The Best & The Worst

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Drinking In Rio

Drinking In Rio

We both loved our trip in Central and South America. And now that we are home again in Canada, we thought about it: what were the best places, the best cities that we saw… and what were the worst experiences?

We loved most countries we have been to. That said, we could have done without a few experiences… see which ones!

In Panamá

The best:

  • The contrast between old colonial buildings and brand new skyscrappers in Panamá City.
  • The quiet city of David, less dangerous than Panama City and quite picturesque.
  • Casco Viejo in Panamá City: It’s an old district (hence the name) downtown the capital. It’s safer than it used to be where we were there in 2002, and if you stand on Plaza De Francia, the view is quite amazing.

The worst:

  • Not being able to walk around freely, especially in the evening or at night, because a lot of places are quite dangerous in the capital.
  • The overpriced hotels in Panamá City: the value isn’t that great (buildings are old).
  • Ordering food in restaurants in Panamá City. Everything is so s-l-o-w… think 20 minutes to get the menu, another 20 minutes before someone is willing to take your order, one hour wait for the food (assuming you only ordered simple stuffs like chicken or eggs), another 30 minutes to get the bill, plus additional time to get your change back.

In Costa Rica

The Best:

The Worst:

In Perú

The Best:

  • Lima, quite safe and nice now, compared to seven years ago.
  • The city of Arequipa, lost in the mountains, with its church and the huge monestary.
  • The road from Perú to Bolivia, in the altiplano, where you can spot lamas, mountains and highland lakes.

The worst:

  • The popular salchi-papas snack: fries with sliced sausages on top. Er… no.
  • Trying to sleep in Hostal Belem in Lima, giving up at 5:am. Thanks mosquitoes, thanks bar downstairs.
  • The smell of bloody cow heads at the local market (especially at 9 am).

In Bolivia

The Best:

  • The boat ride from Copacabana to Isla Del Sol. A sunny day on the Lake Titicaca, beautiful clouds and feeling like we are on top of the world (well, actually, we were).
  • The colorful markets and the traditional dress worn by women.
  • Hearing people chatting in Quechua in the bus.

The worst:

  • Guys who pee everywhere… sorry, that´s gross.
  • Soroche, or altitude sickness. At over 3,000 meters high, breathing is hard and we had a constant headache.
  • La Paz, chaotic and ugly. I’m sure some people love it, but I didn’t.

In Chile

The Best:

The worse:

  • The afternoon “siesta” (nap) time. Great if you feel lazy, not so great if you are hungry or need to buy something, since stores are closed from 2:00 pm to 6:00 pm (not in Santiago though).
  • The currency, which comes in thousands ($10 is 6,000 peso…). Everything looks very expensive at first! Especially for maths-challenged people like me.
  • Landing in Tierra del Fuego: with the wind, you are in for a crazy ride!

In Argentina

The best:

  • The natural wonders, such as the Perito Moreno Glacier and the Foz waterfalls.
  • Buenos Aires, cheap, relaxing and safe. It has everything, from colorful neighborhoods like La Boca to great nightlife. It’s also a great city to sample the Argentinian cuisine…
  • The Argentinian culture, whether you are a football fan or have an artistic side, whether you love food or are into history, there is something for everyone.

The worse:

  • The lack of change! It’s a real pain everywhere in the country, but especially in Buenos Aires.
  • In Patagonia, the cost of living. Ushuaia is very expensive, and so are the bus rides around. On one side, visiting Patagonia and Tierra Del Fuego is an unforgettable experience, on the other side, be prepared for long and expensive bus rides, and overpriced accommodation and food.
  • The Argentinian accent! Well, I’m half-joking here… but it did take me a while to get used to. For example, Argentinians pronounce the Spanish “ll” as “sh“, instead of “y“. So “la calle” (the street) sounds like “la cashe“, “la llave” (the key) sounds like “la shave” etc. When we first crossed to Argentinian, I grabbed a Coke at the bus stop, and the woman asked me: “para shevar o para tomar asha” (“para llevar o para tomar allá” — to go or to drink here), and I thought she was speaking Portuguese! I wasn’t used to the sound.

In Uruguay

The Best:

  • The boat crossing on Rio de la Plata, the chocolate-color river.
  • The amazing beaches along the coast. I wasn’t sure what to expect and it turned out the beaches were almost better than in Brazil!
  • Montevideo, relaxing and beautiful. If you are in Argentina, it definitely worth a few days (or more!) of your time. Plus, traveling within Uruguay is easy.

The worse:

  • Lack of accommodation in Montevideo… maybe we were just unlucky, but it was hard to find a place to stay!
  • The uneven pavement in Montevideo… I still have a scar on my leg! Okay, I should not wear sandals to walk long distances… I know.
  • The hostel in La Paloma: overpriced for a very crowded 10-beds dorm.

In Brazil

The Best:

The worse:

  • Big cities are not exactly safe, and it’s not advisable to hang around at night.
  • It’s hot, hot hot, especially around Rio de Janeiro and Porto Alegre. Seriously, you start regretting Canadian cold…
  • The border crossing in Chuy. Sorry, but not being able to find the border…!

All in all, we had a great trip though!


About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.


  1. I can’t believe things shut down for the siesta for FOUR HOURS!! That beats the ridiculous one and a half hour lunch in France any day.

    So where will you be in France? Let me know if you’ll be in the Paris area, it would be fun to meet up!

  2. hihihi I can only imagine you trying to understand argentinian accent and popular sayings and expressions! Actually in here, every country has its accent and even every region in a same country has a different accent! By now you must be a Master + PHD in Spanish. Congrats!

  3. I like the way you listed the good and bad things of every location you guys visited. People often ask me which place I lived before I liked the best. I often have a hard time answering that, because I have things that I like in every city I have lived in, and I have bad things from those places as well. In the end, I end up not deciding. I am pretty sure you feel the same in your vacation.

  4. i’d love a four hour siesta every day! but having to go back to work afterwards would be brutal.

    in my very limited experience with latin america (mexico and costa rica), safety is the biggest issue for me. i hate uneven sidewalks (you really have to pay attention where you step!) and i hate feeling unsafe in certain neighborhoods.
    but danger also exists in north america. there are risky areas here in san francisco, for instance, that i avoid too.

  5. This would be a great reference list to me if ever I contemplate making a trip there 🙂

    Hey…Happy Birthday on 21 March 2009 😀 Big Hugzz… 😀

  6. Great list and I remember those Costa Rican sunsets…and beautiful beaches! I didn’t realize these cities you visited were so dangerous. I’m glad you made it home safe with some warm and wonderful memories!

  7. You probably can apply to become a travel writer for Lonely Planet or Moon Publications, LOL…

    Latin America is so faaaaaaaaaaaaaar away from here. I just cannot imagine I would go there one day…

  8. Hi Zhu,

    I guess that you must be missing all those great moments you had throughout the trip. That was really a great holiday trip and it was greater that you blogged them as you went along.

    That was a bad experience you had in the restaurant in Panama City. I wonder how their business was still running despite the bad service.

  9. Salut Zhu,

    I loved these lists ! I’m sure that you will be of a lot of help to more than obne potential traveler to thisese areas.
    For myself, I think that I’ll never make it over, but it is informative stuff.

    Looking good up there, Zhu & Feng with their tropical look !!

    Grosses bises de Paris (sous le soleil en + 🙂 )

  10. I looked forward to reading your bog every day for 3 months, and was never disappointed. I hope you will continue to post frequently even in not traveling. Your writing is excellent. You could describe grass growing and it would be fun to read.

  11. @Soleil – Do they still close at noon in France? Wow.. I thought that was a thing of the past! I should come to Paris – I’ll let you know, but of course, I’d love to meet you!

    @bumanguesa – Not quite, I’m afraid… my Spanish isn’t that great! I’m lucky it’s fairly close to French.

    @Linguist-in-Waiting – Yes, it’s exactly that. I can never tell which place I liked best… there is a best for everything!

    @Seraphine – Canada is amazingly safe, so it can be quite a shock I guess. Panama city is definitely the worse for me in terms of safety. In Brazil, you just don’t go to some district, they are easy to spot.

    @shionge – Thank you Shionge, and thanks for your email! I went back to work today, and I haven’t had a chance to reply yet…!

    @Scarlet – Well, only some places are best avoided, most of these countries are really cool and locals are always welcoming.

    @Khengsiong – Oh, I wish… if only I could make money while traveling!

    @Saskboy – I always like reading “bad experiences” too 😆

    @zunnur – Well, everything is quite slow and inefficient by North American standards. But you get used to it, and it doesn’t matter too much at the end 🙂

    @barbara – I hope we can meet in Paris by the way!

    @Tulsa Gentleman – Thank you very much for your support and nice words!

  12. Hey Zhu :D!

    “Salchi-papas”…hell no!!!

    “The smell of bloody cow heads…” HELL NO!!!

    “Guys who pee everywhere…sorry, that’s gross” – disgusting…hell no!

    ““para shevar o para tomar asha” (”para llevar o para tomar allá” — to go or to drink here), and I thought she was speaking Portuguese! I wasn’t used to the sound.” – LOL LOL LOL in Portuguese we would’ve said “para levar ou para tomar já?” [Brazil] or “para levar ou para beber já?” [Portugal]…but you are right, the Argentinian accent is slightly different.

    “The hostel in La Paloma: overpriced for a very crowded 10-beds dorm.” – say what?

    LOL Ah, Zhu…this was funny! 😀


  13. This is the third time I am trying to comment, but my comments “vanish” after I hit the ‘submit’ button….

    …. oh well, in my previous comments I was saying that it is amazing how much ground you’ve covered, how many countries you’ve been to, etc. 🙂

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