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South America Questions

Travel Forums Central/South America & The Caribbean South America Questions

1. Posted by Jason316uk (Budding Member 11 posts) 10y

Hello,

I am looking for help and assistance from any travellers who have followed a similar route to what I am proposing to do.

I am planning on starting my trip in Rio and heading to the Pantanal, down into Iguazu Falls, to Buenos Aires, down through Patagonia, into the deep south and heading up through Chile and Argie staying in the Lake District. I am then planning on heading to Chiloe and onto Santiago before I head to Atacama Desert finishing off with Bolivia and Peru.

If anyone can assist me with the following:-

1. Accommodation rates generally?
2. Are Lonely Planet budgets accurate (I checked a place in Patagonia that was 300% higher than published rates in LP 2004/2005)
3. The trip involves a lot of land travel. Is there any part of the route I adopt that you would recommend a flight would be more beneficial than travel by bus
4. What places prove to be the most memorial.
5. Any "must do" or "must sees"

I am very open to any suggestions and would welcome your experienced views.

2. Posted by cookieyum (Inactive 75 posts) 10y

Hi Jason
A couple of years ago my sister and i did a six week trip going from Rio, to Iguacu, Buenos Aires, Mendoza, finishing in Santiago. We flew the whole route on a Mercosur air ticket just because we wanted as much time as possible to see all the cool stuff rather than sit in a bus - for example a bus from Santiago to Antofagasta in the north of chile takes about 20 hours. But i spent a couple of months teaching in chile and I can DEFINITELY recommend the buses there. They're super cheap and super comfy(way better than rubbish National Express!), and cover the length of the country with very regular services.

We found the Footprint Guides had accurate hostel prices and are choc-full of information (but fewer photos!). Accommodation costs are fairly cheap over there - the most we paid was 12 quid a night and in Iguassu we stayed in a 4-star hotel on the Brazilian side of the falls which was just four quid a night! It was off-peak mind but i'm sure it'd still be good value in peak season. In Rio you HAVE to stay in the Botafogo Hostel in the Botafogo district. It's got a jacuzzi outside, great coffee and wonderful staff who helped us organise all our trips (including a crazy match at the maracana football stadium). And make sure you go para/hang-gliding over the city with a guy called Ruy Marra. He's the best guy - it even says so in one of the guidebooks! And i recommend a day trip or longer to Isla Grande. It's a couple of hourse south of rio and is an absolute paradise island. So give yourself at least a week in rio and learn a few phrases in portuguese cos it always helps!

Iguacu is phenomenal but be sure to see both the argentinian and brazilian side cos the vistas are really different. Brazilian side you can walk up really close under the falls and the argentinian side is where you really get the impression of how wide they are. We took a speedboat ride right into the centre of the falls which was really thrilling but SOAKING!

Buenos Aires is a beautiful city so be sure to enjoy the steak because after that nothing will compare! We went to see a live tango show which was stunning and in the San Telmo district we took an hour long tango lesson which was great fun and then at the weekends you can watch all the locals tango away in the square. And be warned: they may well ask you to join in! We stayed in the wonderful V&A hostel - very helpful, nice rooms, good brekkie.

We took a mini trip to Montevideo, in Uruguay to stay with a family there so see my profile if you want some info on that.

For me Santiago isn't as special a city as Rio or Buenos Aires but i can definitely recommend staying and going out in the Bellavista district which is really bohemian and has lots of great places to eat and dance. It is also shadowed by the cerro san cristobal so make sure you go up that (especially at sunset) for a REALLY incredible view of the city which is surrounded by the andes. Very beautiful indeed.(Warning: the andes trap a lot of smog in the city so it is quite polluted - some japanese guys offered to blow up part of the andes to ease the problem apparently!!)

If you've got time you should take a bus to the central coast of chile - the cities of valparaiso and vina del mar are only 2 hours away from santiago and buses are really regular. Vina del Mar is very americanised but some good bars (barlovento and cafe del mar, right on the coast, were our regulars!) But valparaiso will shock the life out of you - it's a city right next to vina and couldn't be more different. The houses are precariously perched all the way up the hillside and all different colours. You take funiculars up through the city and it is very unique and worth seeing.

And i would recommend going round the houses of the wonderful nobel prize winning chilean poet pablo neruda - he has one in santiago(in bellavista), one in valpariaso, and one an hour south of valparaiso called Isla Negra(my favourite). He was such an intriguing and fascinating man and his homes house the most amazing collection of coloured glass and he spent his nobel money on ENORMOUS sea shells. Really worth seeing at least one of the houses.

Sorry this is SO long and i've only spoken about a few of the places you're seeing but talking about it's brought back some good memories. It's an amazing continent so have fun!

3. Posted by GregW (Travel Guru 2635 posts) 10y

1. Accommodation rates generally?
2. Are Lonely Planet budgets accurate (I checked a place in Patagonia that was 300% higher than published rates in LP 2004/2005)

Personally, I spent about an average of $US 40 a day for food, accomodation and other expenses when I was in Chile and Argentina in 2003. I stayed in private rooms with attached baths.

Not sure on any rise in prices recently. 300% certainly seems excessive, though - could be the LP effect, whereby as soon as someplace is in the lonely planet, they can slack off or overcharge, because so many people just follow the LP guides to the letter.

I never pre-booked accomodation, and as long as you arrive in town at a reasonable time (early afternoon), you should be able to walk around and find a place to stay.

3. The trip involves a lot of land travel. Is there any part of the route I adopt that you would recommend a flight would be more beneficial than travel by bus

I didn't bus it, but I heard the trip from Buenos Aires to Patagonia is dull and long. I flew that portion (in the opposite direction - from Patagonia to Buenos Aires) and paid around $US 150 for the flight.

Buses are very inexpensive and comfortable there.

4. What places prove to be the most memorial.
5. Any "must do" or "must sees"

If you like boat trips, the Navimag Ferry might be up your alley. 4 days of watching isolated fjords, amazing wildlife and some spectacular scenery. Some people find it dull, though, and the weather can be iffy.

If you don't want to do that, then there is a boat-bus tourist trip from Pto. Montt or Pto. Varas through the Andes to Bariloche. Very spectacular, and only one day. About $US 150, if I recall correctly. You arrive in Bariloche late, though, so you might want to look at pre-booking accomodation for your arrival.

Sounds like a great trip.
Greg

4. Posted by bentivogli (Travel Guru 2398 posts) 10y

Hi Jason,

That's a lot of questions... first, exactly how much time do you have? I have always recommended people spending less than at least 4 months travelling to not do South America in its entirety; in that case, stick to either the northern (amazonian) or southern (andean) part. That as a general comment.

1. Accommodation rates are not very accurate, but still you won't pay much. Two important exceptions are Argentina, where the economy is still volatile to the extent that prices do actually vary tens of percents from one season to the next, and Chile, which is just expensive. Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego are a different story altogether because of their remoteness.
2. Never trust any factual info you got from LP. I recommend the Southamerican Handbook, which I generally found much more accurate on those matters
3. Air travel should at all times be limited from the perspective of responsible transportation. Besides, the actual road trips themselves are, IMHO, often more worth while than the cities one ends up in. The enormous distance from BsAs to patagonia/tdf could be covered comfortably in two overnight trips, spending a day or two in Puero Madryn to see the wildlife.
4. See other postings; contact me separately if you're interested in information on tango in BsAs
5. see 4

have an unforgettable time travelling, cheers,
Niels (Amsterdam)

5. Posted by snatterand (Travel Guru 454 posts) 10y

Quoting Jason316uk

1. Accommodation rates generally?
2. Are Lonely Planet budgets accurate (I checked a place in Patagonia that was 300% higher than published rates in LP 2004/2005)
3. The trip involves a lot of land travel. Is there any part of the route I adopt that you would recommend a flight would be more beneficial than travel by bus
4. What places prove to be the most memorial.
5. Any "must do" or "must sees"

1. From $2 in Bolivia to $12 in Chile. That is for the cheaper interval (though not the very cheapest).
2. More or less. It's always a little more expencive than quoted in LP but some places in Patagonia (especially in Argentina) have raised their prices a ridiculous amount. Their economy is improving though, and that might be why.
3. Busses are supercomfy and you get to see more of the country that way. Also, it's more environmentally friendly...
4-5. Uruguay! Coolest country I've ever been to.

//Susanna

6. Posted by Jason316uk (Budding Member 11 posts) 10y

Thanks for your replies people.

I am thinking of next year for Carnaval and then a 16 week trip.

Thanks for your posts.

I am curious on budget and spending.

Carnaval aside I was thinking of $40 US per person per day (2 of us travelling sharing a private room rather than dorms if budget permits). Carnaval week I expect $150 US per person per day.

Sounds reasonable?.

Again, thanks for the guidance

7. Posted by bentivogli (Travel Guru 2398 posts) 10y

Hi Jason,

Sounds very reasonable if that excludes transportation; otherwise you might find it a bit tight, depending on the number of activities etc. that you're planning

8. Posted by snatterand (Travel Guru 454 posts) 10y

hi jason.
we paid 120 reals (about $40) for a dorm bed during carnival, prices are crazy that week!
most of the people i met who spent time in rio before and during carnival said that if they would go again they would just go the week before carnival, because the party is just as great that week and everything is much cheaper. but on the other hand being in rio during carnival is a once in a lifetime experience!!! remember to book a room EARLY, some hostels are full in november...
good luck!
//susanna

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