To South America with a baby
Well, she probably won't remember anything, but at least she spent some weeks in the summer instead of cold and foggy winter in Ljubljana. We didn't have any problems at all and we would do it once more if we could. At the end of November we went to Chile and we spent there one month, mostly with Tanita in the buggy on the streets. It is really beautiful country, People were really friendly and we made a lot of contact just thanks to Tanita, who smiled and waved to almost everyone. We went all the way to the south, to Punta Arenas.
We traveled mostly by bus (they are comfortable, with free drinks, WC and sometimes food). Only from Puerto Montt we took a plane to the south (100 US, children up to 2 years flies free). The most we liked island Chiloe and the lakes district. We didn't go on trekking, but still we spend some time in the nature carrying her. We visited Tierra del fuego on a day trip. The most we liked in the south were animals: penguins, sea lions and sea elephants. It is possible to come very close to them and take great photographs.
We stayed in Argentina for about three weeks and the rest of our holidays we have spent in Uruguay and Paraguay. Actually, I went to Paraguay alone. In the mean time Maria and Tanita have stayed in small town in Uruguay. Argentina and Uruguay are more like Europe, but they are interested too, and the people are quite friendly. The last week we spent in Buenos Aires and we came back at the beginning of February.
SOME USEFUL INFORMATION:
First of all, we were a bit disappointed about Lonely Planet files on the Internet. We didn't find any updated information. Anyway your books did a great job. Napies ("Panales") for children can be bought everywhere, but some are very bad quality. It is better to buy world known brands, which usually doesn't cost more than unknown brands. The price is similar than in Europe, only in Uruguay they cost a little bit more. Children's food is also easy to find, but Tanita mostly ate wit us.
Be aware of the hotels, which are very popular with Israelis. They are mostly very noisy, they travel in small groups, and spend a lot of time in the kitchen! Very uncomfortable for families with children! It is better to travel by bus, which is more comfortable and faster than train. The cheapest restaurants can be find at local markets! There it is easy to get salmon for about 2,5 US. The same one would cost in other restaurants at least once more. For the same price one can eat set "menu del dia" at normal priced restaurants. SANTIAGO: Getting around is easy by metro. But it can become difficult traveling with stroller, because you have to lift it across the bars when entering and leaving the subway system. CHILOE: A lot of locals unofficially rent rooms. They are usually a bit cheaper than officially ones. In Cucao we have spent 3 great days in the big white house, 100 meters before bus station. They charge 5 US/per night and extra 3 US for a great dinner (fish, shells etc!) The family also rent horses. In the afternoons there is a great "show" on the coast. Locals, even children catch shells in the cold ocean. Some of them come to the coast by horses. Prices for the bus to/from Puerto Montt are a bit different with different bus companies, so look around!
Buses run also direct to Calafate (Argentina). But the road is very bad, especially the shorter one. It takes at least 6 or more hours to get there and if you are traveling with children, don't go! There are no stops, so bring food and drinks with you! It is much more comfortable to travel via Rio Gallegos. Boat to/from Puerto Montt costs 150 US or more, plane from Punta Arenas 100, and bus 50 US!
It is difficult and expensive to change traveler cheques in Patagonia! They take commission of 5% or more! It is better to travel with US dollars, as it is possible to pay with them in almost all shops, restaurants, hotels, travel agencies... It is better to change traveler cheques in Chile or in bigger northern towns, like Puerto Plata, Buenos Aires. There is almost no difference between cheques and cash! In Uruguay commission is 2-3%, and the same in Paraguay, but changing is difficult outside of Asuncion. "Tenedor libre" is the cheapest way to eat in a restaurant, but only for the really hungry ones! The entry costs 5-7 US (or pesos), but at some places they charge extra 2 US if you don't take a drink. Restaurants are mostly with Chinese food, but there are also vegetarian ones and parillas. The best one (Chinese) I found in Posadas, close to the main park and church. When traveling by bus, take some warm clothes with you. Air condition is "strong" and during the night it can really get cold!!! In two months we didn't have problems about finding the room. But in Buenos Aires, in three hotels the owners didn't want to rent us a room because of the baby!
Lodging, especially near the coast is expensive during the high season. The cheapest double rooms costs around 40 US (and are difficult to find at the end of week), but 20 or less in Montevideo and other interior towns. The cheapest way is camping. Eating is cheap in the street kiosks: a big steak with bread, salad, senf...costs 2 US, hot-dog (pancho) 1 US... Traveling by bus is easy and cheaper than in Argentina. But out of the most common ways it is time consuming. For a ride from Gualeguayachu (Argentina border town) to Colonia it takes almost whole day! The first bus across the border leaves Gualeguayachu at noon! (I tried to hitch hike for hours, but nobody would stop!) Then I waited in Mercedes (Uruguay) for the next bus for a few hours. Afterwards I had to change two more buses and finally arrived in Colonia at around 8 p.m.! Forget about hitch hiking!
There are no more boats from Puerto Iguazu to Paraguay, but there are a lot of buses going directly to Ciudad del Este. Crossing the borders is a little bit tricky! I had visa for Paraguay ( it costs 10 US in Buenos Aires, and I waited for 10 days to get it! You need a passport, photograph and a photocopy of credit card or travelers cheques!), but when I arrived at the border the officer asked for an exit stamp from Argentina! I didn't have one, so I had an alternative: to pay 20 US or go back through Brasilia to Argentinean border. I've paid and probably I wasn't the first one! So be careful crossing the border at Ciudad del Este! There is a problem with officials at Constuticion-Posadas crossing too! If you want to get a stamp (which is obviously necessary), you have to stop first at the Paraguayan side. In the mean time the bus won't wait and you have to wait for the next one but from the same company you have traveled before or you have to pay 2 US once more! The same story waits for travelers at the Argentinean side, so one can pay 3 times for the bus ticket!