One silver lining to the global economic crisis and financial meltdown is that it's now cheap to travel. Both airlines and cruise lines are discounting their fares. And the strong US Dollar makes hotel, dining, and local transportation expenses a bargain as well in many foreign countries. (Though if you insist on living like an American, it's about the same cost as here.) I decided to take advantage of the downturn by booking a grand tour of South America and the Antarctic Peninsula for December 2008. Here are a few highlights and pictures from the trip.
Avoiding the "reciprocity tax" and expensive visa requirements
In planning the trip, I found that several nations on my itinerary have special entry taxes or visa requirements that they levy on American citizens in reciprocity for the treatment their nationals receive when they visit the US. (No doubt a byproduct of the embarrassing state of our international relations after eight years of George W. Bush.) Americans can avoid these extra taxes if they travel under the passport of another country. Some 40 million Americans are eligible for dual citizenship in the countries of their parents' or grandparents' birth. I obtained an Irish passport on this basis and saved several hundred dollars in fees and taxes on the trip. You'll still need to show your US passport when you return to the US.
I spent five days in the Santiago area before catching up with the cruise ship in the Port of Valparaiso. I found Santiago to be a modern, well-organized city with a fabulous mass transit system. One interesting aspect of the city was the large number of stray dogs. They seemed docile enough, but were everywhere. Authorities estimate that there are over 200,000 strays in the Santiago metropoltan area.
Santiago, Chile to Mendoza, Argentina via the Trans-Andean Highway
While smog often hides the view of the spectaular Andes Mountains from Santiago, I was lucky enough to take a trip across the Andes to Mendoza, Argentina on a clear, sunny day.
Port of Valparaiso, Chile
Cruising the Pacific Coast of Chile
The Amsterdam spent several days crusing the Chilean coastline, making port calls in Puerto Montt and Punta Arenas. We also cruised the Darwin Channel and saw the Amalia Glacier.
Puerto Montt, Chile
Punta Arenas, Chile
We passed 5 or 6 glaciers on the cruise through the Chilean Fjords and the Beagle Channel. The Italia Galcier was the most impressive.
Pictures from Ushuaia, Argentina and Cape Horn - click here.
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