended hotels or lodges which offer all sorts of activities including; jungle hikes, wildlife observation hikes, boat trips, visiting indigenous tribes, piranha fishing, theMato-Grosso-travel-guide “Meeting of the Waters” between the Rio Negro and Rio Solimões, and more.

There are so many activities to choose from in the Amazon, that we advise you to spend at least 3 days just visiting the Rainforest. There isn’t one best time to visit the Rainforest for this is a place where it is warm year round, so please don’t forget your sunblock, your insect repellent, and your send of adventure!

Visiting the Cerrado – Mato Grosso Travel Guide


The Cerrado region of Mato Grosso is a place of exquisite waterfalls and the most spectacular crystal clear waters you’ll ever see. It is the perfect destination for those who enjoy nature and activities like snorkeling, hiking, bike riding, birdwatching and fishing (with over 1,500 species of living creatures registered), visiting natural caves, and much more. Some highlights in the Cerrado region include Chapada dos Guimarães and Mato-Grosso-travel-guideNobres. One thing that is way too important to not mention is the sunset! Make sure you spend enough time to relax and admire the breathtaking sunset while visiting.

Spend at least two days in the Cerrado of Mato Grosso before.  If you’d like an extended stay to fully discover the region, allow 4 – 5 days.  The good news is, you can travel to the Cerrado region any time of the year because the climate is excellent from January until December with very few interruptions due to bad weather.

Visiting the Pantanal – Mato Grosso Travel Guide


Nothing you have ever seen before will even compare to what the Pantanal has to offer in terms of bird watching and flora and fauna. The locals say there are 4 different Pantanal’s that you can experience, each one changing based on the time of the year you visit. If your objective is to see as much wildlife as possible, the preferred time to visit would be from June to September, when the waters are at the lowest flow and several natural pools form where the fish flock and the birds gather to eat. This time also offers the best opportunity to see yacares, tapyrs, macaws, anteaters, capybaras, marsh deers, iguanas, anacondas and the biggest feline of South America: the Pantanal Jaguar (Onça Pintada).

Even if your trip is scheduled for another time of the year, you can still appreciate most of the wildlife species: some easier than others, of course. For example, with a single 2-hour road trip from Cuiabá to Araras Lodge or Piuval Resort you can take advantage of several activities they offer including boat trips, horseback riding, night safaris and bike riding, to see the flora and fauna of the region.

If your trip isn’t going to be complete until you see the Pantanal Jaguar, then you must be willing to go a little further down the Transpantaneira road, about a 5-hour road trip from Cuiabá to Porto Jofre Resort. One of the best activities the resort offers is a boat trip to a naturally formed small beach along two merging rivers. This is where Jaguars sit and relax, enjoying a nice sunbath. Just the journey deeper into the Pantanal offers plenty of options to see wildlife. It’s an amazing experience and one that any wildlife enthusiast should include on their bucket list.

I recommend a 6 day trip through the region: spend two days snorkeling in the crystal clear waters of Nobres, and another two days hiking to see wonderful waterfalls and the amazing sunset in Chapada dos Guimarães, and the last two days in the Pantanal. There are several options of hotels, ranch like lodges, and charming resorts, just ask our sales consultant which option is best for you.



Countries Where Your U.S Dollar Will Go Far

If you are traveling with U.S. Dollars, you’re in luck! This year we’ve seen a much stronger dollar making travel in South America more affordable.  But now the question is, where will your dollar go furthest? Take a look at our Top 3 destinations where you’ll get the most bang for your buck.


stronger dollarTrade in your trip to the Eiffel Tower with a trip to Buenos Aires, “The Paris of the Americas.” Argentina now offers the greatest savings for those traveling with dollars. Visit the land of contrasts and combine a trip to the city where tango was born, visit world-renowned wine regions, admire the mountains of Patagonia and see the World Wonder Iguassu Falls, all for an affordable price.

The official rate for the dollar has nearly doubled in the last year making Argentina one of the moststronger-dollar affordable destinations to visit – this is because there is no longer the “blue rate.” Last year, we were around 1 USD to 8 ARS, but the official rate has nearly doubled in 2016. Along with the exchange rate changing, Argentina has also temporarily removed the $160 reciprocity fee for U.S. citizens, and there is talk that this removal could become permanent. Take advantage of the stronger Dollar while it lasts and travel like royalty in Argentina because your dollar will go far.

Look at some of our recommended Argentina Tours today and start planning your dream vacation.


stronger-dollarHave you been dreaming about traveling to Brazil?  Well, now is a perfect time! The current exchange rate is 1 USD to 3 BRL. Just two years ago it was at 1 USD to 1.5 BRL; that’s a 50% savings for people traveling with the U.S. Dollar. Combine the exchange rate with the visa waiver program valid for travel during the Olympic and Paralympic games, and you’re looking at major travel savings!
Likewise, many services that SouthAmerica.travel offers are cheaper, making hotels even more affordable.  Feel the vibrant culture of Brazil on a tour to see the country’s most impressive highlights.

Bstronger-dollarrazil is the size of the continental United States and offers you a wide variety of unique and impressive destinations. Feel the vibrant afro-culture in Salvador da Bahia, dance samba in the friendly city of Rio de Janeiro.  Then, leave the city and explore the wildlife heaven that is the Amazon Rainforest and the Pantanal Wetlands.

There are so many different destinations to choose from, but Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Salvador da Bahia, and Iguassu Falls are the most popular destinations in Brazil.  Take a stronger-dollarlook at our most recommended Brazil Tours and wherever you choose to travel, you are sure to fall in love with the warmth and cheerful Brazilians.

Sign up for our Route of Gold Tour and go on an unforgettable journey through the Atlantic Rainforest, Brazilian mining towns, UNESCO World Heritage sites and of course Rio de Janeiro.


stronger-dollarThis is the year for you to visit World Wonder, Machu Picchu!  Peru has always been an affordable destination with reasonable airfare to Lima and cheap internal flights within Peru. Meaning your trip to Peru won’t break the bank.  In one affordable trip, you can combine the Amazon, Incan ruins, and Lake Titicaca. Along with affordable and short flights, you can enjoy delicious and inexpensive food and reasonable prices on hotels.

Peruvians welcome tourists with open arms, and tstronger-dollarhe country has the infrastructure to handle mass numbers of visitors and offers reliable transportation methods.  Machu Picchu, has as many as 5,000 tourists visit the Incan ruins a day, yet you won’t need to wait over 5 minutes for a bus to transport you from Aguas Calientes – now that’s transportation working at it’s prime.

Peru is a great starter country to South America, in one trip you can combine the Amazon, Machu Picchu, Lake Titicaca and even see a penguin colony! Scroll through our recommended Peru Tours today to stop dreaming and start planning.

Don’t take our word for it, Travel & Leisure featured Peru, Brazil & Argentina on their list of destinations to travel to where your dollar will go far in 2016. Start planning your dream South America tour today. Contact us directly at 1-800-747-4540 or visit us online at www.SouthAmerica.travel


Culinary Highlights of Bogota

Get the full culinary experience in Bogota with our Culinary Highlights of Bogota food guide by travel expert, Izabela Zielińska.

A wise man once said: “There is no sincerer love than the love of food.” When it comes to travelling and food, I would add that there is no deeper way of understanding people’s cultures and traditions than by trying what’s on their plates and tables. It’s important to notice that our first step after we arrive in a new place is to head to a restaurant. Tired and hungry after a long trip, we just want to eat something nice that will satisfy our basic need of feeling full. From stomach to heart, that is sometimes the simplest way to gain one’s attention and admiration. This is what happens to many tourists thatHighlights-of-Bogota come to visit Bogota. They don’t even know what to expect from the culinary world of Bogota, but they fall in love after just a few bites.

Until now, the capital of Colombia hasn’t been noticed for its delicacies. Things changed a couple of years ago that took place in this fast developing country. All of a sudden local people realized that what they have to offer can make your mouth water, and Bogota became one of the most famous and appreciated food capitals in South America with many sophisticated gourmet restaurants as well as traditional local small gastronomies that don’t lag behind.

Before I focus on giving some suggestions about where to eat, let me lift the veil of secrecy and share with you the highlights of the Bogotan cuisine.

Appetizers-Culinary Highlights of Bogota

Ajiaco Soup  Let’s start with soups. Highlights-of-BogotaAjiaco soup is warm and nutritious which will definitely give you renewed energy after a day of sightseeing. Ajiaco is one of the most common and representative soups on Bogotanos’ tables. This rich cream soup is made with a couple of varieties of potatoes, chicken and a herb called guasca that gives it a specific unique taste. The dish is served with arepa (a kind of bread made of maize), avocado, sweet plantain, cream, and caper. The best ajiaco in the city is served in traditional restaurants in La Candelaria (historical area of Bogota).

Highlights-of-BogotaCaldo de Costilla Another soup that you will certainly see on a Bogota menu is caldo de costilla, a Colombian beef ribs broth made of beef ribs, potatoes, cilantro). The curiosity is that local people tend to have it for breakfast, and the reason might be that it’s very good for a hangover (guayabo in Colombian Spanish).

Changua Another soup served for breakfast is changua – a mix of milk, boiled eggs, bread, cilantro. As you can notice, people in Bogota kick start their day by eating very nutritious, quite heavy meal.

Mondongo For those who like more adventurous culinary experiences, I recommend mondongo soup. The most important ingredient of this beef and vegetable stock is beef tripes.

The variety of soups you can find in Bogota is really astonishing. Among others worth mentioning I would list: Sopa de Patacones (green plantain soup), Frijolada (bean soup), and Sancocho de Pescado (creamy fish stock soup).

Main Course- Culinary Highlights of Bogota

After a soup arrives, it is time for the main course. You can come across a wide variety of culinary opportunities.

Bandeja Paisa Highlights-of-BogotaAlthough local people will tell you that bandeja paisa is from the Paisa Region, it’s a very typical almuerzo (lunch) dish for Bogotanos. One of the very best gastronomy highlights of Bogota indeed. You can find it in almost every traditional local restaurant. It’s the powerful mix of rice, beans, meat, sausage, arepa, plantane, eggs and avocado. The portions served are always very big and the dish itself very rich so make sure to be hungry like the wolf before you sit at a table.

Chiguiro Peruvians and Ecuadorians have a guinea pig and Colombians have a chiguiro (capybara) that is served with other kinds of meat, arepa, plantane, avocado. It’s a bit difficult to find it nowadays in Bogota but for meat lovers, it’s definitely one of the most interesting experiences.

Lechona Another meat dish worth a sin is lechona. Very impressive when you see it for the first time: a whole roast pig (with ears, snout) stuffed with rice, onions, peas and spices).

Desserts- Culinary Highlights of Bogota

Highlights-of-BogotaThat would be only a tip of the iceberg when it comes to highlights of Bogotan cuisine, but it’s time to move on to desserts.

Arequipe It is one of the most significant ingredients of Colombian desserts. Arequipe is equivalent of Argentine dulce de leche, caramelized milk with sugar. It’s used for milojas (thousand leaves) dessert, a pastry filled with cream and arequipe.

Highlights-of-BogotaPostre Tres Leches Another mouth watering dessert is postre tres leches (three milk dessert), a sponge cake soaked in different kinds of milk.

Santafereno Last but not least: while in Bogota don’t hesitate to try chocolate santafereno, hot chocolate served with a piece of white cheese that melts in beverage.

Recommended Restaurants

All right, since we know what to eat, let’s see where to eat. Below you will find the list of the most recommended restaurants in Bogota that will serve you the highlights of local cuisine:

Buen provecho! (Enjoy!)


Top 5 Best Street Art Tours in South America

The cities of South America are open air galleries, and the streets and facades of the built environment are the perfect canvas for some of the best contemporary art in the world. Read about the Best Street Art Tours in South America by travel expert, Martin Kaleta.

Messages and figures on walls are ingrained in the cultures and histories of the continent for millennia. What has been frowned upon as vandalism elsewhere in the world, has taken an increasingly artistic and community focused turn as governments have weakened laws targeted at artists. Whether political, abstract, or humorous in nature, art belongs on the streets of the ever growing and evolving cities of South America.

You are bound to come face to face with many fascinating pieces from local and international artists while you are traveling. If you are curious to learn about the artists, the themes behind the pieces, and the techniques used, you are in luck! Below are some of the best cities that offer day tours to teach you about the history and context of Street Art in South America.

#1. Bogota – Best Street Art Tours

The capital of Colombia has become a top bogota-Street-Art-Tours-on-south-americadestination for artists and enthusiasts alike as city officials and police forces have relaxed their views on graffiti. Artists are now able to spend more time on highly stylized pieces which can be found throughout the city and in the historic district of La Candelaria where your excursion will start. Colombia’s natural diversity, cultural identity, and political history heavily influence the colorful paintings you will find as you walk along the streets of Bogota.

#2. Valparaiso – Best Street Art Tours

Valparaiso has long been a haven for artists, its hilly landscapes and colorful Valparaiso-Street-Art-Tours-in-south-americafacades attract visitors from around the world. The coastal city is Chile’s cultural capital and a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its 19th and 20th-century architecture and transportation system of funiculars up and down its hillsides. The hills of Carcel, Alegre, and Polanco are home to many exciting places and uniquely painted stairs throughout the city will make your ascent more pleasant. Templeman Street on Alegre Hill and the Open Air Museum of Valparaiso on Bellavista Hill are essential stops for any graffiti connoisseur.

#3. Buenos Aires – Best Street Art Tours

Although the multicolored houses of La Boca and the Casa Rosada may be the traditional, colorful icons of the Porteño City, Buenos Aires’ energetic and eclectic street art is their
IMG_5321_optmodern counterpart. On every block in Buenos Aires, you are bound to find a mural, stencil, paste-up, or sticker that will grab your attention. Guided tours are divided into northern and southern neighborhoods where you can visit artist studios and purchase pieces to bring home a part of the lively streets. For an overview of the different street art tours offered in Buenos Aires, read more at Spot the Best Murals on a Buenos Aires Street Tours.

#4. Medellin – Best Street Art Tours

Medellin has caught the world’s attention with its radical improvements in infrastructure and focus on social urbanism. Along the hillside escalators that whisk you through Comuna 13, you will find some of the best street art in the city. Local tours are guided by the artists themselves and gives you a unique look into the community’s evolution and investment in its citizens. Additionally, the city celebrates Pictopia Medellin, an annual street art festival where local and international artists gather together to paint and empower a neighborhood of the city. In 2015, 27 artists from around the world took to the streets of the industrial neighborhood of Barrio Colombia to brighten the surroundings and strengthen the sense of pride in Medellin.

#5. Sao Paulo – Best Street Art Tours

Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 5_optSouth America’s largest city has a long and vivid history in street art and artists paint the vibrant culture of Brazil onto every surface imaginable. While you’re in Sao Paulo head to Batman Alley in Vila Madalena. The alley received its nickname from a Batman piece painted decades ago and continues to evolve with works by both established and up-and-coming artists. Another less visited destination is the residential neighborhood of Cambuci, where the world famous Os Gemeos honed their craft for creating colossal and brightly painted human figures.

Want to explore the different hubs of street art across South America? Start planning your street art tour and fully customizable land package today. Visit us at SOUTHAMERICA.TRAVEL.