Falling for Brazil: Waterfalls, Dams, Shopping, and more
By  Anuja Seith

Once you step into this country that lures you with its aromatic coffee essence, you and your nose know you are in for a wonderful time. This is Brazil, the largest producer of coffee, but also home to lazy rivers, pristine beaches, gushing waterfalls, and steamy jungles.

Cupertino resident Jane Lok recently visited this exotic land with her family this summer. Sharing its borders with Argentina and Paraguay, Brazil provided the Loks with memorable highlights such as the wide Iguassu waterfall, named after Guarnani Indian word meaning “great waters”. The falls are located on Brazilian-Argentina border against a backdrop of lush tropical growth.

“You take two-three hours to tour the Brazilian side of the fall, which gives a front view of these falls.  The Argentinean side takes about 6 hours to visit. You hike above the falls, and can take a boat to an island that is between the falls,” says Lok. 



MAN-MADE DAM

Water seems as a common thread between Brazil and its neighbors. Like these falls that it shares with Argentina to boast of its scenic beauty, the Itaipu Dam built on Parana river is a joint venture with Paraguay. The dam is a major tourist attraction and an emblem of technological achievement.

The dam links the city of Foz do Iguaçu in Brazil and Ciudad del Este in Paraguay. Since Brazil shares boundaries with Argentina and Paraguay, you may visit the three border areas. According to Lok, the border town of Ciudad del Este in Paraguay is unsafe. However, cheaper exchange rate lured her to Puerto Iguassu, the border town with Argentina.

“We went shopping in Puerto Iguassu, and nearby there are towns with lots of tourist souvenirs, leather, cashmere, or wood carved items,” says Lok. “We also enjoyed shopping at the Argentinean Duty Free shop, which was clean and comfortable with high quality, and reasonable prices,” she adds. So if you are a shopping buff, this could be an ideal place for you.  

You may complement your shopping with some great food. The Brazilian cities of Sao Paulo and Foz do Iguaçu offer Arab, Italian, BBQ buffets, while in Argentina you may try some of their native dishes. But if you are a vegetarian, you might have tough time finding greens or veggies to pamper your taste buds.

To make your trip comfortable, Lok recommends booking a hotel close to downtown, since you won’t want to rent a car.  If you do rent one, drive cautiously. Also, be careful walking you might encounter some pick pockets.
With some of these suggestions and cautionary warnings, be assured you can enjoy a perfectly grand vacation to this tropical country with wondrous sights and sounds.

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ADDITIONAL INFO:

Visa:  All American citizens need a visa. Nationals of some countries are exempted from visa requirements. To find out more, visit http://www.brazilhouston.org/ingles/vpaises.htm
Language: Portuguese (official), Spanish, French and English
Currency: Real
Exchange Rate:  US$ 2.06191 Brazilian Real (subject to change) 
The cities have extensive network of ATMS and most major international credit cards are accepted.
Best time to visit: Depends on purpose of visit. Tourist interested in “Carnivale” should visit their summertime, February, while those who want to avoid hordes and have budget restrictions should travel in March-April. Those who like to walk or are interested in sightseeing or historical landmarks should visit in winter, June-August.
Note: The seasons in Southern Hemisphere are the reverse of Northern hemisphere.  Four seasons of Brazil:
Spring: 22nd September - 21st December
Summer: 22nd December - 21st March
Autumn: 22nd March - 21st June
Winter: 22nd June - 21st September

NOTEWORTHY WEBSITES:

http://www.ladatco.com/
http://www.brazil-travel-guide.com/Iguassu-Falls.html
http://wwp.greenwichmeantime.com/time-zone/america/brazil/currency.htm
www.braziltourism.org

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Anuja Seith was BATW’s intern for the summer of 2007.   

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