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Friday, April 18, 2008

GAP Adventure Review

I wanted to throw together a quick review of GAP Adventures- the tour company we used for our Southern Highlights tour of Brazil & Argentina so other travelers could read some feedback.

All in all, I was very happy with them. There were 14 travelers in our group with an awesome tour guide. The prices were overall very reasonable, and therefore the cost of the trip itself was very affordable. We chose to lavish on all the extra activities and eat (and drink!) at very nice restaurants along the way. Most of the accommodations are minimal & very basic. Much more like hotel rooms in Europe. This was considered a "comfort" tour, which means nicer than their even more basic tours. Almost all of the other guests on the tour had been on multiple GAP tours and generally were very happy with GAP.

Buenos Aires- The Waldorf Hotel was probably the worst hotel we stayed at during our trip. The rooms were tiny & very "European"- sparse and minimal. They provided a light breakfast and everything was functional for the most part. See my pictures here. There was nothing officially offered by GAP in BA, but our guide provided some information that allowed us to take our trip to Colonia, Uruguay.

Iguazu Falls- This is the part of the trip where GAP really paid off. Our guide did an awesome job of getting our group to the airport, on a plane, on a shuttle, over the border and into another shuttle in Brazil. I got the impression that border crossings between Brazil/Argentina can be a PITA if you aren't prepared. The Rafain Hotel was really pretty nice with a handy bar and pool. Great A/C, good shower! They have pay-per-use Internet with 3 computers & a few restaurants in walking distance. The GAP tour in Iguazu included a few hour walking tour on the Brazil side (where we could take an optional helicopter ride) and an additional ($$) tour on the Argentina side the following day with a train ride and the boat ride. Our guide also then directed and hiked with us over all the amazing catwalks so we would miss any of the views. This was probably the most helpful part of the trip to have a guide. He also arranged our dinner at the Samba Show house, which was fun!

Paraty- We flew from Iguassu Falls to Sao Paulo and then drove for a few hours on the above bus to Paraty. Our flights were late, but the bus was nicer than normal and we watched videos. The hotel in Paraty was a cute little boutique hotel called Laguna Blue. It was about a 30 minute (dusty) walk to downtown Paraty, but taxis were available for about $15. Free Internet (just had to share with others), great breakfast, awesome pool, nice rooms. There were no specific things from our tour to do in Paraty, but our guide told us how to charter a boat and how to take a tour.

Rio de Janeiro- Included with our tour was a half-day city tour of Rio, which was a great overview and hit the highlights Christ the Redeemer, the Sambodrome, Sugar Loaf Mountain and the National Cathedral. The hotel Atlantico Copacabana was located in a bustling part of Copacabana- near lots of restaurants, a few block from the beach and near the subways. No Internet, but a pretty decent breakfast and a rooftop pool with great views. Our guide once again helped us out by arranging Favela tours or a football/soccer game. He also took us out on his night off after the official end of the trip.

All in all, our guide was totally awesome. It was so great to talk to a local and native. He knew so many people everywhere and just made things happen. He answered all of our questions and
solved all of our problems. We enjoyed our trip to much more because of him & really do think this tour was an excellent way to see lots of big sights in a little bit of time in Brazil & Argentina.

Our only complaints were fairly minor. Although GAP arranges for arrival transfer to your hotel, we were never able to find our ride and just ended up taking a taxi. It was a slight hassle and a few extra $$, but not a huge deal. The other thing was that the itinerary changed slightly and nobody was told. We ended up staying an extra day in Buenos Aires and one less day in Rio. Although DH was bummed about less Rio time, we made the most of it and headed to Uruguay. The company's attitude about the whole thing was sort of crappy and that it was *our* responsibility to monitor the itinerary for changes??? It didn't really effect us too much , but there were some others on our trip who it caused more problems for their plans.

If you are reading this and are considering this trip with GAP or any of the places we visited, feel free to leave me a comment with any questions you may have and I will try to help.


Feisty11550 said...

Hi, I'm thinking about taking this trip next month, from Rio to Buenos Aires though...actually I'll be booking tomorrow. I'm planning on going alone, do you think it'd be safe for a young woman, who speaks neither language? A few more minor concerns, were you able to get a lot of beach time, what was the age group of the people on your tour, was there a lot of sightseeing/exploring on your own, did the weather vary from location to location?

I know it's a lot, I just want to make sure that I'm making the right decision.

Thank you,

Amanda said...

We had a male and a female "single" traveler in our group. The female was totally fine by herself, but often went places and hung out with the couples on activities.
Eh, if you read my review, we lost a day in Rio, so 1 less beach day. We had a full beach day in Paraty & enough in Rio. There really is so much to see and do in Rio- I suggest the tours & a football game. We had *enough* beach time, but I wasn't looking to lounge around a whole lot- just a few hours a day.

The 2 singles were younger and there was 1 younger couple. The more "experienced GAPPERS" told me this was the oldest crowd they had seen since it was a "comfort" trip and not a classic trip.

I think you can read my review/blog to figure out what we did as a group. Some group tours were provided and they also had some optional activities. On the optional activities, there was usually somebody else in the group who wanted to go too., it was really pretty nice in BA (overcast, cool, slightly drizzly- better than heat!), it wasn't miserably hot in Iguazu, but warm. Paraty was perfect for being at the beach, and it was pretty warm when teh sun was full out (and not behind a cloud) in Rio.

Hope that helps.

You will have an awesome time!

Feisty11550 said...

Thanks! One more question, how much do you think I should expect to spend?

Amanda said...

Spending Money- That's pretty tough. Allocate money for extra tours in Iguazu (helicopter & the boat ride). The football games and Favela tours were also extra. Riding the cablecar to Sugarloaf was extra. Renting the boat was in Paraty was extra, but they had cheaper group boats you can go on. Plan on some money for cabs & then some spending money for food. We spent quite a bit on eating out b/c we ate nice meals and drank lots of fine. Plus tips for local guides and your main guide. I would guess between $500-$1000 depending on which activities you want to do and how fancy you want your restaurants to be.

Powered by Tofu said...

I've always wondered how the Comfort trips where! I've only ever done Budget and Original. Here's my pro/con list/GAP Adventures Tour Review. Great pics BTW.


Me said...

Hi! Thanks for the many great suggestions regarding your tour. My bf and I are planning on doing the SH tour during Christmas and NYE and your review definitely shed some light on the in between. Love the boat tour you took in Paraty. Great blog. Thanks again!