A few months back I saw an awesome fare from San Francisco to São Paulo for under $650 roundtrip. I was very tempted; however, I really wanted to be in Rio de Janeiro. After waiting about a week or so, the same fare popped up for Rio and I was in!

I took advantage of the airline’s “24-hour refund” policy and held the ticket while I thought through the itinerary, and a few days I came up with what I thought was the perfect itinerary: Rio, Iguazu, Machu Picchu and Lima. The advantage would be we’d start with a 6-hour time difference in Rio and then by the time we get to Lima and Machu Picchu, there’d only be a 3-hour time difference.

2016 South America Itinerary Map

2016 South America Itinerary Map

There were all kinds of things we wanted to do and see:
• Rio: experience the precursor events to Carnaval;
• Rio: experience the famous beaches;
• Rio: drink lots of juices;
• Iguazu: get on the boat and be prepared to be soaked;
• Machu Picchu: climb a mountain; and
• Lima: eat.

While planning, I also began reading more about Rio’s safety issues. Honestly I was a little scared. I didn’t have the same concerns for the other cities, as I’ve never heard safety as an issue discussed so intensely as people do with Rio. However, I figured people still visit the city, so there must be ways to stay safe.

I asked a colleague who grew up in Rio about this, and she said as long as you don’t wear or flash anything valuable (e.g., jewelry or expensive cameras), you should be fine. Basically, just don’t be a stupid tourist. I did prepare myself pretty well though. I bought decoy wallets ($5 from Forever21), put in expired credit cards and such and I was ready. For transportation, I saw that Uber was available in Rio, so I figured I would give that a try (as I have T-Mobile which provides free global data to most countries), with exception to the airport, from which I was prepared to hail the premium taxis so I won’t get scammed.

One other issue was purchasing plane tickets from Rio to Iguazu and then onto Lima and Machu Picchu (Cusco). Prices for these flights are normally not cheap, so we ended up having to pay $500 for Rio-Iguazu-Lima on TAM and LAN, and then used miles for Lima-Cusco on LAN using American Airlines’ miles. The reality was we could have paid a lot less for Rio-Iguazu on Azul, but we would have had a 3-hour layover in Curitiba versus a 2-hour direct flight, so we gave that up.

Now off to begin the 10-day tour!

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