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traveling south america - lotsa questions, help please

Travel Forums Central/South America & The Caribbean traveling south america - lotsa questions, help please

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1. Posted by Sohy (Budding Member 15 posts) 10y

Hi guys, I got a few questions and I would really appreciate if someone could help me out or give me some pointers.

A mate of mine and I (23-24 years old) are going to go for a trip to Argentina, Chile and Peru (also considering a trip to bolivia)over 6-7 weeks starting early-mid december. We are quite undecided as to the level of preplanning we should do. There are a few things which we are pretty sure we want to be doing and seeing while there, but apart from that we are quite open to the experience. We want to spend a few days in Patagonia, some hiking and siteseeing and 3-4 days of whitewater rafting. Obviously do the inca trail and machu pichu in peru and also another 3-4 days of white water over there. Apart from that we just want are open to any experience and prepared to take things as they come.

How preplaned should such a trip be? Should we be booking tours in advance for any of these things or is it possible to rock up and just get in them. And would the costs be different depending on what approach we take?

On the same note, should we be booking hotels in advance or just rock up and look for accomodation on the spot there? And what would be the best way to travel through South America for a trip like this, should we be catching flights to different destinations or go with the public transport?

I am obviously a bit of a newbie to this so any advice and info you guys give would be greatly greatly appreciated.

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

There's a few things that you should take into account:

  • December, and especially January, is holiday season in Argentina and (parts of) Chile, so mainstream accommodation will be hard to find. Hostels should be possible, although in places like El Calafate it might be a good idea to book ahead. On the other hand, I myself NEVER did that, and I've always been fine, just had to try a number of hostels before I found an empty bed.
  • TP members in general would advice you to do as little planning ahead as possible, and I'm no exception. Go with the circumstances, be flexible, and you're likely to have a lot more fun. On the other hand, the two of you will not be gone for too long, and the places you mention are REALLY far apart. If you're any bit as much against continental flying as I am (and everyone else should be), this implies that you should probably have to plan after all; if you don't, you'll simply not be able to cover the distance. There's a suggested itinerary at the bottom of this post. I think, however, that your plans are over-ambitious for a 7-week trip.
  • Skipping Bolivia while going to Peru and Chile/Argentina doesn't make sense, it being in the middle and you passing through it.
  • The costs mainly depend on the season you're travelling in (unfortunately, you chose a season that's more expensive than others, but still very cheap to European/US standards) and your means of transportation. This is yet another argument against flying; it's ridiculously more expensive than taking busses.
  • Here's an itinerary you could take, presuming you fly into Buenos Aires. But as I was writing it down it occurred to me that you'd better forget either about going that far north or that far south. It's just too far! Not all the places mentioned are worth going; there's just a suggested route to take.

    WEEK 1
    Buenos Aires - Salta - La Quiaca/Villazón - Salar de Uyuni - Oruro - La Paz
    WEEK 2
    La Paz - Copacabana (lake Titicaca)- Puno - Cusco (MP)
    WEEK 3
    Cusco - Arequipa - Tacna - Iquique - down to Santiago de Chile
    WEEK 4
    Santiago - Mendoza (ARG) - Bariloche (go hiking/rafting here! The lake district is beautiful!)
    WEEK 5
    (it seems like you'd have time to do a lot more travelling south, but if you stop here and go back to BsAs, your plans remain kinda feasible. It would mean missing out on PN Torres del Paine and Tierra del Fuego, though)
    WEEK 6
    WEEK 7

good luck,

3. Posted by TylerJames (Respected Member 333 posts) 10y

Niels, thats a massive amount to do in such a short time, although well layed out. it took me about 2 months to work my way down from lima through bolivia to mendoza.

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

I know Tyler, I wouldn't recommend it (as I hope I stated somewhere in my first post, which admittedly is a bit messy). I was talking feasible, not attractive. So Sohy, do as Tyler recommends and cut back on your wishlist; SAmer will still be there some other time, if we all minimise our flying that is :)

5. Posted by Sohy (Budding Member 15 posts) 10y

Hey guys, thanks for all the tips and suggestions. Looks like I am gonna need to rethink our plans. Just a question though, what if we skip north Chile and catch a flight straight from peru to patagonia (i know this appears to be frowned upon, but this is the last chance i am going to get to travel in a long time and dont want to miss out on seeing the main attractions). Is this even a good idea or is there a lot to miss in chile?

By the way, how much is a trip like this looking at costing me, assuming we spend most nights in hostels or mid range hotels?
Thanks again for the input.

6. Posted by anna_mac (Inactive 10 posts) 10y

Hey All, Everyone has such good advice on this site its unbelieveable....

Just thought Id jump in on this one and ask opinions also. We (myself, bestfriend and partners) are heading mid Dec to Peru (2 weeks: MP, Puno) Argentina (1 week: BA) Chile (1 week: Santiago) and Brazil (Rio 2 weeks)..

Any suggestions on must sees besides the obvious....? I have my trusty lonely planet but it always helps to get opinions from more than one source!!

BTW Sohy, we are doing flights between each country as part of our round the world, but accomodation wise, we are doing 6ish weeks for very minimal (like $800ish aud each) and that is staying in budget but nice looking hostels with bathrooms etc...

Thank you all reply!!!

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

Take it from me; there's no point in doing the 'main attractions' unless you have a bit more time to also do other things. Main attractions most of all mean lots, lots and lots of other tourists, with hardly any opportunity to actually appreciate what you're seeing, let alone see the 'real country'. A vacation running from one 'attraction' to the next will probably leave you a lot less satisfied than one in which you take your time and do a smaller area in more detail, thereby discovering your some hidden attractions of your own...

8. Posted by anna_mac (Inactive 10 posts) 10y

Thanks Neils, agreed.... although this is the first time travelling for us (literally first time) so I consider this a big step and even seeing the main attractions are going to be sensational! We havent planned much except for Inca Trail hike so hoping to find our own way and adventure as we go... Counting down the days now - so excited

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

Hey anna,

I'm sure you'll like it. But, given your limited timeframe, the places you want to visit are kinda far apart. Personally, I'd skip Chile this time; it's a wonderful country, but most of its treasures are in nature, either very far up north or down south... going to Santiago is just a gigantic leap west that doesn't bring in that much added value to your trip. I'd use that week to get from Peru to Argentina through Bolivia, which has a number of attractions that are very much on that route.

I'd be happy to give some more specific tips, let me know,

10. Posted by Sohy (Budding Member 15 posts) 10y

So you guys think chile can be skipped for a 6-8 week trip. If thats the case, then instead of catching a flight to santiago and then going up to peru, would it be a better idea to catch a flight to BA, travelling through argantina (maybe see iguazu falls) and through bolivia into peru. Do guys think that a better idea?