Travel Credit Cards with 0 Foreign Fees

We always recommend our clients to use their credit cards over debit cards when they are traveling because it’s less risky. You don’t want someone cloning your debit card overseas, especially if it has direct access to your checking account. Cash is always king with small purchases, but most places are now accepting credit cards.

Does it feel like every time you travel overseas you are getting screwed by crazy foreign transaction fees (Some Credit Cards charge up to 5%!!!!) or incredibly bad exchange rates when exchanging money. If you are more into using plastic over cash, it’s worth checking out these credit cards.

Here are the Best Travel Credit Cards with ZERO Foreign Transaction Fees.

1. Chase Sapphire

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is another great travel rewards credit card, and our favorite in Chase’s lineup with a fantastic signup bonus of Earn 40,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months. The points are worth 25% more when you redeem them for travel through Chase’s booking tool, an opportunity offered on no other personal Chase credit card. The card also earns 2 points per $1 on travel and dining and 1 per $1 everywhere else. With the 25% travel boost, your rewards rate could be as high as 2.50% and 1.25%. It has an Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95.

Chase Sapphire allows you to transfer points 1:1 to United MileagePlus, Southwest, British Airways, Korean Air, Ritz-Carlton, Marriott, Hyatt, Priority Club, Amtrak

Check it out!

travel credit cards

2. Bank Americard Travel Rewards Credit Card

This is a great option because it gives you 1.5 points for every $1 you spend and it doesn’t charge an annual fee. Other benefits include:

  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Online-exclusive 10,000 bonus points if you make at least $500 in purchases in the first 90 days – which can be redeemed for a $100 statement credit towards travel purchases
  • Redeem points to pay for flights, hotels, vacation packages, cruises, rental cars, or baggage fees with no restrictions or blackouts
  • Book travel as you normally would and go online or call to redeem your points for a statement credit towards all or part of your travel purchases
  • There is no limit to the total number of points you can earn and points do not expire
  • Now with chip technology for enhanced security and protection when making purchases at chip-enabled terminals. Soon to be the security standard in the U.S. and accepted in more than 130 countries.

travel credit cards

Haunted South America Destinations

Halloween is one of the world’s oldest holidays, but it is predominantly celebrated in the United States and Canada. It isn’t a huge holiday in South America. You may find some Halloween parties on that weekend or night, but the kids aren’t out trick or treating nor is it a huge holiday where you have to stand in line for hours at a Party City!

In the spirit of Halloween, we have found some Haunted South America Destinations that we offer. Maybe on your next trip with us, you can check these places out!

Haunted South America: Bride of Dracula in Peru!

In the town of Pisco, Peru (about a 3.5 hour drive from Lima) lies the remains of Sarah Ellen Roberts. She was an English woman buried there in the early 1900s. She had been seen biting the neck of a child and sucking its blood. Her husband also witnessed her pouring blood over ice cream and eating it!!! As you can imagine, this caused uproar and she was executed as a witch, murderer and vampire in 1913.

The church of Engand refused her a proper burial ground so her merchant husband, John Roberts, scoured the globe to find a proper burial and the only town that accepted was Pisco, Peru.

She supposedly vowed to get revenge 80 years after her death and in 1993, it caused crazy uproar in Pisco. Nothing happened but rumors and superstitions arose again in 2007 after a big earthquake that killed hundreds. At the cemetery, large number of coffins were destroyed except for Sarah’s.

Till this day, inhabitants of Pisco say they have seen a ghostly woman roaming through its streets.

To learn more about this story, click here.

haunted south america - pisco

Haunted South America: Ghosts of Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires

Although there are a lot of famous figures buried in Recoleta with the most famous being Evita Peron, there are two stories that haunt this world-famous cemetery.

David Alleno was an Italian immigrate who dreamed of being buried in the prestigious cemetery he guarded at night. He saved enough money to buy a space and built his own tomb. He even traveled back to his home country to find an artist who could carve his own figure in marble. Legend says after the tomb was finished David took his own life inside his grave, but many reputable sources say he died years after the tomb was constructed. Today there are rumors that he haunts the cemetery at night, and you can here his keys clinging as he walks the narrow streets. David Alleno’s grave is located in the far east part of the cemetery, number 81 on the map you can purchase at the entrance.

Another horrifying story is of Rufina Cambaceres, who was buried alive when she was only 19 years old. She is said to of suffered a cataleptic attack and was buried in 1902. Rufina woke up and began screaming and clawing at her coffin. Security guards heard the screams, but by time they were able to open the coffin she had died of a heart attack. It is said there were scratches on her coffin and face. Her mother was filled with guilt. She built a new coffin made of Carrara marble. It is carved with a rose on top and a girl turned to the side as if watching Rufina. The marble sits behind a glass pane, so if she wakes up she can be rescued. Rufina’s grave is near Evita’s, about three blocks south, number 95 on the map.

If you go to Buenos Aires with us, we include the Recoleta Cemetary as part of the city tour included in your package.

haunted south america - recoleta

Haunted South America: The Legend of the Amazonian Dolphin

Ladies you have been warned!!! Legend has it that during the day the Amazon River Dolphin, known as the “Boto”, goes about its business as a normal dolphin, but once the sun goes down, they shape-shift into handsome young men dressed in all white. They come ashore, strictly for the purpose of seducing the wives and young girls of local villages and impregnate them. Before the sun comes up, these shape-shifting encantados turn back into dolphins.

Legend or not the Pink Dolphin is a beautiful creature and it can only be found in the Amazon Region. If you have never been to the Amazon, we highly recommend going! We offer packages that include Amazon River Cruises as well as Amazon Lodges. Check out our Amazon Adventure Package.

legend of the pink dolphin

Rio Carnival Package FAQ’s

1) Is this a group trip? – YES. Our Rio Carnival package is large group trip with many travelers and local TGW staff members hosting you all week long during Carnival.

2) What age range is this trip for? – All age ranges are welcome for our Rio Carnival package and our group is quite diverse. Most of our travelers are working professionals between 25 and mid 40’s (not a backpacker trip by any means!)  but we do have people of all ages that join in the fun and often about 1/3 of the group is over 45! (we have had clients as young as 18 and as old as 95 party and have a blast with us!) Bottom line, if you want to have fun and experience Rio carnival you will have a great time with us!

3) Is it okay if I travel alone? – Absolutely! You are in good company!! Many clients travel with our Rio Carnival package  to join a group and meet like minded travelers and make friends to hang out with.  If you are traveling alone we can also possibly provide you with a roommate to share a room with and you can split the cost of the room and save quite a bit of money. Click Here to get pricing and mention that you want a roommate.

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4) How structured is this package? Do I have any free time on my own? – Our  Rio Carnival package is loosely structured to provide you with both awesome structured group events (Such as a our Opening Party / Mixer and Carnival parties and a Tour of the Christ Statue) and plenty of free time to relax and explore Rio’s beaches, take in street parties or join optional sightseeing excursions.

sugarloaf mountain carnival rio

5) What if I do not want to join a group?  Can I just purchase a Rio Carnival Package?- If you do not want to join a group we can customize an awesome private independent package for you to experience the best of Carnival without any of the structured group activities and with the full support of our local Rio office which is on call 24/7 to assist you locally in Brazil . We have been in business for over a decade and can definitely provide you with a competitive and high quality package if you do not want a group experience. Click HERE for a private customized Rio Carnival Package “quick quote”.

rio carnival staff

 Local Rio de Janeiro Staff – we are here to help!!

6) What if I do not want parties? – As mentioned above, people of ALL AGES participate in our packages and you will feel welcome at all of our parties/Carnival balls/events. For this reason most people do want them but if you are not interested in parties we can customize an excellent package without parties. Click HERE for a quote and just mention you are not interested in the parties and we can customize an independent package for you.

7) What parties are included in the package? – Our standard Rio Carnival  package includes two Rio Carnival parties as well as a welcome mixer to meet other group members and our local TGW Brazilian staff. These parties are carefully selected by our staff in Rio which as been closely working with the best nightlife and party producers in Rio since 2004 and are a mix or private parties, concerts, private events and carnival balls. Click HERE for more information on Rio Carnival balls.

We try to take our guests to events that are NOT common for tourists to attend and are where LOCALS typically frequent and not tourist traps  . We provide local guides to take you to all parties  that stay all night at all venues to make sure everyone has a great time!

carnival ball best rio

(Our group had a VIP section upstairs overlooking the concert venue)

carrnival ball rio

(Private club party thrown by one of Rio’s best promoters).

8) Are tickets to the Carnival included in the package? –  No. We sell tickets separately or you can switch out the two events for Carnival tickets if you are not interested in the parties.  The reason they are not included in the base package is because people purchase different types of tickets and they vary greatly in pricing. Click HERE for more FAQ’s regarding the Sambadrome and tickets.

sambadrome rio

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9) Do you provide payment plans? – Yes! Our Rio Carnival packages can be paid in monthly installments up to December and in some cases January without any additional interest or cost. The earlier you book the better, as prices tend to go up the longer you wait (especially for the air). Additionally, the best value and most popular hotels tend to book quickly.

10) Do I need a visa to Travel to Brazil? – Citizens of the USA/Canada/Australia and MOST countries (except for EU and certain Latin American countries need BOTH a Visa and passport to travel! You must obtain a VISA prior to travel or you will be denied boarding your flight!! Click HERE to read through info on how to get a visa etc.

11) Can I customize the Trip? –  To some extent. Carnival occurs on set dates (changes every year – RioCarnivalDates.com) and many hotels start billing obligatory Rio Carnival “flat fee” packages beginning either Friday or Saturday. In certain cases we may be able to customize the dates SLIGHTLY. As far as adding dates or destinations we can DEFINITELY do so. Popular “add ons” include the Amazon, Iguazu Falls, Buenos Aires and even Machu Picchu Peru. 

Get a Quick Rio Carnival Quote

If you have any questions not answered  in this post about our Rio Carnival packages contact us! If you would like a quick quote for Rio Carnival, please fill out the form below.

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Carnival in Brazil (Rio vs Salvador) FAQ’S

TGW Travel has been offering Carnival in Brazil Packages to Rio de Janeiro and Salvador since 2004 and is the absolute expert in the industry for group packages all over Brazil for Carnival. Below are some FAQ’S we get from our guests and clients.

Is there more than one Carnival in Brazil ? I thought the carnival was only in Rio de Janeiro??

YES! Contrary to popular belief there are actual quite a few Carnival celebrations all over Brazil. While  Rio de Janeiro’s is the most famous out of all of them, other big ones are in Salvador , Bahia Brazil as well as in Recife, Brazil in the northeast part of the country.

Where is Salvador Brazil? Is Salvador the same as El Salvador?

NO!! The name of the city is Salvador, Bahia located in the northeast of Brazil (about a 2 hour flight from Rio or Sao Paulo) and a city of several million people. Salvador, Bahia Brazil (Bahia is the state and Salvador is the city) is NOT to be confused with the central American country of  “El” Salvador!!  Because it is not that well known outside of Brazil, Carnival in Salvador is a well kept secret and more of a “locals” carnival – thus the reason why you probably hadn’t heard of it!

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mbrazil

Does the Carnival in Salvador happen at the same time as the one in Rio?

YES. Both Carnivals are at the same time, but Carnival in Salvador starts on Thursday and the main events for Carnival in Rio start on Friday. To get the maximum experience, you would need to choose one or the other. 

What is the difference between the parties and celebrations between the two Carnivals? 

Salvador Carnival is more of a street party with locals vs Rio which is a bit more touristy and features more parties/clubs and the famous Samba Parade.  For the Carnival in Salvador,  you celebrate by actually participating in street parties or grandstand clubs called “camarotes”, while in Rio you attend the Carnival parade typically on one night (Sunday or Monday nights are the best nights) while the other nights are spent at private carnival parties. (Here is a useful link for FAQ’s regarding Rio’s carnival).

Are there Carnival street parties in Rio? 

YES. Carnival in Rio is growing and evolving into a street party carnival in recent years and is becoming more and more similar to Carnival in Salvador. The main difference though is the sheer scale. Carnival in Rio has hundreds of smaller (and a handful of large bloco street parties) but they pale in comparison to those of Salvador which  has literally MILLIONS of people and is the world’s largest street party. (below is a pictured of a typical bloco in Rio). 

BLOCO RUA- Carnival in Brazil

Are Carnival in Brazil street parties free? 

In Rio YES, in Salvador they are NOT and actually very expensive. In Salvador you must pre purchase street party shirts called “abadas” (pictured below). Abadas range in price from about $50USD for the “not so good” parties up to over $500 USD for one single party! In Rio, parties are not as organized and commercialized, as Salvador which can bring in big name artists and thus charge a hefty fee for the Carnival parties.

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What are carnival parties like in Salvador?

In Salvador there are two basic types of parties, grandstand parties  “Camarotes” which are basically huge clubs with multiple rooms, dj’s food/drinks and balconies that overlook the street party circuit (pictured below) as well as “Blocos” which are the organized movable street parties .  Camarotes tend to be more relaxed and “club” like while blocos can be quite rowdy as it is a moveable street party of several thousand people. Some people enjoy camarotes more than blocos as blocos can have “bottlenecks” and get very very crowded. They are definitely NOT for people who are claustrophobic or people that are not good with crowds.  This goes for Carnival in Salvador in general-   If you are NOT good with large crowds and being in tight proximity with thousands of people, we highly recommend that you go to Rio Carnival INSTEAD of Salvador!!

 

Can I choose to go to both Carnival in Brazil ? (Rio and Salvador?)

Theoretically it is possible but in practice not doable for most people to attend both Carnivals as they are quite far from each other and hotels also impose mandatory 4 to 5 night minimum stay requirements in either city. If you were to spend less than the “minimum” number of nights in either city, the hotels would bill you the full amount of the mandatory (and often times very expensive special “carnival” rate)  making the prospect of going to both  Carnivals extremely expensive.  If you would like to get the “Best of Both worlds” however, you could actually partake in TGW’s “Ultimate Carnival Package” which lasts 9 nights. The package goes to Carnival in Salvador but is in Rio AFTER Carnival where you have the opportunity of seeing the “ Carnival Winner’s Parade” in Rio.

I need help deciding on which Carnival in Brazil to select? Any suggestions?

YES!  – if you have never been to Brazil before or are on a tight budget we definitely recommend Rio Carnival. If you are more of a seasoned traveler,  and have a larger budget  (at least $3,000USD per person) AND are good with large crowds, then we recommend Salvador. If you have a larger budget and have more than 5 nights for a trip then we recommend doing both! The ULTIMATE package.

We also recommend watching both of our Carnival videos (at the end of this blog) . People typically watch the videos and “self select”. Many people get  extremely excited after watching the Salvador video or very put off , think “no way! This is for me” and opt for Rio instead! Check them both out and decide for yourself!! We also recommend obtaining pricing for Salvador AND Rio Carnivals so you can compare pricing. Carnival in Salvador is NOT cheap and it must be done correctly with quality parties (for safety reasons) so if you do not have a larger budget or simply do not want to spend as much then definitely choose Rio instead!

Below are also some “pros and cons” to help you decide:

Salvador Carnival in Brazil

Pelourinho_ga01   bloco ssa

Pro’s

  • Authentic unique “locals” carnival
  • Wildest carnival in Brazil (by far!)
  • World’s largest street party.
  • UNESCO World Heritage city with great beaches

Cons

  • Quite a bit more expensive than Rio (due to having to purchase parties)
  • Large Crowds / bottlenecks (you must be careful with pick pocketers) (better for more seasoned travelers)
  • Not as scenic /beautiful as Rio de Janeiro. Many people want to see Rio if they have never been to Brazil.
  • Very basic hotel infrastructure versus Rio.

Rio de Janeiro Carnival in Brazil

baile_da_favorita_boadiversao_1824   Pao de Acucar 2

 Pro’s

  • Natural beauty of Rio
  • Definitely “bucket list” type event you must see once!
  • More affordable than Salvador (street parties are free)
  • Less hectic/ more organized than Salvador
  • Better hotel infrastructure.

Cons

  • More touristy than Salvador with international tourists
  • Smaller style street parties versus Salvador

 

Still have questions or need help deciding?  Contact one of our reps or call us at 1-877-456-WILD and we can help you! Need pricing for any of our Carnival in Brazil packages? Fill out the form below and we’ll get back to you ASAP!

Travel Insurance Top 10 Questions

Travel Insurance is a one of the most misunderstood forms of insurance but definitely important to understand and consider buying if you are travelling on a package with us . It is not  something that most people enjoy purchasing, nor a requirement to travel with us,  but we HIGHLY recommend buying it and can come in handy and give you peace of mind! Below are some FAQ’s regarding Travel Insurance.

1) What exactly is Travel Insurance?   Travel insurance is an  insurance policy purchased directly by an insurance company that is intended to cover medical expenses , trip cancellation and mishaps when travelling abroad or within your home country.

2) What does Travel Insurance Cover?   Travel insurance typically covers

* Medical Care and Treatment while Abroad

* Trip Cancellation due to unforeseen Reasons (typically medical , death of a family member,  loss of job, etc)

* Emergency Transportation/Evacuation back to your home country in case of an emergency

* Lost Baggage/Delayed Baggage Benefits

* Coverage for personal belongings while on your trip (in case of theft).

3) Doesn’t my homeowners insurance/medical insurance/credit card cover these things?   Possibly. This depends on your particular coverage. Some homeowner’s insurance policies have exclusions for your goods /items while travelling abroad. The same may apply for your medical coverage.  It is very important to phone your health insurer to make sure that you will be covered abroad in case you were to need medical treatment. Many insurers cover , many don’t. It is better to be safe than sorry!

As far as credit cards, check with your credit card issuer. Some very high end rewards cards may cover things like lost baggage and trip cancellation, but many have low limits or are designed as supplementary to travel insurance policies. We highly recommend checking with your card company to make sure you are covered for trip cancellation and the exact dollar limit to make sure you re adequately covered (especially in the case of World Cup, Rio Carnival or New Year’s packages which are usually 100% non refundable!!)

4) Should I purchase a policy?  If you are purchasing an expensive package and cannot afford to be out cancellation fees, or if you are travelling on a special event package that is non refundable such as New Year’s in Rio, Carnival in Rio, or the World Cup  ABSOLUTELY purchase coverage to protect your investment!! Another reason to purchase coverage is in case you or a loved one is ill or has medical issues and there could be a chance of trip cancellation or need for the medical benefit while travelling.

5) Will I get my money back if I decide to cancel?  –  This depends. If you purchase the standard coverage, you are only covered for trip cancellation due to reasons that are UNFORESEEN AND UNEXPECTED.  Examples include such things as a death of a loved one or a travel companions’ family member, a medical emergency preventing you or your travel companion from travelling, a job layoff , a natural disaster (we all remember the infamous Icelandic Volcano a few years ago!) , a terrorist event occurring in your home city or destination city, etc.  There is also a “cancel for any reason” upgrade for most of the travel insurance products, but please be aware that they can range up to 20% of the trip cost!

6) How do I get paid if I purchased the coverage and need to cancel or to pay for medical treatment? Typically, for trip cancellation, you must notify us in writing that you are cancelling, and the specific reason. You then call the travel insurance company and file a claim for any amounts TGW is unable to recover. If the reason for cancellation is a “covered reason” and you fill out the paperwork correctly and provide documentation, you should receive a check promptly from the insurance company. Medical treatment typically is paid by you via cash/credit directly to the health care provider and reimbursed after filling out paperwork upon return to your country of origin.

7) What are some real life examples of TGW guests using the insurance?  In the past few years, we have had guests receive coverage and payment for many reasons. Some examples have included

* A couple from New York cancelling an expensive non refundable trip for New Year’s in Rio de Janeiro due their home being severely damaged by hurricane Sandy

* A young man receiving a check from the insurance company to reimburse him for buying toiletries and a change of clothes when his bag was delayed by 1 day in Mykonos , Greece.

* A young man receiving reimbursement for medical bills related to a broken ankle while on a trip with us.

* A guest of ours receiving reimbursement for a hotel night, and change of airfare due to a missed connection due to a thunderstorm delaying a connection into Miami.

8) When should I purchase the coverage?  You typically must purchase it within 10 days to 14 days  of initial trip booking in order to be fully covered by the insurance company without any exclusions.

9) How do I purchase the coverage?  To purchase the coverage, please click HERE. Enter your trip cost, state of residency, age, etc on the right hand side of the webpage under “get a quote”. Note that travel insurance is always priced separately from any pacakge and is not required but HIGHLY recommended

10 ) Must I be a US or Canadian citizen or resident to purchase the coverage?  . If you are NOT  USA/Canadian passport holder, you may click HERE for an alternate company that can sell you coverage.

We encourage all guests with specific coverage questions or situations to contact the insurance company prior to purchasing their policy and carefully reading the “fine print”.  You may also enjoy this video here that answers some questions by fellow TGW fan , Peter Greenberg  . If you have any further questions regarding coverage, or insurance, please contact your rep.

 

Thunderbird Business School Rugby Trip to Croatia & Montenegro

TGW Travel Group not only offers what is currently on our website, but with our contacts all over the world, we can pretty much customize whatever you want. We can provide packages for individuals and big groups of any age! At the end of August/beginning of September this year, we planned a great trip for the Thunderbird Business School Rugby Football Alumni Club aka the “Old Boys” to Croatia & Montenegro. We not only planned the entire trip for from airfare , hotels & photographers as well as connected the group with local rugby clubs where two matches were arranged in Split, Croatia and Budva, Montenegro. The group was comprised of 26 people being the players, family and friends. The highlights of the trip included:

  • 3 Night Stay in Split, Croatia
  • 3 Night Stay in Budva, Montenegro
  • 1 Night Stay in Dubrovnik
  • City Tours of Split, Kotor, & Dubrovnik
  • Full Day Excursion to Island of Hvar
  • Private Bus Transportation Between Cities & to Rugby Matches
  • Bi-Lingual Local Guide Accompanying the Group

Although the Rugby Club lost both matches (15-0 to a Croatian Club in Split & 10-0 to an Italian Club in Budva), the team played very well despite their opponents having former national players on their roster. This is not the first time TGW plans a trip for the Rugby Club, a couple of years ago we planned their Rugby trip to Iceland.

So what did Tour Organizer and the President of the Thunderbird Rugby Alumni Asscociation, Chuck Hamilton, have to say about the trip: “TGW did it again. Our rugby tour exceeded expectations. It was the right balance of structured and free time, with interesting sites along the entire route. Our tour guide, Nickola, fit in with the group and provided excellent service throughout.”

Both Croatia & Iceland will be two of TGW’s new destinations so look out for travel package information in the coming months! If you want to organize a specific trip for a group or an individual trip to these destinations or others, fill out our contact request form with all of your specifications and we’ll be happy to provide you with a Trip of a Lifetime! 

Rio de Janeiro Carnival Top 10 FAQ’s

We have been offering Carnival in Brazil since 2004 and our clients always ask us great questions. Here is a Rio de Janeiro Carnival top 10 list of frequently asked questions. 

1)      When is the Carnival ? –  Rio de Janeiro Carnival , Brazil happens every year the week before Lent. (At the same time as “Mardi Gras” in the USA. Typically it occurs in February of every year but can start at early as late January or as late as early March. Check out the Rio Carnival Dates for every year. 

2)      How do people in Rio celebrate Carnival? –Rio de Janeiro Carnival is celebrated by locals by attending street parties (called “blocos” in Portuguese) as well as at Carnival parties/“Bailes” ( Carnival balls) as well as special parties , concerts , and of course, at the Sambadrome. The Sambadrome  is where the actual Carnival parade is held with all of the fancy floats and amazing costumes that come to most people’s mind when thinking of Carnival.

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3)      Do I have to purchase tickets for the Rio de Janeiro Carnival?  – Yes you do. The Carnival in essence is the famous parade and competition held at what is known as the Sambadrome (Sambodromo in Portuguese). It is a long street with bleachers and VIP boxes on each side of the street where the Samba Schools, which are groups of thousands of people in local and folkloric costumes and floats, compete  nightly during the Carnival. The Sambadrome is closed off and a private venue so you must purchase tickets to watch the show.

RIO CARNIVAL TICKETS 2015

 

4)      When should I go to the Sambadrome? –There is a parade at the Sambadrome on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday nights at the Sambadrome. The first two nights feature samba schools and floats that are not top tier.  It is thus recommended to go the samba parade on either Sunday or Monday as these are the actual schools that compete for the title each Carnival.  Since there are too many samba schools to compete all in one night, they are divided between Sunday and Monday nights.  Unless you are wanting to see a particular samba school on one of the two nights, either night (Sunday or Monday) is generally very similar.

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5)      Should I go to the Samba parade every night?  – Most of our guests (95%) will be  more than satisfied by only going once to the Samba parade. Although we have had cases of people going more than one night, the overwhelming majority of our guests only go once , and are more than satisfied, by going one time to the Samba parade as it can get repetitive.

carnival

6)      What do you do on the other nights/days? – TGW takes its guests to exclusive  parties on Friday and Saturday , as well as Tuesday of Carnival (the nights OTHER than the Sambadrome) and has awesome options where locals typically frequent. We also recommend checking out the “blocos” which are the free street parties all around Rio de Janeiro during carnival at least once during Carnival. For more FAQ’s on parties and activities click HERE.

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7)      What kinds of Carnival tickets are available? – The Sambodrome has three different general types of sections. The First are Grandstands (“arquibancadas” in Portuguese). These are basically bleachers. The bleachers are divided into numbered sections (diagram below). The second type of tickets are called Open Boxes (“Frisas” in Portugese). They are basically street level seats where you can see the Carnival parade and floats up close. The final type are the Covered VIP Boxes  (called “Camarotes” ) they are basically the equivalent of a corporate VIP box at a stadium where food and drinks are included as well as security and are quite expensive and exclusive.

bleachers

(Bleachers, Side View)

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Open Boxes (Frisas)

vip boxes

VIP BOXES (on left) (“camarotes”)

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8)      What tickets should I buy? As far as the bleachers are concerned, we recommend sections 3,5, 7 or 9. The higher the number, the closer to the middle of the “Sambadrome” avenue and better the view.  If you are on a tight budget, we recommend Section 3 or 5. If your budget permits a bit more, we recommend 5 or 7. Section 9 is the “tourist” section and the ONLY grandstand section that features actual numbered seats.  If you would like to really splurge, we recommend Covered box seats (starting at about $700 to $1k USD range per person)  or Camarotes if you are on an unlimited budget (over $2k per person). Bottom line – GO to the Carnival and defintely purchase tickets that fit within your budget as it would be a shame to go to Rio and NOT see the Carnival!

Sambadromo_Map

9)      Should I purchase section 9 tickets that are numbered? – This really depends on the client. If you are not good being around a lot of people then YES this is a good idea. The other bleacher sections, 3,5,7 etc are NOT numbered. This means they are on a “first come, first serve” basis and it can be difficult to find a spot at the beginning of the night. These sections also tend to be livelier as more Brazilians frequent these sections and are singing and dancing! If you really have a problem being with a lot of people or don’t want the hassle of finding a seat then we definitely recommend the section 9 seats, otherwise you are probably good with the other sections.

10)   Can I parade inside the Sambadrome in Costume? – You definitely can! This is actually a very unique and amazing experience! To do so, however, you must purchase a formal costume which is made by the local Samba school which is competing.  Costumes are quite expensive as they are hand made/crafted and take months to make. (you also get to keep the actual costume). Costumes for the Carnival  vary in pricing, but typically start at about $500USD per costume to over $1,000USD. If you do not want to spend this sort of money and do want a cool experience, you can dress up and have an amazing time in the informal “blocos” (street parties) that happen every day around Rio during the Carnival.  All TGW guests receive an customized list of the best blocos to attend as there are literally hundred of them and it can be difficult to choose the best ones.

For more information on Carnival or for current pricing , please click here

Cartagena, Colombia Top 10

If you are looking to travel to Cartagena Colombia, here are some things we recommend for your travels. The #1 thing is obviously choosing TGW as your travel company.

Travel to Cartagena Colombia with TGW Travel Group

In the past, Colombia was not a welcoming place for tourists, but for the past decade it has become one of Latin America’s hottest travel destinations. Cartagena is one of it’s safest cities, but it’s always good to have someone there to call for any emergency or question. TGW Travel Group also takes out the planning factor and all you have to really do is show up. Most of your activities are set and if you are looking for nightlife and parties, that is also set as well. So if you are looking to travel to Cartagena, contact TGW Travel Group and they will set you up with a vacation of a lifetime in Cartagena!

Travel to Cartagena for Special Events

If you are looking to travel to Cartagena when there are a lot more things going on, we recommend traveling during it’s high/mid season. The best times to travel are the following:

Miss Colombia National Beauty Pageant – Colombian women are known all over the world for their beauty. Usually on the 2nd week of November every year, the Miss Colombia National Beauty Pageant is held in Cartagena. It’s a week of festivities, parades, parties, etc as the country celebrates the beauty of Colombian women as well as Cartagena’s independence. The country’s jet set travel to Cartagena to enjoy the festivities.  See Miss Colombia Package

New Year’s Eve & first week of January – Cartagena is Colombia’s #1 national tourist destination, so anytime Colombian’s have time off, they travel to the city to party and relax. Cartagena is in the Caribbean so the weather is hot and sunny. There are a ton of parties on New Year’s Eve and TGW has access to the best ones for our clients. The first week of January is also when the EDM festivals are held in Cartagena. Check out New Year’s in Cartagena

Easter Week – As mentioned above, Cartagena is Colombians’ favorite place to vacation. So during Easter Week (Semana Santa) everyone is there taking in the sun and partying in Cartagena’s best nightclubs. See Semana Santa in Cartagena Package

Cartagena’s Top Hotels:

5 Star Option: Hotel Santa Clara is a converted seventeenth-century convent, a grand and historic hotel, easily the top lodging in the Caribbean coast city of Cartagena — which is, in turn, the destination of choice for travelers from elsewhere in Colombia; the young and the beautiful congregate here for a respite from the troubles in Bogota, Cali, Medellin.

4 Star Option: Capilla Del Mar Hotel Cartagena is one of the traditional hotels with greatest recognition in Cartagena. It has been nominated to Portfolio Awards within the category “Service to Client”. It has 202 totally refurbished rooms, three diverse restaurants, swimming pool and a revolving bar on the 21st. floor, the cozy beach in front of the hotel and a complete business infrastructure.

Cartagena’s Top Restaurants:

La Vitrola – Long considered the best and romantic restaurant in the old walled city, La Vitrola is also part Cuban jazz club, part lounge. Old historic photos and ceiling fans give the impression of Old Havana, while the finely executed Franco-Caribbean dishes are mouthwatering, though come with a price. It’s just around the corner from Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s house and the Santa Clara Monastery.

La Casa de Socorro – packs in the local lunch crowd with huge servings of traditional Colombian fare such as cazuela, a seafood stew in a coconut milk base that comes with fried plantains and the ever-present coconut rice. It’s on Calle 25 (aka Calle Larga) in the Getsemani neighborhood near the convention center and definitely worth visiting.

Cartagena’s Top Club

Babar is hands down Cartagena’s best club. Across the street from the Naval Museum, you will find this very hip and colorful spot on the second floor, with three balconies overlooking the night’s activities in Plaza Santa Teresa. It’s upscale and classy, so unlike a lot of clubs in Cartagena, they will not let not just everyone inside.

Cartagena’s Top Place to watch Sunset/PreParty

Café del Mar atop the ancient city walls is the place to be at sunset. Kick back with a mojito while taking in a view of the illuminated city and the Caribbean against a backdrop of gold, mauve and azure. They have DJs there almost every night and is a perfect place for pre-partying and starting the night away.

Top Drinks to try in Cartagena:

Aguardiente – Many countries have their own unique, distinctive liquor (sake, ouzo, deadly Czech moonshine, and so on), and Colombia is no different. The ubiquitous drink of Andean Colombia — the one you’ll see in everyone’s hands at a night out at the bar or club, the one that makes an inevitable appearance at every party — is called aguardiente (literally, fire water). Aguardiente (or guaro, for short, if y’all are on a nickname basis) is a clear, anise-flavored liquid made of processed sugarcane. It’s produced either with sugar or without, and typically has an alcohol content a bit north or south of 25%.

Club Colombia – If you are not too much into the hard stuff and want to try out some good beer, Club Colombia is considered the best. It has 3 different flavors – Dry, Red & Black.

Top Street Food in Cartagena, Colombia

Arepa con Huevo – Arepas con huevo are delicious fried corncakes, filled with an egg. Much better than an egg mcmuffin – they’ll warm you up and keep you going all morning. They are famous in Cartagena.

Colombian Hot Dogs (Perro Caliente) – After a late night of partying, the best and main thing to eat are hot dogs. Colombian hot dogs are known for their crazy toppings. Here, the Colombian is a Nathan’s Famous beef dog wrapped in a strip of bacon, tucked in a soft bun and blanketed with oozing cheese, coleslaw, green salsa, pink mayo-ketchup sauce, pineapple jam and crushed potato chips topped with two hard-cooked quail eggs speared on a toothpick. You can obviously choose your own toppings, but getting it with the works is the best because it soaks up all of that alcohol to lessen the hangover the next morning. You will find Perro Caliente stands outside every club in Cartagena.

Top Tourist Attraction in Cartagena

The coolest tourist attraction in Cartagena is the Castillo de San Felipe.The Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas was without question the most imposing fortress ever built by the Spaniards in their colonies.  Because Cartagena was the Spain’s principle colonial port, ships bring the goods seized by Spanish conquistadors back to Spain generally departed from this area.  In order to defend these ships, and the city itself from pirates and English warships, King Ferdinand commissioned the construction of the Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas.  The castle took over 200 years and 245 tons of gold to build.

Top Excursion in Cartagena

Visiting the Rosario Islands is our top pick for excursions to do in the city. Although Cartagena has a coast line of beaches, they do not have crystal clear water nor powdery white sand. If you are in search of this, we recommend visiting the Rosario Islands. They are only an hour away from Cartagena via boat. You can either choose to spend the entire day at one of the islands or overnight as most of the islands have full service hotels on them.

Top 5 Spending Money Tips for Travelers

So you have booked the perfect vacation with us, and now you are ready for your trip! We’ve put together some Spending Money Tips for Travelers while you are at your destination to help you save as well as not go through unwanted hassles during your vacation. 

1) Call ahead! – Make sure that your bank and credit card companies know that you are travelling and where you are travelling to so your cards will not be blocked. This is very important if you do not travel frequently overseas. If you ARE a frequent traveler, it also won’t hurt to do this if you are travelling during the holidays when banks and credit card companies are especially vigilant due to fraud concerns. Some credit card companies and banks now have features where you can even report where you are travelling right on the bank websites so log in and see!

2) Don’t bother exchanging money – Contrary to popular belief, exchanging money will likely give you the worst possibly rate of exchange! (There are few exceptions to this rule such as currently in Argentina, where dollars are in high demand and will give you a better rate), but for our main destinations in Europe as well as Brazil, Colombia, and Peru, exchanging money at a local bank or at the airport will give you the worst rate possible. Not to mention that it can also be a pain to find a bank that is open during weekends or holidays or there can be long lines at banks. Who wants to spend their vacation waiting in lines? For the BEST possible exchange rate, withdraw local currency from the ATM in your destination.

3) Pay with Credit NOT Debit – These days it is very rare to find restaurants, clubs, hotels or basically any merchant other than a street vendor that doesn’t take credit cards. Since most banks charge you 3% to withdraw money from the ATM, paying with a credit card will basically cost you the same so why bother with cash? It is a good idea to always have SOME local currency (couple hundred dollars worth for emergencies or for such things as taxis , street food, etc.) Another thing to note , VISA and Mastercard are more widely accepted than AMEX so have one of these cards available. We also always recommend paying with CREDIT instead of debit because if your card is compromised it is much better to have a credit card compromised instead of a debit card which can have funds from your checking account frozen or removed and take weeks to get back!

4) Have the right Credit Card – Nothing is more annoying that getting your credit card statement after a vacation and seeing those 3% “foreign transaction fees”. These days, you don’t have to bother paying them as many card issuers have credit cards that do NOT charge overseas transaction fees. (Most major banks offer these types of cards. We will address the best cards to have in another post )Another great feature every Jet Setter has to have on his/her credit card is a “ smart chip”. Smart Chip is a credit card technology where cards are embedded with chips and a cardholder must put in their pin or sign for each transaction to be approved regardless of the card being debit or credit. These are prevalent in Europe and Latin America but not the USA. In the USA the majority of credit cards are just “swipe and sign” cards where merchant basically swipe the magnetic strip on the card, you sign and the transaction is approved. Some banks in the US are now issuing “chip and signature” cards for their clients who travel overseas a lot. Although you won’t have a pin to enter in the mobile card machines, the fact that your card will have a chip, will make it easier to avoid any problems with credit cards. (example of a “chip” of a “chip and pin” card) and a mobile card reader where the cards are commonly inserted. 

Should I Stay at a Hotel or Apartment in South America? – FAQ’S

Deciding between staying at a hotel or an apartment in South America? Here are some FAQ’S to help you decide.

1) Does TGW Travel offer condos/apartments ? –  We sure do!  TGW works with reputable apartment brokers / management companies and apartment owners in Cartagena, Colombia, Rio de Janeiro , as well as in Buenos Aires. We have personally screened all properties and only work with the most reliable brokers who are familiar with the type of properties and service international guests require.

2)  How large are these properties?  We offer properties of all sizes and for every budget. From a simple studio apartments up to amazing luxury penthouses.

3)  How many people can fit in these properties?-   Each property has specific occupancy limits, but a general rule of thumb would one adult per every bedroom (or two in case of a couple).  Most apartments in South America are one or two bedroom units as buildings in the popular tourist areas of Rio (Copacabana and Ipanema) , Cartagena (in Bocagrande/El Laguito) or Buenos Aires (Recoleta/Palermo) are typically older and not very large. We also do have a handful or 3, 4 and sometimes 5 bedroom units available.

4) What are the Pro’s/benefits  of renting an apartment versus staying at a hotel? The general benefits of staying in an apartment in South America are:

* Increased space – With a rental apartment or condo,  you have a kitchen and living room in most apartments and more room to hang out/ relax versus a hotel room which can tend to be small in South America.

* Opportunity to cook meals by having a kitchen * More lenient guest policies/privacy – some hotels in Rio and Cartagena  charge fees for guests or may not allow them to begin with.

* Good value for your money  – if you are staying at least 5 nights or more, an apartment could be a great value for your vacation. (if you are staying less than 5 nights, it may not be the best value as you have to pay for such things as end of rental cleaning, etc and additionally, some owners do not rent out condos for less then 4 or 5 nights).

* Living like a local  – staying in an apartment is a great experience and gives you the opportunity to immerse yourself in the local culture and live like a local.

5)) What are the Con’s/drawbacks  of renting an apartment versus staying at a hotel?

* Facilities – Hotels generally have better facilities versus apartments (pools, gyms/exercise rooms). Additionally , most apartments do not have local phone lines (as outbound calls tend to be very expensive to many owners do not have a local phone number in the apartments). Additionally such things as international cable television and WIFI are more reliable /readily available at hotels versus apartments.

* Service – No matter what kind of apartment you stay in, you will not have the same level of service as if you stay at a hotel. Hotels have restaurants where breakfast is included in your room rate, as well as room service and concierge /front desks to assist you. If you stay at an apartment, remember you must go to the local grocery store to purchase drinking water (as you cannot drink from  the tap.). If you are used to 5 star service and enjoy the service of hotels, you probably should not choose to stay at an apartment.

* Daily Cleaning – Most of the apartments we work with include cleaning at least once every 3 to 4  days.  Only the most luxurious of properties include cleaning /maids that live in the premises and clean daily. (compared to a hotel that is cleaned daily).

* Air Conditioning/Comfort – one  drawback of apartments is that they do not have central air conditioning. Most apartments in Rio de Janeiro do not have central A/C (only in the bedrooms). This is also common in Cartagena, Colombia.

* Maintenance – Apartments , in general are not as well maintained as hotels. If something were to break inside an apartment during your stay, it could take up to 24 to 48 or more hours for a replacement /fix.  This is especially true in “high season” times  such as  weekends,  holidays  when hardware stores may be closed or plumbers/repairmen in shorter supply.

* Safety – While most apartments in Rio, Buenos Aires and Cartagena have doormen, hotels are generally considered safer as they have full time front desk clerks as well as doormen /security.

* Flexibility – If you book an apartment and need to cancel it or would like to switch it, cancellation policies may be less flexible than hotels.

6) What are some other things to know about renting apartments? 

All apartments require refundable security deposits that need to be paid in cash upon check in. Additionally, apartments are generally all inside larger buildings which may have rules and regulations that must be followed. Loud parties, disruptive behavior etc, can result in fines or expulsion from properties if neighbors are upset or building rules are broken! If you have any questions regarding apartment or would like a quote for an apartment for Rio de Janeiro, Cartagena or Buenos Aires, please contact your TGW rep or you may also click HERE for a quote.

Mexican Passport Holders Now Exempt from Brazil Tourist Visas

Effective, 5/16/2013 Brazil has lifted the requirement for tourist visas for all Mexican passport holders for tourist stays up to 180 days (6 months). Brazilian nationals will be also able to visit Mexico for up to 180 days per visit! This is amazing news for anyone who holds a Mexican passport as it greatly facilitates last minute visits to Brazil and comes just in time for Brazil’s high profile World Youth Day, Confederations Cup, World Cup and 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

American Airlines Nonstop from LAX to Brazil

LAX to Brazil non stop on American Airlines

American Airlines has announced a new  NONSTOP flight from Los Angeles (LAX) Airport to Sao Paulo , Brazil (GRU). The new American Airlines route is still pending regulatory approval but will be a much needed DAILY departure all the way to Brazil nonstop for Californians and opens up a quicker /better way to see Brazil and not have to connect in Dallas, JFK or Miami. Although Korean Airlines does currently fly this route a few times a week, it is BIG NEWS for anyone wanting to travel to Brazil from the west coast , as there really hasn’t been a nonstop flight daily from the West Coast to Brazil since the former VARIG flights  that ended in 2006.   American Airlines flights , if approved will commence in late November of 2013! This route is a great expansion of the airlines Latin American footprint, and extended network to Brazil.

Argentina Entry Requirements and Reciprocity Fee, How to pay and FAQ’s

Disclosure : Please note that this post is for general information purposes only and each traveler is encouraged to obtain information directly from his/her closest Argentine consulate  for up to the minute travel information and requirements as they frequently change!

Is a visa required to enter Argentina ?   Currently  Americans, Canadians, Australians do NOT require a visa to enter Argentina but Canadians Americans and Australians formerly needed  to prepay  online what is known as a “reciprocity fee” to enter the country.    E.U. Citizens, as well as citizens from Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, and Japan do NOT require a visa while citizens of certain countries such as India and U.A.E  DO require a visa prior to travel. For current entry requirements for other countries not listed, please refer to your closest consulate of Argentina for information. You may also click HERE for a list of countries with  entry requirements per country for Argentina.

 

What is a “Reciprocity Fee” ?   The Argentina Reciprocity Fee also known as a “tourism tax” is a tax formerly charged to American,  Canadian and Australian citizens to enter Argentina.

When do I pay the Reciprocity Fee, upon arrival? All passengers must PREPAY the fee online and CANNOT pay the fee upon arrival as it was done up to recently.

How much is the Argentina Reciprocity Fee?  The Argentine reciprocity fee is currently…..

* For Americans –  WAIVED as of March 2016

* For Australians – Waived as of July 2017

* For Canadians – *** Effective January 1st, 2018, Canadians  no longer need to pay the Reciprocity Fee****

How do I pay the fee online?  click HERE for a link to the website  where you can pay the Argentine reciprocity fee online.

ARGENTINA RECIPROCITY

Below are the steps to follow in order to complete this procedure:

1) Enter the web site Provincia Pagos and register to start the process.
2) Complete the form with the corresponding personal and credit card information.
3) Print the payment receipt.
4) On arrival in Argentina, this printed receipt must be presented at Immigration Control. The receipt will be scanned by the Immigration officials, the information will be checked, and the traveler’s entry to the country registered.

Canadians/Australians  click HERE for a downloadable PDF document showing these steps and screenshots on how to do this.

 If I am visiting Argentina but only for Iguazu Falls/Puerto Iguazu by Land, do I have to pay the fee? Before 2013 the reciprocity fee was only being charged at the EZE (Ezeiza Buenos Aires International) and AEP (Aeroparque domestic BA) airports. Since 2013 and as of 2017 tt is now being charged for ANY CROSSING INTO ARGENTINA EVEN A SHORT TOUR OF THE FALLS!  Since this fee has to be PREPAID ONLINE, please plan accordingly! If you do not wish to pay the fee and are going to be in the Falls area, we can also arrange for a tour of only the Brazilian side of the falls.

igu-half-day-brazilian-side-4-630x280

 

If you have any further questions or concerns regarding entry into Argentina or the reciprocity fee, please contact your closest consulate of Argentina or ask your TGW rep for more information!

 

Brazil Visa FAQ’s and How to Get a Brazil Visa

 FAQ’s regarding Visas often asked by our Clients…

Disclosure : Please note that this post is for general information purposes only and each traveler is encouraged to obtain information directly from his/her closest Brazil consulate  for up to the minute travel information and requirements as they frequently change!

What is a Visa? –  A Visa is a stamp on your passport on one of the back pages from a foreign country giving you the permission to enter and travel to that country.  (see picture below of what a visa looks like on a page from your passport).

VISA BRAZIL PICTURES

Do I need a visa to travel to Brazil if I already have a passport ? –   YES.  A visa is a stamp on one of the back pages of your actual passport from the Brazilian government giving you permission to enter Brazil and has nothing to do with the passport itself.

What countries require a Brazil visa? –  As a general rule, if your country requires Brazilians to get a visa to enter then Brazil will also require one for you to enter Brazil. (they call this “reciprocity” rule).

If you are an American, Canadian or  Australian citizen you DO NEED a visa for Brazil. If you are an E.U. citizen or South African, Colombian, Peruvian, Mexican, Argentinian  you do NOT need a visa for travel to Brazil. If you are a citizen of another country besides these, click  HERE to see a list (from the Consulate of Brazil’s ) website indicating what countries require a visa and which are exempt. (be sure to carefully read the first page and number codes to understand the site).

Can I obtain my visa at the airport or when I get to Brazil? –  If you require a visa, you must obtain the visa PRIOR to departure! You MAY NOT obtain a visa at the airport and will in fact be DENIED BOARDING your flight to Brazil if you don’t have the visa prior to your flight! (airlines are find heavily if they accept passengers to travel that don’t have visas and will check for your visa when you check into your flight!!) Although some countries do issue visas “upon arrival” , Brazil currently does NOT do this and you MUST OBTAIN THE VISA BEFOREHAND!!

Where/how do I  obtain my Brazil visa? –  If you are an American, Canadian, Japanese or Australian citizen, you can now apply for a visa ELECTRONICALLY ONLINE! (This was very recently implemented in late 2017/early 2018!) If you hold a passport from another country that does require a visa and it not one of the four mentioned above you must either process your visa directly at the closest consulate of Brazil to where you live OR through a third party visa processing company. 

Click HERE for a link to the official Brazil E Visa processing company VFS Global.  This company is the official processor of electronic visas for the Brazilian government for only Canadians/ Japanese/Australians and Americans. 

How Long is the visa good for? – The new Brazil Electronic Visa is valid for for 2 years and the length of stay for the visitor’s visa will be 90 days per year.

What is the cost of the Brazil E-Visa? – The eVisa currently costs: $40USD + processing fee of $4.24 for a total of $44.24. This is much cheaper than a traditional tourist visa that used to cost$160USD for 10 years!

How long does it take to process a visa? –  If you fill everything correctly on the visa site it will take up to five business days. We recommend obtaining the visa with as much lead time as possible in case of any errors in your application in which case you would have to re-submit the application. 

Can I get a traditional Brazil Visa for 10 years at the consualte? – Yes! If you prefer to get a 10 year visa, or if you are not a holder of an American/Canadian/Japanese/Australian passport you can still get a “traditional” visa at your closest consulate of Brazil or a visa processing company. Below are three recommended visa processing companies . (note that the 10 year visa is more complicated and expensive to obtain so we only recommend doing this if you do not fall in to the categories above or want a longer visa or if you need a special visa for work purposes and NOT tourism).

USA residents click HERE

Canadian residents click HERE

Australian  residents HERE

Can I process my visa at a local post office? – NO. The only entity that can issue a Brazilian Visa is the Brazilian government via a Consulate or the visa processing website mentioned above.

Do I have to turn in/send in my actual passport for a Visa? – NO. With the new Brazil E-Visas you do NOT have to turn in your passport to the consulate anymore if you are a USA/Canada/Japan/Australian citizen.  If you hold a passport from another country that DOES require a visa from Brazil other than the four mentioned above you WOULD have to go the old fashioned route and turn in your passport with the closest consulate or send it to the visa processing company.

Can I be denied a Visa?  – It is quite rare but you CAN be denied a visa. Typically you can be denied a visa if you have a felony record.  In nearly 15 years of business,  TGW has not had anyone (to our knowledge) be denied a visa from the USA/Canada or Australia . Typically as long as your fill out the forms correctly online (or at the consualte) you will be granted a tourist visa for Brazil. If you do NOT fill out the forms correctly your visa will typically fall into an “incomplete” or “pending documentation” status but not be actually denied.

Can I use my Visa if my passport is expired?  – If you were already  issued a Brazilian Visa on a passport and the passport has subsequently expired, you can carry the old passport with the unexpired Brazilian visa along with your new passport without a problem.

Do I need any other documentation to enter Brazil?  – Typically not. Please check your Consulate of Brazil for details. You may also want to check your own country’s regulations when you re-enter (for example, some countries may require a yellow fever certificate to re-enter AFTER having visited Brazil such as South Africa and Colombia.)   

Do I need any vaccinations to enter Brazil?  – At the moment you do NOT REQUIRE vaccinations to physically enter and travel to Brazil. However we recommend that you check with your family doctor as well as with your government (such as the CDC, etc) for RECOMMENDATIONS for vaccinations.

If I am a dual citizen of a country that doesn’t need a visa but a US /Canadian citizen can I use my 2nd passport to avoid getting a visa?  –  Generally yes! You would check into your flight with your passport from the country that does NOT require a visa for Brazil , arrive in Brazil with that passport , but return to your home country with your home country passport or resident card.

Can TGW process my visa for me?   TGW Travel Group is NOT a visa processing company so it does not have the ability to do so.

 

Do you have any tips regarding Visa processing –  YES!

  1. Process your visa in a timely manner. If you are eligible for a Brazil E-Visa even if the website indicates a five day turnaround time, this does NOT account for any errors. For this reason we recommend at LEAST ONE MONTH prior!
  2. When filling out the visa application forms online, make sure to follow ALL INSTRUCTIONS CAREFULLY.  Visas can be denied or delayed for failure to complete the forms correctly or not having the correct size of your picture (JPEG) etc.. The paperwork and forms are not difficult but you need to follow EXACT INSTRUCTIONS!
  3. If applying in person, make sure to make an appointment (where applicable) and read your local Brazilian  consulate’s website for hours of operation , holidays, and exact procedures as each consulate has specific and different requirements  processing times and procedures.
  4. Arrive early to your appointment and take something to read.
  5. Be courteous and patient with all consulate staff.
  6. Make sure your passports do not expire within 6 months of arrival in Brazil . Additionally you will need two blank pages in the back of your passport for the Visa. (if you do not have those you will need to renew your passport).

 

If you have any further questions about visas or travel documentation, please contact your TGW rep!

 

Best Latin American Hang Over Cures from TGW Destinations

Best Latin American Hang Over Cures

If you are traveling with us in the future to the following TGW Destinations (Colombia, Brazil, Argentina or Peru), we recommend the following remedies in each destination to help you get back on your feet after a wild night of partying with us!!! And if you are traveling with Tours Gone Wild, you will most likely need these!!! Check out our Latin American Hangover Cures below. 🙂

  1. Sancocho in Colombia: Aguardiente-imbibing Colombians know a thing or two about warding off a guayabo before it even starts. That’s why sancocho is often served near the end of a party in cities like Barranquilla and Medellín. Made with chicken, plantain, yuca, potato, corn, onion, garlic, cilantro and fresh limejuice, the one-pot stew makes a great chaser after a firewater-fueled fiesta.sancocho
  2. Moqueca in Brazil: Copious caipirinhas can take their toll, especially after a night of samba-dancing. So when Carnival catches up with Brazilians, they usually dig into a hearty moqueca de peixe. The fish stew, which comes from Bahia, is made with palm oil and coconut milk and served in a clay pot for added effect.
    moqueca
  3. “Leche de Tigre” in Peru: Don’t let the name of this concoction scare you away. Tiger’s Milk is prepared with the juices that marinate the fish for a ceviche, plus a shot of pisco. The actual recipe also includes lime, garlic, aji amarillo paste, cilantro, salt and pepper. It’s so potent that many Limeños call it Peruvian Viagra.
    lechetigre
  4. Fernet in Argentina: A bitter beverage beloved in Argentina as a hangover cure is slowly and steadily gaining in popularity in the U.S., and with good reason. In Argentina, fernet is the liquor for all occasions. Grandparents swear by the herbal libation; the young heading out into the night mix fernet with cola and then order it en masse at bars and clubs; and no one would dare organize a barbecue, which are called asados in Argentina and are very regular affairs with friends or families, without fernet. The combination of herbs, whatever they all are, settles the stomach and aids digestion. Originally, people drank the liquor to cleanse the system, sipping it following dinner.
    fernet

It’s Colombia, NOT Columbia

Colombia is one of TGW’s featured destinations. We offer packages to Cartagena, Colombia year-round as well as Special Event/Group Trips to the National Beauty Pageant (Miss Colombia) in November, Semana Santa (Easter Week), and New Year’s Eve. We can also customize packages to other parts of Colombia like Bogota, Medellin, Santa Marta, San Andres, and any other Colombian destination.

Below is a great article about the new social media campaign to let everyone know that it’s COLOMBIA NOT COLUMBIA! From CNN Article: http://www.cnn.com/2013/02/20/world/americas/colombia-not-columbia (CNN) — It’s a common error, but one that leaves those with an affinity for Latin America shaking their heads: The Andean country known for its coffee and flower exports is Colombia, not Columbia. Now, a group of marketing-savvy Colombians, spurred by the government’s public relations arm, have launched a social media campaign to set the record straight. Colombia is where famed artist Fernando Botero hails from; Columbia is a university in New York. The coffee you drank this morning might be from Colombia; Your outerwear might have been made by Columbia. And so on and so on. The campaign is picking up steam ahead of its official unveiling on Wednesday evening during Social Media Week in New York. A Facebook page for the campaign has been gaining upwards of 1,000 followers a day with a flurry of humorous and creative photos bringing attention to the Colombia/Columbia confusion. The campaign is lighthearted, but has a serious mission behind it — to use the spelling lesson as a door for people to reacquaint themselves with modern Colombia. Organizers hope the effort eventually will parlay into real economic opportunities, be it through tourism or foreign investment. “People outside of Colombia, especially in the United States, have a wrong impression of what Colombia is,” said Carlos Pardo, a vice president of Colombia-based Zemoga, a digital services company with many U.S. clients. The South American country’s image often is associated with drug lords such as Pablo Escobar and guerrilla violence, and many foreigners remain unaware of the changes that have taken place, Pardo said. Even positive things Colombia is known for — such as the coffee and flowers mentioned earlier — do not paint a complete picture, he said. “Today, Colombia is much more than coffee and Pablo Escobar. More than Shakira even,” Pardo said. When Zemoga joined forces with public relations firm Compass Porter Novelli to work on a presentation for Social Media Week, the country’s own official brand, Marca Pais, asked them to use the platform to promote Colombia. They agreed, and the “It’s Colombia, not Columbia” campaign was born. It is the first of many pro-Colombia messages that the group will put out. The goal is to have fun with it and create an entry point for foreigners to explore their country, Pardo said. 

Running of the Bulls Highlight – El Chupinazo

TGW Travel Group offers packages to one of the the wildest parties in the world – The Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain (July 5 – 15).

Click here (Book ASAP, hotels are starting to sell out!) => Running of the Bulls Travel Package

The San Fermin festival kicks off on July 6th with the Chupinazo, the festival’s opening ceremony. Although it is a bit more expensive to stay in Pamplona for the first dates of the festival (July 6 – 8), we STRONGLY recommend attending the opening ceremony.

It is the wildest party during the Running of the Bulls and takes place at NOON on July 6th. It takes place in the Plaza del Castillo. Every inch of the square is gradually filled by a massive crowd that begins to trickle in early in the morning and continues to gather force until noon, when the palpable energy and excitement reaches its peak. At that point, the mayor of Pamplona gives a rousing speech from the balcony of the Town Hall to the enthusiastic crowd below and fires a rocket to officially start the festival.

Thousands of spectators then raise traditional red bandanas (pañuelicos) above their heads, which are worn by almost everyone all week long and are sold on nearly every street corner. Madness ensues as merrymakers pop open bottles of champagne and wine, spraying their neighbors with foam, pouring wine on their heads, and just getting downright messy. The cheering, singing, and general melee thus sets the tone for the week’s festivities. Check out some of these videos from the Chupinazo to see what to expect!

Carnival in Salvador, Bahia – Top Performances

TGW has been offering trips to Carnival in Salvador Bahia since 2004. Although Rio de Janeiro Carnival is known throughout the world as Brazil’s best Carnival, Carnival in Salvador is regarded by Brazilians as the wildest.

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the Salvador Carnival Bahia is the largest street party in the world. See our top performances from Carnival in Salvador, below. Check out our Carnival in Salvador Video to see what to expect:

Carnival in Salvador is more about partying on the street. It has 3 different Carnival circuits, with the most popular being the Barra-Ondina Circuit. The parties are divided amongst blocos and camarotes. Camarotes are the VIP Parties during Carnival. They are elevated bandstands, where you can party and watch the Blocos/Trios passing by at eye level. The camarotes are equipped with great music, dance floors, dj’s, food, bar, and of course beautiful Brazilian singles!!!!

The Blocos are formed by a giant sound car that carry the bands called Trio Eletrico and a support car with bathrooms, drinks and medical assistance. The Bloco is surrounded by a rope guarded by almost 1000 security members specially oriented to protect people inside (associate) and keep non authorized people from getting in. Each Bloco consists of more than 3000 people that are easily identified by their uniform called Abada (also used for Camarotes). The singers and the band sing along the Avenues of Salvador with a very exciting crowd, dancing and having fun. The parade route is about 4 Kilometers. Check out Salvador Carnival Photo Gallery to see pictures from the parties.

If you are looking to go to the wildest Carnival in the world, we recommend you book TGW’s Carnival in Salvador  Bahia Travel Package. It’s a no hassle way to experience Carnival and TGW has on-the-ground staff to make sure you have a vacation of a lifetime!

Check out the top songs/moments from Carnival in Salvador below to know what to expect.

1. U2 Surprise Guests – You never know what to expect in Carnival in Salvador. 6 years ago U2 were special guests to Brazilian artist Gilberto Gil. They were partying it up and did an impromptu song of “No Woman, No Cry”. This was by far one of the coolest Carnival experiences we’ve ever had.

2. Chiclete com Banana – Chiclete com Banana is the #1 Axe Band and one of the most popular bands for Carnival in Salvador Bahia. Our packages include their camarote, where they sometimes make special appearances.

3. Ivette Sangalo – Ivette is the queen of Carnival in Salvador Bahia. She’s the best female performer and we’ll definitely see her perform when we are at one of our camarotes.

4. EDM – Electronic Dance Music has hit the world by storm and it’s no different for Carnival in Salvador Bahia. DJs Kaskade, Morillo, Fat Boy Slim, Pete Tong & David Guetta among others have performed at Carnival in Salvador.

5. Pitbull – Mr. Worldwide himself was in Carnival in Salvador 2012. The popularity of Carnival in Salvador is growing like crazy and seeing big-time US performers making it part of their yearly performances.

Sertanejo Music – Hitting Brazil & The World by Storm!

TGW Travel Group (Toursgonewild.com) prides itself on showing its clients the hottest nightlife in Rio de Janeiro (among other destinations). If you are traveling all the way to Brazil, you might as well go to local spots to party with Brazilians. Although Electronic Dance Music & Hip Hop are still huge in Brazil, Sertanejo is sweeping the clubs in Brazil by storm. The hottest clubs in Rio de Janeiro will have one night out of the week dedicated to Sertanejo with live bands and you will also hear it once in a while throughout the night on regular nights. Música sertaneja  or Sertanejo is a music style that had its origins in the countryside of Brazil in the 1920s.It is kind of the country music in the US. It is the most popular music style in Brazil, being particularly more popular throughout the interior of Brazil. Sub-genres include Root Sertanejo, Romantic Sertanejo and Sertanejo Universitário. Sertanejo songs have been, from the 1990s on, the most played music genre on Brazilian radio, constantly topping the Brazilian music charts. Additionally, from 2000 to 2003 and since 2009, música sertaneja albums have been granted a specific category at the Latin Grammy Awards.

You may be asking yourself, If I go to Brazil, I have to listen to Country Music????!!?!?? To be honest, Sertanejo is very cool because the women love it (so you can have them teach you how to dance it) and women love to dance (girls you will also find willing Brazilians to teach you as well). You also have listened to it before and never knew what it was. I’m sure you have even sang Sertanejo music. Have you ever heard the song “Ai se eu te pego!” by Michel Telo??? That’s Sertanejo and it has hit the world. Even MR. WORLDWIDE, PITBULL, has a mix with it. Below are TGW’s Top 5 Lists of Sertanejo songs in Brazil. Check them out and next time you are in Brazil, you’ll impress the locals with your Sertanejo Skills!!! If you are looking to travel to Rio de Janeiro, contact us via phone (1-877-456-WILD) or send us an email leads(at)toursgonewild.com.

TGW’s Sertanejo Top 3 List:

  1. “Ai se eu te pego!”, Artist: Michel Telo
  2. Balada Boa, Artist: Gustavo Lima
  3. Camaro Amarelo, Artist: Munhoz & Mariano

 

Cartagena, Colombia – Much More than a Playground for the Secret Service

Last month Cartagena, Colombia was all over the tabloids. It wasn’t about the city’s beauty or history, but about what transpired before the Summit of the Americas – Twelve Secret Service & Military personnel were caught paying for prostitutes. The scandal was all over the news and trumped anything positive that came from this huge event, which was supposed to highlight Cuba, the Drug War and the United State’s economic/trade involvement with Latin America. This event was also a huge stepping stone for Colombia, which in years past was considered one of the most dangerous countries to visit in the world. It was time to showcase the country’s #1 tourist destination (Cartagena) and show the world that Colombia can host an event of this magnitude in which 33 Heads of States were in attendance. I’ve traveled all over the world and Cartagena is by far one of the safest cities I’ve been to. Colombia is one of the hottest tourist destinations in South America (1.5 million foreign visitors a year) and Colombia’s Tourism Board’s marketing campaign exudes that in its slogan – “Colombia – The only Risk is wanting to stay”. The media is what it is and the juiciest and most scandalous story is going to triumph over anything else. The world learned about how some bone-head secret service agents could not control themselves instead of the real story – Colombia is becoming a key player in South America (just signed a Free Trade Agreement with US) and Cartagena, Colombia is becoming one of the most up and coming tourism destinations by hosting such a high-caliber event.

Cartagena has a highly developed tourist infrastructure, and it’s just a short hop from the U.S. — only a 2.5 hour flight from Miami. The city sits on the Caribbean coast and is a wonderfully picturesque, walled-in fishing village of pastel-painted buildings, fine cathedrals, and plenty of Spanish colonial architecture and 17th-century forts that allow you to steep yourself in history. In 1984, it was named an UNESCO World Heritage Site and was recently named by Frommers as one of 9 destinations to visit in the world.

If you are looking to travel to Cartagena, I suggest going during its high season if you are looking to party – The second week of November for the Colombian National Beauty Pageant (Check out the Tours Gone Wild Trip during this time), New Year’s in Cartagena & Holy Week (Semana Santa). If you are looking to just relax, Cartagena is perfect any time of the year. TGW also offers travel packages to Cartagena year-round.

OurTop Picks:

  • Hotels: Sofitel Santa Clara (5-star), Capilla del Mar Hotel (4-star)
  • Restaurants*: La Vitrola, Quebracho, La Casa de Socorro, El Santisimo, Club de Pesca *Foodies will go crazy here!!! Fast Food: Kokoriko, El Corral
  • Best Club: Babar
  • Drink: Aguardiente
  • Excursions: Head to Islas del Rosario
  • Trips: Check out Tours Gone Wild Trip during National Beauty Pageant  – Miss Colombia Cartagena Travel Package