Country #31

Country #31 - Brazil Day 2

The Redeemer

After a super long (but definitely worth it) day yesterday, it was so nice to be able to sleep a few extra hours this morning! I flew from Foz do Iguaçu (IGU), the airport on the Brazilian side of the border, to Rio de Janeiro (GIG). I arrived in Rio around 1:30pm with a very tight schedule for the day: my only goal was to visit the Christ the Redeemer statue, but my flight back to the United States left at 8:30pm, giving me approximately five hours until I needed to be back at the airport.

I left my luggage at the left luggage counter in the airport (bless every airport/train station with left luggage, it makes life so much easier) and grabbed an Uber straight to the base of Christ the Redeemer. I found Uber to be pretty cheap in Rio which was super helpful for my crazy day. I arrived at the base of Corcovado Mountain, where I then took the Trem do Corcovado to the top. If you buy your tickets in their app you get to board early (which I did) so I had a view in the front of the “train”. It is an almost hundred year old system that takes you up the mountain and into the clouds. When you reach the top, you are literally above the clouds.

After climbing a few stairs (or taking the elevator if you are in a time pinch) you reach the top with a view out over Rio and are right at the base of the Christ the Redeemer statue. It was so cool to see in person - it is giant and such a unique sight. There were so many people, but also it’s peak tourist season. I walked around for a bit taking tons of pictures of the city, the clouds, and of course the statue. The statue is so tall that there are mats on the ground that you can lay on to try and get a picture of the entire thing. There is also actually a church in the base of the statue, which I had no idea. It is very small, but it’s there!

I met a cool new friend from the U.S. who I asked to take my picture. She had always wanted to visit Brazil, saved up, and made it happen! I really enjoyed talking to her on the train ride back down the mountain, and am very jealous that she’s headed to São Paulo - next trip, I guess! After reaching the bottom I grabbed an Uber to get a quick dinner. I also really wanted to see Copacabana Beach, but was running short on time. So as a quick fix I asked my driver to drive along the beach on the way to dinner, which worked perfect! I got a great burger, fries, and a brownie shake to go, and called another Uber to the airport.

There was, of course, traffic. It made the ride a bit more expensive and made me worry for a few minutes, but I eventually made it to the airport with an hour and a half before my flight. Not ideal, but I speed walked and arrived at my gate as boarding began. I was flying back to the U.S. on an American Airlines family pass (I’ll call it flying non-rev), which depending on the day can be an awesome experience (inexpensive business and first class seats) or a nightmare (getting stranded without a confirmed seat). Today was one of the more stressful days, but it could have been worse.

I made it on the flight, but had a middle seat in coach. Not ideal for an eight hour flight. I had no idea the flight from Rio to Miami was eight hours - longer than it takes to fly to Europe from the east coast! I was so tired, though, that the seat didn’t matter. I was between two nice ladies and, other than the people the row behind me who didn’t know how to turn off their light and kept accidentally calling the flight attendant, the flight was fine. I slept on and off for a few hours, arrived in Miami at about 4:30am, and then had to walk forever to immigration and customs (in Miami definitely take the train to reach immigration and customs!!). After finally arriving at immigration the process took about two minutes (thank goodness for Global Entry). However, I quickly realized the rest of my day was going to be more complicated than I had planned.

The flight I was going to take to Charlotte had filled up, and I was worried that the direct flight to Birmingham might do the same. I had also reached the point of being so tired after a month and a half straight of travel that I needed to keep moving. Collapsing in the hectic Miami airport didn’t sound like fun, so I called my dad and we began searching for every option. It was about 5:30am, and the Miami airport was packed with people, which was not ideal. After looking at every option out of Miami, and then Fort Lauderdale, I finally found an option! It was out of West Palm Beach Airport (PBI) in two hours, and it would take an hour to get there.

I never thought I would think an $80 Uber would be worth it, but in this instance it was. I fell asleep and woke up an hour later in West Palm Beach. The airport was nice, small, and best of all, empty! The flight to Charlotte was uneventful, and once I was in Charlotte I was excited to find a Chick-fil-A that was still serving breakfast because it was still so early. My flight to Birmingham was then, of course, delayed. I decided to change to a different flight that was scheduled to leave at the same time as my now delayed flight, and boy was that the right call - I got first class and when I landed in Birmingham my original flight in Charlotte still had not left (this was an instance where flying non-rev definitely paid off).

I landed and found my family actually on time at the airport, waiting in the terminal, which I don’t think has ever happened before - they must have missed me after a month and a half of the Caribbean and Latin America, I guess! I’m definitely glad to be home for a few weeks so that I can rest and get ready for my next trip where I’ll be headed to Cuba!

31 countries down, 165 to go.

Read about my first day in Brazil here.

Country #31 - Brazil Day 1

The Falls

This morning was filled with a crazy few hours of travel to make it to one of the coolest sights that I have ever seen, Iguazu Falls! I had a 4:30am flight out of Paraguay that was as painful as it sounds into Buenos Aires EZE Airport, where I then took the transfer bus to Buenos Aires AEP Airport. The transfer bus is much cheaper and easier than a taxi or Uber would have been. It took about an hour to get from one airport to the other, and I then flew to Puerto Iguazú (IGR) airport in Argentina. Iguazu Falls is situated on the Argentina/Brazil border, and as a result, there are cities and airports on both sides. I then took a taxi across the border to Brazil.

I took an official taxi from the airport, and my driver was really helpful without speaking a ton of English. She knew exactly how the border crossing worked, and it was really easy! First, she showed her taxi license and I showed my passport when we were leaving Argentina. Then, when going into Brazil, we stopped, walked into immigration where there was no line, and had them stamp my passport. The drive was probably forty-five minutes total to my hotel, Hostel Paudimar Campestre, near the falls on the Brazilian side.

There is definitely a difference depending on which side of the falls you decide to visit. Argentina supposedly has more falls while Brazil has better access to the main waterfall, Devil’s Throat. I chose Brazil because it is a lot to see in a more condensed area, and I had a short time frame to visit. I arrived at my hotel on the outskirts of Foz do Iguaçu that was only about five minutes from the entrance of the falls. After checking in I quickly made my way over to the falls by taxi because it was already 3pm. There is a reliable bus system to take advantage of, but with little time to use I had to take a taxi.

I bought my ticket online ahead of time so I walked right to the line for the bus into the park. You ride a double-decker bus from the entrance down to where the falls are, and there are a few other stops as well. If you wanted to, for example, you could ride a boat near the base of the falls. The bus took about ten minutes, and from the moment you are let off you can see the falls. And then you keep seeing them for as long as the eye can see. Just a heads up, there are going to be TONS of pictures throughout the rest of this post, because words alone really cannot do Iguazu Falls justice.


From the first time I saw them I was just awestruck, and it only gets so much better throughout the walk. You are dropped near the end of the falls on the Brazil side, and the walk takes you up towards Devil’s Throat. All along the walk, for over twenty to thirty minutes, you just see a giant, stunning waterfalls. Most of the walk you are looking out at them from the walking trail, but towards the end, once you reach Devil’s Throat, is where it gets really exciting.

The Falls are all along this walkway

The Falls are all along this walkway

There is a walkway that goes right up into the falls. You are not right under it (because that would probably kill you) but you get really close! Close enough that I was completely soaked after maybe five minutes. Thank goodness I remembered to bring my rain jacket! I spent about twenty minutes out on the platform, and I think it was the coolest part of my trip so far, right up there with Machu Picchu. It is unlike anything I have ever and will ever see again, and was so cool to be so close to. It’s hard to imagine how amazing it is to have major waterfalls surrounding you for as far as the eye can see, but let me tell you it surpasses whatever you can imagine!

Looking into Devil's Throat

Looking into Devil's Throat

After walking out on the platform, taking a million pictures/videos, and facetiming with my family, I then took the elevator up to a viewing platform out over the falls. This was really cool because you could get a lot closer to the main waterfall and see just how much water was pouring over it, and you could also see the winding river above where all of the water was coming from. If you looked in the opposite direction you could see the waterfalls as far as the eye can see that you had just walked past on the walking trail.


After taking a few last pictures I walked up to the bus stop and gift shop. During your time at the falls, likely near the beginning or end of your walk, you will likely walk past a coati. They are a cute animal that looks kind of like a mix between a raccoon and a lemur, maybe? Anyways, they are very cute but will scratch so definitely don’t try and touch them! This area is up at the top by the river, but what I found cool was if you looked really hard across the river, you could see tourists visiting the falls on the Argentina side! I walked around this area for a bit, bought a few souvenirs, and then boarded the bus back to the main entrance.

I was able to spend a full three hours at the falls, which felt like enough time to fully see the Brazilian side, so I was very glad that I chose it over Argentina. However, I would love to come back to Iguazu from the Argentina side in the future! After an absolutely exhausting day, I headed back to my hotel and ordered a pizza there, before going to sleep very quickly. I’m excited for tomorrow, though, as I’m headed to Rio to see the famous Christ the Redeemer statue before I fly back to the US!

31 countries down, 165 to go.

Read about my second day in Brazil here.