Like many tourists, Steve and I wanted to see both the Brazilian and Argentinian sides of Iguazu Falls. We decided to stay in Foz do Iguaçu in Brazil for two nights, and to see the Argentinian side of the falls via a day trip to Puerto Iguazu in Argentina. Our hotel offered day tours but these were expensive, so we decided to do it ourselves via local buses. I searched and searched for how to do this, but the information I found was either piecemeal, old, or for traveling one way. Nevertheless, with a bit of extra legwork we managed it successfully.
With this post, I aim to provide the comprehensive guide to seeing both sides of the falls that I wish I’d had!
In retrospect, I’d recommend staying in Puerto Iguazu if you want a good amount of time to see the falls in Argentina, because taking a day trip there from Brazil is quite a long-winded process that gives you less time at the National Park. However, if you want to stay in Brazil and don’t feel like forking out more than £40 for a taxi there and back, it is possible to do it by bus for around £7 per person.
Traveling from Foz do Iguaçu airport to your accommodation
If your hotel or hostel is on or near either Avenida da Cataratas or Rovinda de Cataratas, it’s easy and cheap to reach from the airport. Exit the airport and go to the furthest end of the row of buses, then wait for bus 120: either to ‘Parqe Nacional’ if your accommodation is east of the airport or to ‘Terminal’ if it is west of the airport. The buses are scheduled every 20 minutes and cost 3.60 reais each.
The bus to Argentina
The bus to Argentina follows the Avenida da Cataratas road out of the town centre as the 120 does, but turns off before it reaches Rovonda da Cataratas. This means that, in theory, it should be possible to catch the Argentina bus from any stop along that route. But your safest bet is to catch it from the central/downtown bus terminal (Terminal de Transportes Urbano). Look for a bus stop signed ‘Linheas Internacionales’, which lies just outside the bus station: it’s on a road called R. Mem de Sa that runs along the right-hand side of the terminal if the entrance turnstiles are behind you.
We waited 20 minutes before a yellow bus arrived, with ‘Itapu’ written on the side and ‘Argentina’ on the front panel. There may be other buses you can take besides this one, but ask the driver if they’re going to Argentina if you’re not sure. You can buy an ‘Itapu’ bus ticket from the driver for 5 reais.
The bus stops at the Argentinian border (but not the Brazilian one), and the driver indicates for everyone to get off. You then queue up to get your passport stamped inside the adjacent building for entering Argentina. This is sufficient for a day trip from Brazil, but perhaps you’d need to request the bus to stop at the Brazil passport control as well if you were leaving Brazil for good, or entering Brazil for the first time.
Once everyone’s off, the bus drives forwards slightly and stops again to let the passengers back on, no new bus ticket required. This applies for the Itapu bus, but other bus companies might do things differently.
Puerto Iguazu bus station
Having crossed the border, the bus continues to Puerto Iguazu bus station in Argentina. Here lies a new challenge, because all the buses to the Argentinian National Park only accept Argentine pesos in payment. I advise getting a minimum of 200 pesos per person in advance if you can, as a return trip to the park and back on the ‘Rio Uruguay’ bus costs 170 pesos each (and other bus companies may charge more).
If you don’t have any pesos already, you can get some from either the currency exchange or the bank which lie a couple of blocks away. To reach them, leave the bus terminal through the exit and turn left. Continue straight down this road until you see the white building signed ‘Marco’ on the opposite side: this is the bank, and it has several (charging) ATMs inside. The currency exchange, Austral Cambios, is located opposite.
After a bit of asking around (be careful you don’t get on a bus to Brazil’s Iguaçu National Park by accident – note the slight difference in spelling!) we bought return tickets to Argentina’s Iguazú National Park from the Rio Uruguay office, and used them to board a bus with ‘Cataratas’ (meaning waterfalls) on the front from the bay just in front of the Rio Uruguay office.
Iguazú National Park
There’s an ATM at the entrance of Iguazú National Park, but you can pay for entrance tickets and boat rides with Jungle Iguazu with credit card if you prefer. I expect this is quite a recent update, given that all the blogs I read beforehand said you could only pay with cash.
Return to Brazil
You’ll probably find that the journey back is easier than the journey there. On leaving Iguazú National Park, wait outside the Rio Uruguay office (on the far right as you exit the park) and eventually a Rio Uruguay bus will turn up. We boarded a bus that arrived about 10 minutes after the park closed at 6pm (I expect this was the last one), and showed the driver our return ticket.
This bus returns you to the bus station, which past 6pm is deserted with most of the offices closed. We found this rather disconcerting but thankfully we only had to wait a few minutes before the same ‘Itapu’ bus arrived that brought us from Brazil that morning. The journey back to Foz do Iguaçu costs 25 pesos each (I’m not sure whether you can buy a return ticket). The journey back is the same as the one there but in reverse, including the stop at the Argentinian border to get your passport stamped again. Once safely back in Brazil, we alighted before the bus returned to the terminal to go to a restaurant along Avenida da Cataratas for dinner.
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All text and photos (c) Juliet Langton, 2019. All rights reserved.