Really needing some help after spending the bank holiday pouring over books from Libary about everywhere I want to go.
I plan to go for 1 year October spending 3 months in central america, 5 months in South America, 2 months Sydney, Vietnam and thailand and finally 2 months Sri Lanka and India.
It's a helleva lot of land to cover in such a tiny space of time, i'm fine with eveything but.... south america, it's so huge and I want to see it all. I need advice from getting from Panama and avoiding Columbia, but yet being able to do the whole loop in 5 months, am I being completely unrealstic and if so what should I absolutley not miss.
I fly out of Santiago.
Wanting to see all of South America in 5 months is like saying you want to see the whole of Australia in 2 months. It just simply is not going to happen unless you see it on google earth or fly over the top of everywhere. My grandparents have travelled about two months of every year around Australia for about the last 30 years and still haven't seen everywhere in Australia that their is to see, so how on earth can you expect to see the whole of South America which is probably a bit more than double the size in square kilometres and a lot harder to access some areas in only 5 months? Maybe if you consider going to the main cities in each country and in one or two countries seeing a few more places, well you might have a chance of seeing some part of every country in South America, but travelling by bus can take a long time between cities. Travelling by plane is extremely expensive in South America, so unless you have a huge load of cash to spend bus is really your only realistic option and you will still miss sooo much. A tour I saw in this brochure went for over 6 months and covered less than half of South America in terms of countries and hardly covered any of the countries it did go to.
2 months for Sydney, Vietnam and Thailand again is really unrealistic if you want to see more than just Sydney when in Australia. I mean if you went up to Cairns and back to Sydney you could spend a good 3-4 weeks if you wanted to see anything other than what is next to the road as you go up and just head back as quickly as you safely can to Sydney. Going from Hanoi-Saigon on the open tour bus ($20US) in Vietnam stopping over at places for a day or two maximum and seeing a lot is a major rush in 3 weeks but then trying to see much in a country as large as Thailand would be hard in a short space of time. You could just try and see something like Bangkok, Pattaya and one other place in your time. I personally think that if you can only afford 2 months for Australia, Vietnam and Thailand Combined, you could consider spending something like 3 1/2 weeks in Australia, 3 weeks in Vietnam and then 1 1/2 weeks in Thailand. It'd be a major rush, but at least allowing those time frames you could see a few things. Maybe you should even cut a week of India and a week off Sri Lanka to add to the Australia/South East Asia part, because 2 weeks in India is enough to send sain people mad and you can see a lot of stuff in India in just 3 weeks if you use you time effectively. I only had 3 weeks and I covered a huge amount of stuff, but I was getting so annoyed in India that I changed my flights to leave a few days early because I was ready to get physical with some of the men who are all just cons and will do anything to make sure you trip to India is a nightmare.
In India be prepared for an enormous culture shock because it'll hit you something terrible even if you think you've prepared yourself in the other places you go.
Anyway have a great trip whatever you decide on.
[ Edit: Edited on Apr 7, 2007, at 5:36 PM by aharrold45 ]
I'm relising I am going to have to scale down SA unfortunately but I'm gonna have a good try. I like a challenge, do you have any helpful hints on places that I mustn't visit and places I must to help me co-ordinate my Itinery.
With regards Sydney I lived there for a year and spent another year travelling the rest of Oz and I've had quite enough it's too dull, just popping into Sydney to catch up with friends and get visa for india and vietnam. I have spent 8 months in Thailand so again just going for 10 days to be back as I love it there. 3 weeks is fine for Vietnam, and India and Sri Lanka I think will be a walk in the park after the many places I have visited before. I more worried about learning spanish to a good enough standard as I am rubbish with languages, but I have a 10 week course booked starting this month so at least I will know the basics.
Ri De Janeiro is one place I really liked in Brazil, Sao Paulo was a bit trashy and in my opinion not worth visiting. I didn't explore Paraguay much, but the tiny bit I did (Assunction) was not worth the time it took to get there. A place that was a not miss in my opinion was Iguacu Falls (Brzil/Argentine/Paraguay border). It was a long bus trip from Sao Paulo (if going from Rio De Janeiro you needed to go via Sao Paulo to get to Igaucu Falls). Seeing the falls from the Brazil side is best for photo taking and doing activities like absieling, but seeing from the Argentina side is best for getting to see the falls close up). I haven't been there, but I have heard bad things about Colombia from someone who said the bus he was on got busjacked at gun point, with everyone taken off the bus still with everyones baggage on board and then the bus got torched. So that was enough to put me off especially when he said he also so a car explode in the street. By the look of your original post you are probably planning on avoiding Colombia if possible anyway. The bus trip from Santiago-Buenos Aires or vice versa is a really picturesque one worth doing. Punta Arenas area/Patagona is well worth going to, but it is a long long way down south so is a huge detour taking a number of days. The most amazing place that I saw on my whole trip in South America probably would have been Easter Island, but that's probably a bit too much of a detour as flights there are not cheap at all unless you are travelling on a Oneworld RTW ticket. If you are able to go there a stop of 3-4 days is long enough to see the island properly on a cheap full day tour with some extra walking around to see the close by stuff. Despite it being a small island in comparison to most, it certainly isn't so small you can walk around it in a day. If you do go there, make sure you reconfirm your flights at least the day before and turn up very early for your flight, because they are almost always overbooked.
If you have already been to Thailand for a while one thing you could do in Vietnam to make the trip even better is if you started in Hanoi went to Halong Bay and Sapa around the area. Then get the opentour bus down to Saigon making plenty of stop overs along the way. Then after reaching Saigon getting a 3 day 2 night Mekong Delta tour to Phnom Penh/Cambodia. If you wanted you could then go up to Siem Reap to see the temples, but if you didn't have a spare couple of days, just get a cheap Air Asia flight from Phnom Penh-Bangkok. If you planned this section of your trip well, you could pre-book that Phnom Penh-Bangkok flight to get a cheap deal, otherwise you may find it has no vacancies or is very expensive for leaving it to the last minute. That Mekong Delta tour was very good value and was the highlight of my time in Vietnam along with the Halong Bay tour. At least by getting it to Cambodia you wouldn't be needing to do all that backtracking and then probably getting an expensive flight from Saigon. Doing that would mean your time in Thailand would be a bit less, but your time in Vietnam would be even better.
I've been to 48 countries and thought I'd prepared myself for India by going to poorer areas in Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and China, all directly before India and seeing the different way of life in poor regions of Asia but it didn't. From the moment I got a taxi from Mumbai airport-Grant street/the city after dark it was an upsetting and shocking site to see thousands of people sleeping on the ground with their heads only metres from car tyres going at high pace (by India standards) on the highway. When it is daylight and you can see the full extend of your surroundings you can see the tens of thousands of people who are so close to starving to death that they have no muscles, can't even stand and are basically just skin covered skeletons with skateboard type devices to be able to slide around and that can mumble a bit to beg for food and money, it is very upsetting and a big culture shock. I haven't been to Sudan, but the images I have seen on TV ads looks very similar to some of the sites I saw in India and I'm sure that the better off people there also aren't anywhere near as aggressive towards tourists as Indian men are to the point of harrassment and stalking. Seeing a person who has a face stretched like one of those masks worn in the movie Scream, with nostrils as wide as a thumb and even his eyesockets stretched is nasty, seeing a person with lumps ranging in size from a fingertip to a golf ball from head to toe all over his body and also having his left foot on his right leg and right foot on his left leg is very hard to deal with. What makes it even harder is the fact that almost all of this was in the city that is meant to have the richest people in India. When you explore to other areas it gets to about the same with the starving people but person hygene gets one step worse. Maybe if you've been to some of the extremely poor regions of Africa, done volunteer work in Sudan or some other place with extreme poverty it'll be a bit easier, but even then a walk in the park would be an understatement unless you don't have any feelings or conscience at all. The sheer volume of people means you can't escape the people like this anywhere you move except in your hotel room or climbing to the top of a mountain which nearly sends you flying down (I did that one). It's even harder travelling solo because that'll mean the men there with most likely harrass you and continue to hunt you down like prey if you say no to an auto rickshaw or cycle rickshaw until you give in and just go with them to shut them up.
Goodluck with learning your Spanish. I'm hopeless with learning languages as well. You'll need any bit you can in South/Central America because unlike some countries where English is a lot easier to fine ie Vietnam, hardly anyone apart from tour guides and hotel/hostel receptionists know any English at all. I managed to get by with only knowing no, si, uno, dos, thrice, quatro, gracias, buse estationment, and speaking slow and dot point english and hoping some of the words were close enough to the Spanish version that they understood enough to know what I meant. Also drawing and writing what I saw on signs down got me by in most difficult situations where their was a big language barrier, but in some cases especially when I needed to get my digital camera fixed and also when buying food it was very difficult.
Getting the India and Vietnam visa in Sydney should be relatively hassel free. I got both of those visas there by posting my passport (as I don't live anywhere near), the Vietnam visa was issued the same day they received the passport and the India one must've been done the day after they received it going by the usual times it takes to send to Sydney and receive mail back and that was paying the cheapest processing price. So if you took it in person, they'd probably have both done in 2-3 days all up unless travelling on another countries passport makes it take a bit longer.
Have a great trip.
[ Edit: Edited on Apr 8, 2007, at 7:29 PM by aharrold45 ]
A good friend of mine is in Colombia right now having the time of his life he said. His word; Colombia is incredible, exotic, sensuel, very friendly people and gorgeous girls ...
now he's in Cartagena at the moment and he said its probably one of the nicest places his been as a backpacker (he's travelled thru Asia, Europe and now South America)....
as long as you stick to cities and not go off the beaten track, i think Colombia is fine. im not saying shit doesnt happen, it does .. but same as Guatemala, Peru, Bolivia etc .. if you know what i mean ...
just today, there was shootings in Rio that killed 19 people but thats not going to stop me from going to Brazil in 9 days ...I've never been to Colombia but its up there on my to do list .... just not this time around cuz i'll be spending 3 months in Brazil and a month to travel Bolivia & Northern Argentina ...
that being said, i hope you have a great time travelling and don't planned too much, just go with the flow .......get a feel of the place !