Rio de Janeiro to Buenos Aires: 2 Week Itinerary

Beginning in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and departing from Buenos Aires, Argentina is a common route tread by travelers, and it’s a fairly manageable itinerary if you have 14-16 days. Personally, I wish I’d had an extra week (at least) to explore Uruguay a little more, but if two weeks is all you can get, it’s better to take it than not…and I did!

Rio de Janeiro: 4 days

Four days in Rio will give you just enough time to take in the sights, and get a little bit of a feel for the city.  You can check out Sugar Loaf Mountain, Ipanema Beach, Copacabana, Lapa (for nightlife), and, you must must eat Brazilian barbecue. (Carretão is a good, relatively inexpensive Brazilian barbecue chain). And then, of course, there’s the Cristo Redentor.

Cristo Redentor, Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro Tourist Tip: If you’re going to see Christ the Redeemer up close, especially in high tourist season, go as early as you can – which is 8AM.

There are two reasons for doing this:

1. The line to take the train up to the Redeemer is a LOT shorter, if nonexistent. Since the statue is at the very top of Corcovado mountain, tourist access is only achieved by sending trolley cars up the mountain – a journey that takes about 20 minutes, and seating on these trains is limited. When you buy a ticket, you’re given a ticket for the train’s next departure time, which can be backed up for 2 hours or longer if you wait to go later in the day.

2. Jesus’ head is shrouded in clouds and smog by noon. If you wait too long, you won’t be able to get a good picture of/with Jesus, since his head will likely disappear into the afternoon clouds that roll through on a daily basis (in summertime, at least).

Where We Stayed: We rented a flat two blocks off Copacabana Beach, which was a perfect central location to several of Rio’s neighborhoods and the perfect spot for New Year’s Eve. Try airbnb to find similar flats.

Getting From Rio de Janeiro to Iguazu Falls: 1 day

Flying directly from Rio de Janeiro to Puerto Iguazú, Argentina isn’t a cheap flight, as it’s an international flight. It’s less expensive to either take a bus or fly domestically from Rio to Foz do Iguaçu, and then crossing the land border into Puerto Iguazú, Argentina.

A note about buying domestic flights in Brazil: Without a CPF ID number (Brazilian ID number), you’ll have a heck of a time trying to book a fairly priced domestic flight within Brazil. I ended up having to get my Brazilian friend to buy the ticket, and then pay her back – but internet research tells me it can be done. Not saying it’s easy.

Taking a bus is the more budget-friendly option, and it’ll take you right across the Argentina border to Iguazu Falls…but it does take 22 hours. If you’ve got the time, try the Argentinian bus line Crucero Del Norte. They run the route from Rio de Janeiro to Puerto Iguazú a few times per day.

Iguazu Falls: 2 days

It’s majestic. It’s breathtaking. It’s absolutely worth a stop if you find yourself in South America.

Iguazu Falls from a distance

There are two different sides to the Falls: the Brazilian side, and the Argentinian side. If you have the time, you should devote one day to each side of the Falls. If you only have one full day to explore – I highly recommend the Argentinian side. From the Brazilian side, you get a much more spectacular view of Argentina’s falls, but from the Argentina side, there are several more trails and opportunities to get up close – even right on top of the Falls, a la the Devil’s Throat.

Getting From Iguazu Falls to Buenos Aires – 1 day

Again, you can fly directly, or you can take the bus. The flight costs around $230USD, and LAN is the more respectable airline over Aerolinas Argentinas.

The bus ride is about 18 hours, but is fairly inexpensive at around $50 one way.

Buenos Aires: 4 days

Four full days in Buenos Aires will give you time to explore the various neighborhoods, learn to tango, do some shopping in Palermo, dodge the sketchiness and achieve a tourist photo of La Boca, and enjoy feasting on the famed Argentinian beef and wine. Buenos Aires is a beautiful city to traipse around – it’s easy to see where it got it’s nickname as the Paris of the South.  A stroll through the Recoleta cemetery is also a must.

Recoleta Cemetary

Generally, everyone loves Buenos Aires, but.. 3 full days would’ve been enough for me. When I walked through Congreso Plaza at sunset on my first day, I fell in love hard and fast – but after that, nothing else about the city electrified me. In fact, the highlight of my time in BsAs was when I took a day trip across the river to Uruguay.

Where I Stayed: Hostel Estoril – Good central location and amazing views from the rooftop terrace. I much preferred the 4-bed dorm over the 8-bed.

Uruguay: 1-2 days

Across the Rio de la Plata from Buenos Aires is Colonia del Sacremento, Uruguay. Prior to my trip, I read several reviews on spending a day in Colonia, and a lot of people said to give it a miss, saying it was boring when compared with Buenos Aires. However, I was eager to add a sleeper country to my list (who goes to Uruguay?) – and I  knew there’d be an adventure in it somewhere (as it turned out, my instincts were correct).

Colonia del Sacremento

I’m so glad I went. Colonia is rustic South America, without the cosmopolitan glitter that dazzles tourists. I can see why some would find it boring when contrasted with the vibrant flourish of Buenos Aires. Colonia’s tiny, and there isn’t much to do that would take longer than an afternoon. There’s something about having the ability to hang out, have a beer, absorb the local atmosphere, and people-watch. I got the feeling that life was simpler, richer, more authentic in Uruguay (plus, you’ve got to respect a President that refuses to live in a mansion and donates 90% of his salary to charity). I’m not a city girl at heart, I’m a country girl – and I always find more joy in seeing a country through the villages, and passing through the fields. Though I was only there for an afternoon, Uruguay captured a part of my heart.

 

Summary

2 weeks through 3 countries is a little rushed, but it is doable. I came away feeling like I’d gotten a good taste of Latin America, a curiosity piqued that I hope to quench in future travels.

 

What do you think of my two week itinerary through Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay? What would you do differently?

 

Rio de Janeiro to Buenos Aires itinerary

Author: Laryssa

Laryssa has spent 6+ years working on an assortment of film and television projects. She writes about her experiences to help (and amuse) others. If she's not working, she's either traveling, reading or writing about travel, or planning travel. Follow , Twitter, or Facebook.

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8 Comments

  1. Hey Laryssa, great post. I’m looking to do the exact same trip but backwards and I was wondering if it was even possible so this helps me alot. I’m planning on 3 weeks, one in Peru and two in Argentina and Brazil but will probably have to skip Uruguay for time. I do have one question. I’m decent at Spanish but speak zero Portugese, did you have a tough time getting around in Brazil ?

    Post a Reply
    • Caleb- Awesome, glad to have helped 🙂

      In terms of reading signage, there usually is an English translation. I was with a Brazilian friend in Rio, and that definitely helped when taking taxis and getting around. In Foz do Iguacu, that place caters to tourists, and we were OK.

      I would suggest learning a few basic phrases. I did get a little confused at the airport as I documented here (http://needlegirlhaystackworld.com/when-your-phrasebook-wont-save-you-learning-new-languages-for-travel/) – I knew how to say where I wanted to go, but I didn’t know how to interpret the answer, ha!

      Have a great trip!!

  2. Hi there!

    Found your blog quite by accident whilst doing some South American travel research. Aiming to head to Rio next year (2015) for the carnival and then head down towards Buenos Aires via…well, I’m not entirely sure yet!
    As I have approx 3 months touring around SA planned before heading back to the UK for a friends wedding then heading back out to tour the US for 3 months I’m currently working on the early stages of research and trying to decide where to go, what to do and if I can afford it all! lol.
    Loved your blog above and may well follow a similar path for at least the first part of my South America adventures! I’ll probably read the rest of your entries a bit later but do you have any ‘Top Tips’? Can most of the coach trips etc be booked in advance online or is it all to be done when you get there?

    Phil

    Post a Reply
    • Phil, that’s awesome! I’m glad the post was useful.

      I never took a coach/bus due to my limited time there, but you should be fine to book tickets a few days in advance unless you’re traveling right before a major holiday — those probably sell out early. Keep local holidays in mind, as things may fill up earlier due to a certain festival, etc.

      Have a great trip!

  3. Hi Laryssa,
    The information in this post was very useful in buying local flgith tickets at very cheap price. I am planning to visit Brazil & Argentina in March 2015 and going to follow the same route. Wish I had couple of more days’ vacation and would have loved to include Uruguay, nevertheless I am really excited about this journey.Thanks a lot.

    Post a Reply
    • Glad it was useful! Have a wonderful trip. 🙂

  4. Hi! So inspiring! Im am planning to travel central america and then flying to rio to do rio to buenos aires. How much did you spend over these two weeks?
    Cheers

    Post a Reply
    • That sounds like an amazing trip!
      It’s been four years since that jaunt…my memory is rusty. I think it came around to to $2.5 after flights and accommodation. (Flights + accommodation in Rio alone was around $2k total due to the popular time of year). However, the Brazilian Real was very strong back then. It isn’t doing so well these days… it’s probably considerably cheaper to travel there now.

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