Sunday, January 16, 2011

New Year Resolutions, South America and the World Cup

Three seemingly unrelated topics that come together to form my first post this year. Having initiated this blog with much enthusiasm during the last South America trip, i had hoped to share our experiences to help others plan their trips to a region where information on the internet or in guide books is rather sketchy and more often than not outdated for travellers. Unfortunately i realised in the middle of the trip that blogging during the holiday typically means choosing between blogging and sleep. While blogging won over sleep initially, over the longer period of the holiday it was a no contest.

Given that learning, this time as part of my new year resolutions i plan to blog about the trip to South America along with my experience of attending the cricket world cup watching India in different venues across the country this year. Hopefully this is not a resolution that will fizzle out like new year resolutions typically do.

Coming back to South America, i fell in love with the continent during the previous 3 week trip that included Santiago, Atacama Desert, Bolivia, Lake Titicaca & of course Machu Picchu. While talking to other travellers I realised that Easter Island & Patagonia were 2 destinations that I HAD TO visit in Chile again, and i wasnt disappointed. Some of the amazing experiences of the trip were:

1) Watching Sachin score his 50th Test ton (yes that happened in South Africa and had nothing to do with South America but you will get the connection by the end of the post)
2) Getting to hold a crocodile in Sun City (South Africa again!!) that according to its handler was old enough to bite our hands off

3) Escadaria de Selaron (Selaron's stairs) in Rio de Janeiro, a continuously updated work of art that contains tiles from over 180 countries
4) Christ the reddemer statue and view of Rio from Sugarloaf mountain

5) Everything about the 23 km hike over 3 days in Torres de Paine National Park

6) The sound of ice cracking at Perito Moreno glacier in Argentinian patagonia, one of only 3 advacing glaciers in the world.

7) Photographing the Easter Island Moai's at sunrise & sunset

8) Watching 80 year olds Tango gracefully at a Tango bar in Buenos Aires
9) The sight of the "Devil's throat" at Iguazu Falls

While the quintessential South America travel experience should include as much of bus travel, given the shortish time we flew across the continent(as per the map on the left). One of the major road blocks for visiting South America is the high cost of flights to South America (cheapest prices i could find were Rs 85k on Emirates) and the decision to take local flights in South America added significantly to our costs. Unfortunately the level of competition among airlines in South America is rather low and given the absence of viable low cost carriers on most routes, flying internally within South America is quite an expense.

The trick to bring down those costs substantially is to use your Jet Privilege miles and fly via South Africa to either Sao Paolo or Buenos Aires. Here is how this routing helps you kill 2 birds with a single stone known as South African airways:

1) Use Jet Privilege miles to book a return award ticket on partner airlines South African airways from Johannesburg to Sao Paolo or Buenos Aires. This will cost you 24500 miles per person and Rs 1800 as tax. You can even do an open jaw ticket and fly into Sao Paolo and depart via Buenos Aires or vice a versa. Yes thats right, you can use 15% more miles than those required to redeem a Delhi-Mumbai return award (21000 miles) to book a return 10 hour flight from Joburg. So if you have 24500 miles in your Jetprivilege account you can bring down the cost of flying to South America from Rs 85000 to approx Rs 35-40k (return ticket from Del/Mumbai to Joburg plus the tax amount for the award flight). Thats a straight saving of approx Rs 50k per person.

2) Flying into South America on South African Airways make you eligible for the Lan South America Pass which enables you to purchase tickets on Lan for a fixed sector price which varies by route but is still 20%-50% cheaper than normal market prices for most routes. Just as an example the Lan Pass would enable you to buy a Santiago-Easter Island return fare for approx USD 600 for a market price ranging between USD 900 - USD 1500. Similar savings on other routes mean that flying within South America is not as prohibitive.

Given the savings, visiting South Africa for Sachin's 50th century was just the icing on the cake!!! :)

More South America travel tips to follow in subsequent posts!!

No comments:

Post a Comment