Cartagena Travel Guide

If you’ve been thinking about traveling to Colombia or South America for that matter, you’ve probably come across the city of Cartagena in your searches. At the moment, it’s one of the hottest destinations to travel to in South America. TGW has been offering Cartagena as one of its main destinations since 2006. We provide customized Packages to Cartagena year-round as well as for Special Events like Cartagena’s Independence in November, the National Beauty Pageant, Easter Week (Semana Santa) & New Year’s Eve. Our staff in Cartagena as well as one of the founders of TGW (that’s also Colombian) assisted in putting together this comprehensive Cartagena Travel Guide. 

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The Cartagena Travel guide touches on the following topics:

1. Dress Code, Money Matters, Weather, etc.

2. Cartagena Don’ts – The #1 thing about traveling is using common sense, so whatever you wouldn’t do back home, we recommend also not doing it on your trip. 

3. Cartagena Do’s – Besides booking your package with TGW Travel Group, we recommend walking around the walled city, visiting San Felipe Castle, Savoring the Cartagena Cuisine (recommended restaurants included), and more recommendations are in the Cartagena Travel Guide!

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Rio Carnival Street Parties Guide

The Rio Carnival Street Parties have been getting more and more popular every year. There will be close to 500 registered Rio Carnival Street Parties going on during Rio Carnival. It’s definitely a good thing to know which are the best ones to join as well as get some tips on what to expect. Our Rio Carnival Street Party Survival Guide Includes:

  • Our Top Must-See Rio Carnival Street Parties (Blocos)
  • A list of tips to Survive these crazy parties

If you have never been to Carnival in Brazil, it’s always good to either go with a travel company or have a Brazilian friend showing you the ropes. Thousands of people on the street at one time is very chaotic especially if you do not know where you are going or what’s going on. It’s also good to know which parties to go to as well as have everything planned for you.

The Rio Carnival Street Parties are only a small portion of Rio Carnival. We have put together a very cool guide with incredible tips and recommendations to have fun during the Rio Carnival Street Parties.

If you are still in the process of making your Rio de Janeiro Carnival Travel Plans,  Check out our Carnival in Rio Travel Package.

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Samba Parade Rio Carnival Guide

If you are traveling to Rio de Janeiro for Carnival, the Rio Carnival Samba Parade is a CAN’T MISS! It takes place from Friday until Monday of Carnival. On the Friday & Saturday of Carnival week, Rio’s Sambadrome hosts the Access Group Samba Schools. These are minor Samba Schools and the winner of this competition gets invited to the Main Competition the following year.  Although the tickets are less expensive to assist the Rio Carnival Samba Parade during these days, we recommend attending the Main Competition (Special Group) on Sunday & Monday. If you are traveling all the way to Rio to attend Carnival, you might as well experience the Big Time Samba Schools vs. the Smaller Ones. The performances are much better and the energy in the Sambadrome is totally different. It’s kind of like attending a Pre-Season Game vs. the Playoffs or Superbowl and/or the Major Leagues vs. the Minor Leagues.

Because of our recommendations to attend the Main Competition (Special Group), this guide will only concentrate on the Samba Schools competing on the Sunday & Monday of “The Greatest Show on Earth”. The Rio Carnival Samba Schools are kind of like Football Clubs that represent different neighborhoods in Rio de Janeiro. They have a intense, devoted following and prepare all year with the main goal of competing and winning the Rio de Janeiro Carnival Parade. Throughout the year the samba schools have various events, most important of which are rehearsals for the main event which start taking place a couple of months before Carnival. Each of the main Samba Schools spend months each year designing the theme, holding a competition for the song, building the floats, creating costumes and rehearsing. It’s an incredible production which includes over 3000 performers!

For Rio Carnival 2019, the samba schools and times are below:

Parade starts Sunday, March 03 Monday, March 04
21:15 Império Serrano São Clemente
22:20 – 22:30 Viradouro Vila Isabel
23:25 – 23:45 Grande Rio Portela
00:30 – 01:00 Salgueiro União da Ilha
01:35 – 02:15 Beija-Flor Paraíso do Tuiuti
02:40 – 03:30 Imperatriz Mangueira
03:45 – 04:45 Unidos da Tijuca Mocidade

Before attending the Rio Carnival Samba Parade, it’s a great idea to learn a little bit more about each Samba School. We have put together a great guide for each day of the Rio Carnival Samba Parade. The guide consists of a brief description of each samba school from the past carnival. If you are looking to travel another year, see all Rio Carnival Dates.

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Best Running of the Bulls Dates

The San Fermin Festival is held every year between July 6 and 14. The festival has become internationally known because of the running of the bulls, where the bulls are lead through the streets of Pamplona’s old quarter to the bull ring by runners. If you are looking to travel to this festival, it’s good to know the best Running of the Bulls dates based on your preferences. You do not have to be at the San Fermin Festival for the entire time period, but we recommend 2 to 4 nights tops (check out our sample itinerary). During the Running of the Bulls dates there are daily activities that happen every day as well as special festivities. Below we will describe them all so you know what to expect.

July 6 – Opening Ceremony (Txupinazo):

The Opening Ceremony marks the start of the San Fermin Festival. It’s held at Pamplona’s main square and starts at Noon on July 6th. At this time, Pamplona’s Mayor & City Council step out onto the balconies of the Town Hall to greet the massive crowd. A rocket with fireworks is launched and the crowd goes into a frenzy with corks of champagne bottles being popped left and right and guzzled down! It’s definitely an incredible site and the party atmosphere is at a 10! The square is incredibly packed so if you are not into crazy crowds we recommend booking a VIP Balcony with us. If you are looking to go for the Opening Ceremony, we recommend arriving in Pamplona on July 5th and stay until July 8th or 9th. Keep in mind these are the most expensive days to be in Pamplona & hotels sell out quickly so we recommend booking ASAP.

running of the bulls dates

July 7 – First Day of Running & Saint Fermin Procession

The first day of the of the Bull Run is on July 7th at 8am,  when a first firecracker is lit to announce the release of the bulls from their corral. The Bull Run takes place every morning at 8am, but the first day is a little more special as it’s the first one of the year and gives a good indication of the week to come. The key day of the festival is 7 July, when thousands of people accompany the 15th-century statue of Saint Fermin through the old part of Pamplona. The statue is accompanied by dancers and street entertainers, and different political and religious authorities including the city mayor.

July 14 – Closing Ceremony (Pobre de mi)

After nine days of partying, the people of Pamplona meet in the City Hall Plaza at midnight on 14 July, singing the traditional mournful notes of the Pobre de Mí (‘Poor Me’), in a candlelit ending. The city mayor closes the festival with participants lighting a candle and removing their red handkerchief as the song is played by the local band, followed by a fireworks display at the city hall. This closing ceremony tradition started out in the 1920s. If you are looking to attend this event, the best Running of the Bulls dates are July 12 – 15, which are also the least expensive.

pobre de mi

Daily Activities

  • Running of the Bulls – The actual running is held at 8am every morning from July 7 – 14.
  • Giant & Big Heads Parade – Every day, during the morning, there is a parade of gigantes y cabezudos, with the giants figures being more than 150 years old.
  • Traditional Sporting Competitions – There are exhibitions and competitions of Basque rural sports every morning in the “Plaza de los Fueros”, a square close to the city citadel, although they were formerly held in the bullring. Sports include stone lifting, wood cutting, or hay bale lifting.
  • Bull Fights – At 6:30PM from July 6 to 14 there are Bull Fights held at the bull ring with the same bulls that were run in the same morning.
  • Fireworks – At 11PM, a Fireworks show is held at the citadel park. Fireworks spectacles have been known to occur in San Fermin as far back as 1595. Since the year 2000 an international fireworks contest is held. Thousands of people watch them seated on the grass around the citadel.

Running of the Bulls Dates based on Price

The most expensive times to be in Pamplona during the Running of the Bulls are July 6 to 8 because of the opening ceremony events. July 9 – 12 are mid-range and the least expensive dates to be in Pamplona are July 12 – 15.

TGW Running of the Bulls Itinerary

Our Pamplona Running of the Bulls Packages are designed for you to get the most out of your stay. Our Sample 3 night Itinerary is the following:

  1. Day One – You will be greeted at the Airport or Train Station by a guide that will take you to your hotel. The first night is free at your own leisure and we recommend going to the old town to have dinner and then check out the firework spectacle at the citadel park (Held every night at 11:00PM). Keep in mind that if you want a special dinner at a restaurant by the citadel to check out the fireworks, we can add it in without a problem!
  2. Day Two – At around 7:00AM, a guide will pick you up at your hotel and take you to Pamplona’s Old Quarter to check out the Running of the Bulls at a VIP Balcony, which are always on the 1st or 2nd floors so that you can be right next to the action. There will be coffee, some juices and biscuits provided and your guide will explain the aspects related to the origin and history of the running of the bulls. This is also a great chance for you to ask the guide the in’s and out’s of the actual running just in case you want to try it on the next morning (we always schedule the VIP Balcony on your first morning so that you can get the jist of the running).  The Running of the Bulls starts at 8am every morning starting on July 7th and it’s extremely quick. After watching the running, you will be taken to the Guenduláin Palace for an incredible breakfast. Following Breakfast, we will provide you with a City Tour of Pamplona so that you can get a great feel for the city. After the tour you can choose to stick around the city and take part in the festivities or go back to your hotel to relax. We have included a Bull Fight for you in the evening (on the Shady side of the Bull Ring) that starts at 6:30PM. After the Bullfight your night is at leisure. The nightlife in Pamplona during this time is amazing. The bars and small clubs throughout the city have an amazing festive atmosphere, but keep in mind that if you are going to Run on day 3, we recommend staying fresh for the next morning!
  3. Day Three – You can either choose to run on this morning, purchase an additional VIP Balcony, watch the run from the streets or sleep in if you partied hard the night before. Day Three is completely at Leisure and we do this on purpose because most of our clients decide to run on this day.
  4. Day Four – A driver will pick you up at your hotel a couple of hours prior to your flight. You have now checked off another incredible event off your bucket-list.


Best Restaurants Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro is full of great restaurants so it’s extremely hard to pick the city’s best! For the Best Restaurants Rio de Janeiro TGW Travel Guide, we analyzed the restaurants from our staff’s personal experiences as well as online reviews from various sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor & others. Yes, you will always find those people that were at the restaurant on a particularly off day or the worry-warts that don’t seem to like anything, but we visited these Rio de Janeiro restaurants and give them our TGW Approval!

The list includes moderate to high-end Rio restaurants. The number 1 aspect we looked for was the quality of the food and of course the service! Keep in mind that these restaurants have starting entrees of US$20 to US$40. If you are looking for great economical restaurants, check out our Rio Restaurants that Don’t Break the Bank Guide.

Here’s a quick list of some of the Best Restaurants in Rio de Janiero. If you want to see the full list, provide your info and we’ll email you the full guide.

  1. When thinking of breathtaking views and good French food there is only one place TGW can think of, L’ETOILE. We love the air of sophistication, exclusivity and it´s international cuisine.
  2. When you think of Brazilian Food, you automatically think of Brazilian Steakhouses! Fogo de Chão is Rio’s best Brazilian Steakhouse with 2 locations – one in Zona Sul and the other one in Barra de Tijuca.
  3. With its dim lighting, delicious food, and phenomenal service, Sá Restaurant has the ambiance required for a romantic dinner. Located at one of Rio’s top hotels – The Miramar Hotel by Windsor this restaurant will not disappoint!

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Handy Brazilian Portuguese Phrases for Travelers

Traveling to a different country and knowing a little bit of the language or at list the basics to get by is key! In Brazil, Portuguese is the language spoken so before the trip it’s always good to brush up on some Portuguese or at least print out our Brazilian Portuguese Guide – Handy Brazilian Portuguese Phrases for Travelers! Although Brazil is a very touristy country and Rio de Janeiro is one of the most visited destinations in South America, English isn’t as widely spoken as you think.

Our Brazilian Portuguese Phrase Book is divided into the following sections:

  • Common Portuguese Phrases
  • Numbers & Days of Week
  • Taxis & Transportation
  • Bar & Restaurant Vocabulary
  • Shopping

The 5 page guide gives you the basics of what you need, but one of the great things about booking with TGW Travel Group is that we have contracts with incredible suppliers for your transfers and tours as well as having a sister office in Rio de Janeiro that you can call for any assistance! We make sure you have an incredible vacation in Brazil and have everything set up for you!

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Rio Restaurants That Don’t Break the Bank

Most of the travel guides you’ll find online for Rio restaurants are only for the top, fanciest ones. We wanted to mix it up a bit and provide you with recommendations for Rio restaurants that offer a good value and won’t break the bank. These restaurants are frequented by locals and recommended by local staff in Rio. Rio de Janeiro has 1000’s of restaurants so it’s hard to pick the top 10, but we chose them based on their proximity to the South Zone (Ipanema/Copacabana) where most of you will stay, overall value and local recommendations.

  1. Balada Mix  is a perfect option if you are looking for delicious and healthy meals with a laid back environment. The perfect place for a Sunday Brunch! The juices are always freshly made; we recommend the Fruta de Conde (sugar apple) juice………
  2. TT Burger is Rio’s US$10 (35 R$) Burger and stacks up to the ten dollar burgers in the US. It’s the perfect place to hit after a long day on the beach. It’s located in Aproador (between Ipanema & Copacabana beaches). It’s a small place and there is always a long line, but it’s 100% worth it if you want to taste a good Brazilian Burger…..
  3. Frederico is a small bar located in the heart of Copacabana. f you want a super cold beer with great finger food this is the place to go……
  4. Fazendola is a great option if you are looking for an all you can eat place for a great value. It offers an All-You-Can eat Pizza Rodizio and a great Sushi Buffet………

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Ibiza Guide

Ibiza is the Summer Party Capital of the World! From May until the beginning of October, the biggest names in EDM make Ibiza their home. If you are looking to travel to Ibiza, Our Ibiza Guide is a great start to learn more about the island and know what to expect.

Our Ibiza Guide Includes Tips on:

  • What to Pack for your Ibiza Vacation?
  • What is the Dress Code for the Clubs?
  • Best Times to Go
  • Tips on VIP & Club Entrances
  • Ibiza Must Do’s
  • & Much More!

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Rio de Janeiro Guide 10 Commandments

Like any large city in the world, you have to use common sense and familiarize yourself with your surroundings. Rio de Janeiro is one of the most beautiful and exotic cities in the world, but like any other city in Latin America, you have to be careful.

We have put together a written Rio de Janeiro Guide with the top 10 things you should follow to have an awesome time! We provide travel guides for most of our destinations that are EXCLUSIVE to the clients that book with us, but now some are available to the public. Obviously, the #1 way to guarantee a great time in Rio is to book with our company. We have a sister office in Rio de Janeiro with TGW Staff to make sure our clients get the most out of their experience and have been providing Rio as one of our main destinations since 2004.

These are some recommendations you will find in our 10 Commandments Rio de Janeiro Guide.

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1. USE COMMON SENSE!! – This may sound like a no brainer, but please USE COMMON SENSE!! Do not try to do things you would never do at home in Rio. While partying KNOW YOUR LIMITS and using the buddy system. If you have a bad feeling about something it probably is a good idea to avoid that situation or get out of it!! – use common sense and judgment!!

2. STAY WITHIN THE SOUTH PART OF THE CITY: (Leme, Copacabana, Ipanema, Leblon) – During the day, it is best that you stay within the south zone (look at map). All of the great beaches are located there as well as plenty of restaurants and places to shop. Barra de Tijuca is also a safe place in the West Zone, but it is a bit further from where you will be staying. Anywhere around the mountains or hills (“FAVELAS”) should be avoided. Favelas can be dangerous and should not be taken lightly.


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Brazil Carnival Guide

Carnival in Brazil is considered the World’s Greatest Party! It happens all over the country, but the two best Carnivals in Brazil are Carnival in Rio de Janeiro & Carnival in Salvador, Bahia. Our Brazil Carnival Guide gives you tips on both of these Brazilian carnivals.

If you have never been to Brazilian Carnival, it’s always best to know the facts. TGW Travel Group has been offering trips to Carnival in Brazil since 2004. We offer the best packages in the travel industry for both Carnival in Rio de Janeiro and Salvador, Bahia. We have put together a couple very cool guides with incredible tips and recommendations for Carnival in Rio de Janeiro & Carnival in Salvador, Bahia.

They definitely are True “Carnival Survival Guides”, but your best option for Carnival in Brazil is still to book with TGW and we’ll make sure you have the time of your life. Check out our Rio de Janeiro Carnival Package or our Carnival in Salvador Travel Package.

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Guide to Salvador Carnival

Carnival in Salvador, Bahia is one of the WILDEST PARTIES you will ever experience. It’s something that is hard to explain without experiencing the madness for yourself. Just imagine:

  • Millions of People on the Street dancing, drinking, singing and going absolutely NUTS.
  • Parties going on all around you – On the Street following Brazil’s hottest Bands that are playing on large moving vans with crazy sound systems (these parties are called blocos) , In Huge Venues called Camarotes next to the street, & people just partying on the streets watching the Blocos go by.
  • Uninhibited Fun – Beautiful Singles all around. Salvador Carnival has a saying “Solteiro em Salvador” meaning everyone is single in Salvador!

If you have never been to Carnival in Salvador, it’s always good to either go with a travel company or have a Brazilian friend showing you the ropes. Millions of people on the street at one time is very chaotic especially if you do not know where you are going or what’s going on. It’s also good to know which parties to go to. There are 3 separate Carnival Circuits and 100s of parties going on during Carnival in Salvador so it’s very important to choose the best ones so you can maximize your experience. We have put together a very cool guide with incredible tips and recommendations for Carnival in Salvador.

It’s definitely a True “Survival Guide to Salvador Carnival”, but your best option for Carnival in Salvador is still to book with TGW and we’ll make sure you have the time of your life. Check out our Carnival in Salvador Travel Package.

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