I finish my Inca Trail oround the 12th July and fly out of Rio mid August. I wanted to travel through Bolivia overland into Brazil.
Is it safe for me to do so alone? I am a 19 year old who has travelled for 2 months in Thailand, Cambodia and Malaysia.
i speak very limited Spanish but will obviously look to improve.
The other option is to fly from Cuzco to BA and make my way up the coast to Rio.
What would be your advice please?
The think the scariest part would be the road, from all the way up in Bolivia down into the basin all the way down in Brazil. Pretty sure that's one of the scarier rides in the World. Aside from the bus going over a cliff, I wouldn't thing the route from Bolivia to Rio would that dangerous. Plus it would save you the money of flying form La Paz to BA. Seems like a cool idea to me. Although I must admit I am not fond of scary drives.
I don't have a map in front of me, but it would be a shame to not visit Iquassu Falls. maybe you could take a little detour along the way.
I have done the part from Cusco to Lake Titicaca (by train) to La Paz (by Bus and short Ferry). That's a great trip. Then you could just continue, seems like you'd have enough time.
I've traveled overland from Bolivia to Brazil and it was a really great experience.
If you're going from Cusco to Rio de Janeiro, then the best option is to travel by bus from Cusco to Santa Cruz (via La Paz and Cochabamba) and from Santa Cruz by train to the Brazilian border. From there you can catch a bus to Rio. That should take you about 6 days if you don't stop much on the way. You might want to stop, though, since the trips are quite long (Cusco-La Paz, La Paz-Cochabamba, Cochabamba-Santa Cruz all about 12 hour rides). The train ride takes about a day but you'll see some amazing scenery on the way. Bring water and a flashlight since it's pitch black on the train at night. And insect repellent.
Traveling by bus/train in South America is reasonably safe but you will have to be careful, especially when traveling alone. Wrap your backpack within a sturdy plastic sack (which you'll find in any streetside market in eg. La Paz) and attach the whole thing to your leg while asleep. Also keep all your documents, money etc. in a place where they can't be stolen from while you're asleep. I met several Europeans who lost all their money and travel documents while asleep on a bus.
Also, when traveling by bus in Peru and Bolivia, don't choose the cheapest or the fastest bus. The fastest are the fastest because the drivers don't rest and because they drive faster than they should, which is often a deadly combination on the narrow mountain roads. The cheapest are the cheapest because they sell double the occupancy that would actually fit on the bus. The others sell just 50% more.
Another general tip: when traveling in South America by bus, always be aware that what normally would be a 10-hour trip may end up taking a couple of days in case the bus breaks down (not so uncommon).
Have been living in Bolivia for almost 2 years now helping Colonia Ecologica in Cochabamba. Travelling alone is not a problem as long as you be sensible and carefull. Especially in La Paz (bus station). Hope you are not going to rush Bolivia as it is the most interesting country in South America. It has everything: Andes, Amazon, Chaco, Volcanos, Lakes, Wildlife, Big cities, Great Festivals (ie Urkupina in Quiaqollo near Cochabamba 5th Aug.), etc. Most other countries are westernized a lot but Bolivia still has traditions from long ago.
In the cities you can probably get away with english but it might be difficult at times. In the country spanish is a must. Don't rush from La Paz to Santa Cruz. Visit tiahuanacu near La Paz, Sucre and Tarabuco, Potosi and the Mines, The Salt Planes, Parque Nacional Madidi, Parque Nacional Amboro, etc.
You can travel through Paraguay but the road from Santa Cruz to Ascuncion takes for ages - it is better to fly (unless you like sitting on a bus for a couple of days).
About buses? You never know what you get in Bolivia. Prices are compatible and they mostly take about the same time to get to a place. They hardly ever leave on time and don't have working toilets even if they say so (only longer distances - 10 hrs or longer). They will probably ask you more for a bustrip than the locals so listen or ask locals how much they cost. Bus camas (Sleeping bus) are the best because you have more space, travel during the night but are twice the price (which still isn't much).
Some of the best buscompanies are: Trans Copacobana, Bolivar and Dorado.
Never put your little backpack on the top in the bus. Keep it by your legs, preferably attached.
Hope this helps a bit.
Take your time in Bolivia, you are there in one of the best months of year.